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Does depression cause weight loss

Does Depression Cause Weight Loss? The Hidden Influence

Writen By: Huma Khan
Reviewed By: Huma Khan
Publish Date: September 15, 2023

All of a sudden you are losing weight, and it is making you more anxious when you are physically just perfectly fine. You eat and sleep enough for your body to replenish its needs, but still, you are wondering what could possibly go wrong. Then you remember that you had been depressed and have lately not felt good about yourself, and suddenly you connect the dots by asking, Does depression cause weight loss? It might seem strange, but it’s a real question that experts have been trying to understand. Let’s take a closer look at “does depression cause weight loss? and what might be going on behind the scenes?

Yes, depression can cause weight loss. A reduction in appetite brought on by depression might eventually result in accidental weight loss. Some individuals might view this as a beneficial side effect, but rapid or excessive weight loss is dangerous to your health. Also, it may sap even more of your energy, making it more challenging to manage other depressive symptoms.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, more than 16 percent of Americans will suffer from depression at some point in their lives. Even though it seems like you’re eating a lot, weight loss can still happen. All you need to know about “does depression cause weight loss?” is provided in this article.

Understanding Depression.

To know the why and how of ‘does depression cause weight loss?’ It’s important to understand your culprit, in this case, depression. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the following are signs and symptoms of depression:

  • Feeling persistently sad, helpless, agitated, and frustrated.
  • losing interest in things or experiencing boredom when engaging in them.
  • exhaustion or fatigue.
  • trouble sleeping.
  • An inability to reason and make judgments.
  • Changes in appetite or unintended weight loss or gain.
  • physical signs such as migraines, cramping, or gastrointestinal issues.
  • Suicidal or death-related thoughts.

Here, duration matters. An unhappy day is not the same as persistent sadness. According to the NIMH, patients with depression have some of the symptoms most of the day, nearly every day, for at least two weeks.

How Does Depression Cause Weight Loss?

Does depression cause weight loss? Is more of a rhetorical question to me because the pleasure and satisfaction we derive from food might be lessened or nonexistent when we are sad or feeling low. This can sometimes result in overeating as we seek out additional goodies to chase the satisfaction of eating, but it can sometimes just mean that we consume less food or less nutritious food.

1. Body image dissatisfaction

Sometimes, when we’re not happy with how we look, it can cause weight loss due to depression. This feeling of not liking our body, called body image dissatisfaction, can make us eat less or try to change our weight a lot. It’s like a cycle: feeling bad about our body can make us lose weight, but that might not help us feel better inside. I hope by now you might be able to link well to “How does depression cause weight loss?”

2. Psychomotor agitation.

Psychomotor agitation is a common symptom observed in some individuals with depression. It’s characterized by a state of restlessness, often accompanied by physical movements such as pacing, fidgeting, or an inability to sit still. 

This heightened level of activity can lead to increased calorie expenditure, reduced appetite, and difficulty maintaining a regular eating schedule. 

As a result, some depressed individuals with psychomotor agitation may experience weight loss due to their restlessness and reduced food intake.  

3. Appetite loss resulting from depression

Does depression cause weight loss? Is a question of equal wieghtage to ‘Does depression make you lose your appetite?’ both of which have a similar answer. Yes. Depression can cause people to lose interest in eating, cooking, and grocery shopping. Depression lessens our ability to enjoy life, but it may also alter our sense of taste. Research has shown that those who suffer from depression experience a loss of flavor, which makes food even less enticing than it once was.

4. Gastrointestinal problems.

Gastrointestinal problems leading to weight loss can occur in individuals experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety as part of their depression. When stress and anxiety are intense, they can affect the digestive system, causing symptoms like stomach aches, nausea, and diarrhea. These gastrointestinal issues can disrupt a person’s appetite and eating patterns, ultimately leading to weight loss.

5. Social isolation.

When we’re sad and depressed, we might want to be alone more. But being alone a lot, called social isolation, can mess up how we eat. Sometimes, we might eat less when we’re alone because we don’t feel like eating. Other times, we might eat more because we’re trying to comfort ourselves. Being around people we care about can sometimes help us keep a healthy balance.

