Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs for short, are a class of drugs used to treat a variety of mental health conditions. Like other antidepressants, SSRIs can cause weight loss in some users, though they are not considered reliable weight loss aids in most cases. Before taking an SSRI, talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of the drug.
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SSRIs are a class of drugs that includes well-known medications like sertraline and paroxetine. Fluoxetine, the oldest SSRI, was approved in 1988 and remains one of the most frequently prescribed medications in its class. Other SSRIs include fluvoxamine, citalopram and escitalopram. Currently, SSRIs are the most frequently prescribed antidepressants on the market due to their general tolerability compared to older depression medications.
SSRIs are used primarily to treat major depression, though many have been approved for other uses as well. According to PubMed Health, fluoxetine is sometimes prescribed for obsessive-compulsive disorder, bulimia and panic disorder. Like other prescription drugs, SSRIs can also be used for non-approved purposes. SSRIs work by preventing the reuptake of serotonin, resulting in higher concentrations of the neurotransmitter in the brain. Because serotonin helps regulate appetite, SSRIs may aid in weight loss when overeating is caused by low serotonin.
While SSRIs are better tolerated than older antidepressants, they can still cause side effects in some people. According to EMedTV.com, nausea, headaches and dizziness are the most common side effects of SSRIs. The "American Journal of Psychiatry" states that fluoxetine users sometimes experience modest weight loss after starting treatment. Paradoxically, some users experience the opposite effect -- weight gain -- while taking taking SSRIs. Of all medications in its class, paroxetine is most likely to cause weight gain, according to MayoClinic.com.
To date, healthy lifestyle choices like regular exercise and a balanced diet are the most reliable ways to lose weight and keep it off. Because of the possibility for weight gain and other side effects, SSRIs are not generally prescribed for weight loss unless depression is present. In some cases, weight loss can be undesirable or even dangerous. If you experience significant weight loss while taking SSRIs, talk to your doctor. To prevent complications, follow dosing directions carefully and only take SSRIs that were prescribed to you by a doctor.