Lexapro is a prescription medication used to treat depression and anxiety. Lexapro is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, or SSRI, and works on the serotonin neurotransmitter. Like many other antidepressants, Lexapro seems to cause weight gain as a side effect. However, weight gain is also a symptom of depression, so it is unclear if the medication or the illness is to blame.
Depression and Anxiety
Lexapro, also known as escitalopram oxalate, is prescribed to treat major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder in adults and adolescents. These serious illnesses affect overall functioning and are costly to society. Major depressive disorder is the leading cause of disability, according to the World Health Organization. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that nearly 7 percent of the adult population in the United States is diagnosed with major depression, and 3 percent of adults have generalized anxiety disorder.
Lexapro and Weight Gain
In clinical studies, up to 5 percent of the population taking Lexapro experienced weight gain. But weight gain was reported just as often in people who were not taking Lexapro, leading researchers to speculate that other conditions might contribute to the weight gain, such as the illness itself. A change in appetite is a common symptom of major depressive disorder. Many people who take Lexapro, however, report weight gain even though their lifestyle or diet has not changed.
Slower Metabolism and Increase in Appetite
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter involved in carbohydrate metabolism and the neurotransmitter that Lexapro specifically targets. Scientific research on whether SSRIs including Lexapro decrease metabolism is inconclusive. A research review published in "L'Encephale" determined that metabolism is a complex process, and the role of SSRIs in metabolism and appetite is not clear. Many patients on antidepressant medications do report an increase in appetite and food cravings, but whether this is related to the medication is unknown at this point.
Lexapro Side Effects
Lexapro has a number of potential side effects ranging from mild to severe. The most common side effects observed in adults taking Lexapro were nausea, dry mouth, sexual dysfunction, insomnia and fatigue. Lexapro has also been linked to more serious side effects such as hypertension, migraine headaches, suicidal thoughts, aggressive behavior and liver problems. Speak to your physician about any potential side effects including weight gain. Your physician can change your medication as needed. Continue to eat healthy and exercise at least 30 minutes daily to prevent any weight gain from Lexapro.