6. Mood shifts

Depression often brings along feelings of sadness that don’t have a clear reason. You might also feel like you’ve lost hope or interest in things you used to enjoy. These emotions can fill up your thoughts so much that you find it hard to do regular stuff like getting dressed or cooking a meal. 

7. Sleep disturbances.

Sleep problems can be an important factor in how depression can lead to weight loss. Sleep disturbances, often seen in depressed individuals, can disrupt the normal regulation of hormones that control appetite. 

Research has shown that insufficient or poor-quality sleep can affect the hormones leptin and ghrelin, which play a role in hunger and satiety. When these hormones are imbalanced due to sleep problems, it can lead to changes in eating patterns, potentially resulting in weight loss.  

8. Losing Interest: A Ripple Effect

Depression doesn’t just stop at your emotions; it affects how you do things too. When you lose interest in activities you once loved and you’re tired all the time, it can create a chain reaction that leads to losing weight.

We may always feel down and exhausted due to depression. We could put off our nutritional needs because:

  • Cooking, which used to be fun, now feels like a big task.
  • You might not have the energy for fancy meals, so you eat simple stuff or even skip eating.
  • Sometimes, even when you’re hungry, nothing seems tasty, and you end up, not eating.

Understanding how our feelings, how we see ourselves, and how we interact with others can affect our weight during depression helps us see the bigger picture. It’s not just about food; it’s about how we feel on the inside and how that shows on the outside.

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Can Antidepressants Cause Weight Loss?

Antidepressant weight loss is real. Research indicates that some antidepressants may induce weight loss during the first few months of treatment.

Long-term use of the antidepressants fluoxetine (Prozac) and bupropion (Wellbutrin) may also result in weight loss.

Antidepressant-related weight loss may also come from decreased appetite or gastrointestinal side effects such as nausea, upset stomach, or diarrhea.

Here are a few antidepressants that have been linked to weight loss:

  • Bupropion (Wellbutrin): Wellbutrin is known to be associated with weight loss for some individuals. It affects neurotransmitters related to appetite and energy expenditure.
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac): While weight changes on Prozac can be variable, some people might experience weight loss as a side effect. It’s thought that Prozac’s impact on serotonin levels could influence appetite.
  • Topiramate (Topamax): Although not a traditional antidepressant, topiramate is sometimes used off-label to manage mood disorders and has been associated with weight loss. Its effects on appetite and metabolism might contribute to this outcome.
  • Bupropion/Naltrexone (Contrave): This medication combines bupropion with naltrexone, and it’s specifically approved for weight management. Bupropion’s potential to decrease appetite is complemented by naltrexone, which might enhance the effect.
  • Zonisamide (Zonegran): Like topiramate, zonisamide is primarily an anticonvulsant but has been used off-label for mood disorders. It has been associated with weight loss due to its influence on appetite and metabolism.

Changes in the Brain.

One study from 2016 comprehensively answered people’s queries regarding, “Does depression cause weight loss?”.

Three small groups of participants were shown images of food and non-food things by researchers:

  • Individuals with major depressive disorder who witnessed an increase in appetite
  • People with depression who noted decreased appetite.
  • A group of healthy people.

The fascinating findings of this study offered insights into how the brain reacts to food-related cues:

  • Those with increased appetite displayed heightened activity in brain regions linked to the sensation of reward. It’s like their brain was more interested in the idea of eating. 
  • On the other hand, individuals with appetite loss showed reduced activity in an area of the brain responsible for interoception. Interoception helps us sense and understand bodily sensations, like when we’re hungry or thirsty.

The researchers suggest that these connections between different brain regions might play a role in the loss of appetite, disinterest in food, and subsequent weight loss often observed in cases of depression.

Imagine if the joy and satisfaction of eating were dulled in your brain. You might not feel the usual excitement to eat, and even recognizing hunger could become a challenge. Naturally, if you’re eating less because of this, your body might start losing weight over time. And thus it proves to our readers that yes, it does cause weight loss, as opposed to the question posed, i.e., does depression cause weight loss?.

The Hidden Dangers of Rapid Weight Loss

You might want to lose weight fast but don’t know the potential hazards behind it.

  • Weakened immune system due to nutritional deficiencies.
  • Loss of muscle mass, leading to decreased strength and energy.
  • The worsening of depressive symptoms creates a harmful cycle.
  • Increased risk of osteoporosis due to decreased bone density.
  • The strain on the heart and cardiovascular system
  • Hormonal imbalances affect menstrual cycles and reproductive health.

Considering Other Causes of Weight Loss

If you’re dealing with depression and noticing unexplained weight loss, it’s essential to consider that other factors might be at play. Here’s a rundown of other potential causes:

  1. Cancer: Certain cancers can lead to weight loss. If it’s not just depression, it’s a good idea to rule out this possibility with a healthcare professional.
  2. Gastrointestinal Issues: Conditions like Crohn’s disease or celiac disease can mess with your weight. Digestive problems might need attention.
  3. Diabetes: Unmanaged diabetes can lead to weight changes, so checking your blood sugar levels is crucial.
  4. Medication Side Effects: Some medications, including those unrelated to depression, can cause weight loss.
  5. Eating Disorders: Conditions like anorexia or bulimia can also lead to significant weight loss.
  6. Grief: Sometimes, weight loss can be a response to grief and loss.
  7. Anxiety and Stress: Mental health isn’t just about depression; anxiety and stress can also impact your weight.

What are the Signs of Unhealthy Weight Loss?

Here are the signs of unhealthy weight loss:

  • Rapid and extreme changes in weight.
  • Excessive exercise without proper rest.
  • Following overly restrictive diets.
  • Regularly skipping meals or drastically reducing food intake.
  • Obsessive calorie counting.
  • Feeling weak or fatigued.
  • Hair loss.
  • Changes in skin appearance (dryness, dullness, reduced elasticity)
  • Changes in menstrual cycle (irregular or absent periods)
  • Mental health changes (increased depression, anxiety, obsessive thoughts)
  • Weak immune system.
  • Emotionally driven weight loss (due to stress or emotional distress)
  • Social isolation and withdrawal from activities.

When to reach out to a healthcare professional  

  1. You’re losing weight without changing your diet or exercise habits.
  2. You notice changes in your digestion or stomach.
  3. Your ability to taste or smell is off.
  4. You’re unusually tired.
  5. You’re getting sick often.
  6. Swallowing or chewing is becoming difficult.
  7. You’re losing more than 5% of your body weight in 6 months to a year.
  8. Depression often hangs out with other conditions like anxiety, eating issues, or complicated grief. 

When to consider therapy:

  1. You’re struggling with overwhelming grief.
  2. Thoughts about food, exercise, or your body weight take over.
  3. Life changes or worries are making it hard to eat.

Therapy could be a helpful path to explore. It’s all about finding support for what you’re going through. 

Coping Strategies for Weight Loss During Depression

As we unfolded the answer before our readers to the question, “Does depression cause weight loss?” Let’s move toward strategies to manage it. Reclaiming lost weight can bring back your energy, making it easier to manage the other symptoms of depression. These strategies provide a starting point to help you find your way.

Create a Routine:

Depression often disrupts daily routines, including eating habits. Establishing a structured routine can provide a sense of stability. Set specific times for meals and snacks, helping regulate your appetite and ensuring you’re getting the nourishment you need.

Keep Hydrated:

Drinking enough water is crucial for overall well-being. Dehydration can contribute to fatigue and impact your appetite. Aim to drink water throughout the day, and consider adding hydrating foods like fruits and soups to your diet.

Explore Different Textures and Flavors:

Depression can alter your perception of taste and texture. Experiment with a variety of foods to find what appeals to you. Foods with diverse textures and flavors can stimulate your appetite and make eating more enjoyable.

Socialize Around Food:

Eating with friends or family members can make meals more enjoyable. Sharing a mealtime conversation can distract from negative thoughts and create a positive association with eating.

Document Your Meals:

Keeping a food journal can help you track your eating habits and identify any patterns. It can also serve as a record of your progress and help you make adjustments as needed.

Practice Mindful Eating:

Mindful eating involves being fully present during meals and paying attention to taste, texture, and sensations. This practice can help you reconnect with the pleasure of eating and foster a healthier relationship with food.

Prepare Simple Meals:

Cooking elaborate meals may feel overwhelming during periods of depression. Opt for simple recipes that require minimal effort. Batch cooking can also help ensure you have nutritious meals readily available.

Explore Nutrient-Rich Foods:

Certain nutrients, like omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D, have been linked to mood regulation. Incorporate foods rich in these nutrients, such as fatty fish, nuts, seeds, and fortified dairy products, into your diet.

Prioritize Your Well-being Inside and Out.

Weight loss can offer health benefits in some cases, but it’s not the solution for everyone. Remember that your worth goes beyond your body size. Instead of fixating on changes, focus on what makes you feel good. Practices like mindful eating and intuitive eating can guide you toward foods that boost your energy and nourish your body.

Start Small and Build Up.

Depression can make daily tasks challenging. Instead of overwhelming yourself with big changes, try taking small steps. Keep easy-to-grab snacks on hand to ensure you’re getting nourishment. Consider pre-made snacks like nuts, yogurt, and fruits. It’s okay to opt for convenience when your energy is limited.

Lean on Your Support System.

Depression can sap your energy, especially when it comes to preparing meals. Reach out to loved ones for help. They might be willing to lend a hand if you share what you’re going through. Explain how depression affects your appetite and energy levels. Whether it’s shopping, cooking, or sharing meals, their support can make a significant difference.

Embrace Gentle Movement.

Exercise isn’t only about losing weight. It can boost your energy, strengthen your body, and improve your mood. Even simple activities like stretching, yoga, and walking can spark your appetite and help you feel better. Spending time outdoors can also elevate your mood, so consider a nature walk or hike if you’re up for it.

Enlist Professional Help:

A registered dietitian can offer personalized guidance on maintaining a balanced diet while managing depression. They can help you create a meal plan that aligns with your nutritional needs and preferences, ensuring you’re receiving adequate nutrients.

Remember, Progress Takes Time.

Gaining back the weight you lost isn’t an overnight process. It’s a journey that involves taking care of your mental and physical well-being. Be patient with yourself. Every step, no matter how small, is a victory. And above all, never hesitate to reach out for professional help if you need extra support along the way. Your well-being matters, and you have the strength to navigate this path toward healing.

The conclusion

“Does depression cause weight loss?” seemed more like something far from reality to our readers, but now they are well equipped to know that it is a real thing. Managing the symptoms of depression can be difficult when appetite and weight fluctuations have an impact on mood and energy. It is essential to understand each aspect of this relationship and to ask for help when necessary. If you’re still having trouble managing weight because of your depression, a therapist may give you advice and assistance with boosting your mood, which can then encourage you to get more hungry.

This investigation into the relationship between depression and weight loss also serves as a reminder of the close connection between mental and physical health. Recognizing the symptoms of weight loss brought on by depression and making proactive moves towards a balanced, healthy lifestyle can improve general wellbeing. Let this information equip you to face the difficulties of depression with a holistic approach that puts your emotional and physical well-being first.


Can we experience Depression after weight loss?

Yes, depression can occur after significant weight loss due to factors like body image concerns, hormonal changes, and social adjustments. Weight loss can sometimes be a result of underlying emotional or psychological issues, and these factors may contribute to the development of depression.

How much weight loss can be attributed to depression?

The amount of weight loss attributed to depression varies from person to person. In some cases, depression can lead to significant changes in appetite and eating habits, resulting in noticeable weight loss.

Can depression lead to weight gain?

Yes, depression can also lead to weight gain. Some individuals with depression may experience increased appetite and overeating, particularly comfort eating, which can result in weight gain.

Can weight loss from depression be reversed?

Yes, with proper treatment and support, weight loss associated with depression can often be reversed. Addressing the underlying depressive symptoms and adopting healthier eating and lifestyle habits can contribute to regaining weight.

How does Wellbutrin cause weight loss?

Wellbutrin is thought to influence the levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, such as dopamine and norepinephrine. These neurotransmitters play a role in regulating appetite and satiety. Wellbutrin’s effect on these neurotransmitters might lead to reduced feelings of hunger and, consequently, decreased food intake.