This medication is a brand-name version of a drug called citalopram hydrobromide, a type of antidepressant known as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, or SSRI.
Weight gain is a common concern for people who are prescribed SSRIs.
Celexa could cause you to gain weight, lose weight, or have no change in your weight at all.
In this article, I’ll tell you what Celexa is, the conditions it can help, and how it works.
I’ll explain why some people gain weight while taking this medication, and list some of its other possible side effects.
I’ll also talk about why some patients experience changes in their weight when they’re on this medication.
Finally, I’ll tell you when to talk to your doctor.
What is Celexa?
Celexa is a brand name of the antidepressant drug citalopram hydrobromide.
It is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of major depressive disorder (MDD).
It comes as a tablet or liquid that is taken by mouth, usually once per day.
Your doctor may prescribe Celexa for depression.
They may also recommend it for one of the following off-label uses:
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Panic disorder
- Social anxiety disorder (SAD)
- Separation anxiety disorder
- Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)
- Binge eating disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
How Celexa works
Celexa is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI).
SSRIs work by boosting the serotonin levels in your brain.
Serotonin is a type of neurotransmitter, a molecule used by your nervous system to carry messages between neurons, between the nervous system and muscles, or between the nervous system and the brain.
Under normal circumstances, serotonin conveys a message to a cell receptor, and then it is reabsorbed back into the body to be recycled.
When someone takes an SSRI, the medication inhibits the “reuptake” process, increasing the body’s level of serotonin and giving it more opportunities to communicate.
Serotonin helps humans think, learn, and remember.
It also helps stabilize mood, balance emotions, regulate appetite, and improve sleep, among other things.
Healthcare clinicians aren’t sure whether low levels of serotonin cause major depression and other mental illnesses or vice versa.
We do know that using medications and other treatments to boost and rebalance serotonin levels can positively impact a patient’s mental well-being and quality of life.
SSRIs help your body recycle the serotonin you have so that more is available to your brain.
Because Celexa only selectively affects serotonin and not other neurotransmitters, it has fewer side effects and can support a balanced mood response.
Celexa and Weight Gain
Antidepressants can affect metabolism, appetite, and other factors that can affect your weight, either in gain or loss.
Your weight may also stay the same. Each person responds differently.
Celexa, like other SSRIs, may have these effects.
Celexa can also change the way that your body responds to glucose and lipid metabolism—how your body converts carbohydrates for energy, and how it uses fat for fuel.
Celexa is not guaranteed to make you gain a lot of weight.
However, if you have been eating less because depression has suppressed your appetite, or if you are more active in response to antidepressant treatment, you may have more of a desire for food.
Weight gain is not always bad. If you are concerned about the potential for weight gain, or notice weight gain that bothers you while taking Celexa, talk to your doctor.
What the research says
Research on other medications in the same class of drugs as Celexa found that weight gain of typically less than three pounds occurred within the first 12 weeks and remained steady during the course of treatment.
People who were underweight gained more than people who were overweight at the time of treatment.
In a study that followed people who had prescribed antidepressants for two years, patients taking citalopram gained an average of 5.9 pounds during that time.
This was similar to non-smoking patients who took fluoxetine (Prozac), the most commonly prescribed SSRI.
People who take SSRIs like Celexa and who have other unhealthy lifestyle patterns are more likely to experience weight gain.
Smoking, being inactive, and eating a diet with a lot of processed foods carried the most risks for weight gain while taking antidepressants.
If weight is already a major health concern, your doctor may prescribe bupropion (Wellbutrin) if it’s safe for you.
Bupropion is more commonly associated with weight loss in overweight or obese patients who require antidepressant treatment.
Wellbutrin, however, is not always safe to use and can worsen anxiety—so it is not a good choice for people with anxiety.
It’s always a good idea to discuss the risks and benefits with your doctor first.
Common Side Effects of Celexa
Celexa may cause some common, mild side effects.
Some of these will go away as your body adjusts to the medication.
Common side effects of Celexa include:
- Stomach pain
- Decreased appetite
- Weight loss
- Increased sweating
- Feeling thirsty
- Frequent urination
- Excessive tiredness
- Muscle or joint pain
- Dry mouth
- Decreased sex drive
- Sexual dysfunction
- Runny nose
- Heavy menstrual periods
If any of these side effects become severe or don’t go away, tell your doctor.
In rarer cases, you may experience more severe, serious side effects.
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Fast or irregular heartbeat
- Severe muscle stiffness or twitching
- Loss of coordination
- Hives or blisters
- Difficulty breathing or swallowing
- Swelling of the face, throat, tongue, lips, eyes, hands, feet, ankles, or lower legs
- Unusual bleeding or bruising
- Problems with concentration or memory
If you experience any of these side effects, seek medical attention immediately or call 9-1-1.
Depression and Weight Changes
Depression can affect body weight in many ways.
For some, it will lead to an increase in weight gain from emotional eating.
Sometimes food causes a dopamine release that momentarily makes you feel more positive.
As the effects wear off, your brain becomes conditioned to want more food, even if you are not hungry.
In people who were already overweight or obese before experiencing depression, weight could be a contributing factor to low mood.
In some cases, receiving guidance on balancing body weight can help address the underlying cause of depression, but this is not broadly true for everyone experiencing depression.
In other people,depression can suppress the appetite and lead to unintended weight loss instead of weight gain.
The way that your body responds to depression and weight changes depends on what triggered your depression, whether or not the situation or trigger is ongoing, and many other factors, including your lifestyle, genetics, support system, and other health conditions.
Antidepressants can lead to weight changes, but if your doctor recommends one, they have determined that the benefits of treating your depression outweigh the slight potential for weight change.
How to Take Celexa
Citalopram (Celexa) comes in tablet or liquid form.
- Tablet dosage: 10, 20, or 40 mg
- Liquid dosage: 2 mg per mL, typically dosed to 10, 20, or 40 mg per serving
Celexa is taken once per day, either in the morning or at bedtime.
If you miss a dose of Celexa, take it as soon as you remember.
If you are close to your next dose, skip the missed dose and resume your normal schedule after that.
Do not double up on Celexa doses.
Celexa absorption is not affected by food, so you don’t have to take it on an empty stomach.
Celexa and other antidepressants come with serious warnings, known as “black box” warnings.
While rare, they have the potential to increase the risk for suicidal ideation or self-harm.
If you or someone you care for is taking Celexa, be aware of the following warning signs:
- Agitation, aggression, or hostility
- Increased or worsening anxiety
- Panic attacks
- Unusual changes in behavior
- Suicidal thoughts or discussion
- Manic behavior
Inform healthcare providers about any of these, or other concerns, immediately.
Do not stop taking Celexa without talking to your doctor.
Stopping antidepressant medication suddenly can be dangerous.
Citalopram needs to be tapered to wean you off slowly, which will decrease side effects and lower the risk of a serious relapse.
Celexa is not safe for some people who take other medications or have certain health conditions.
Tell your doctor if any of the following apply to you:
- You are taking monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
- You are taking pimozide
- You are 60 or older
- You have liver problems
- You have a bleeding disorder or take anticoagulants
- You are taking other medications to treat depression, anxiety, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
When to See a Doctor
If you are experiencing feelings of depression or low mood, talk to your doctor. If you are concerned about weight gain with antidepressants, let your doctor know.
They can identify non-medication-based ways to address depression and make recommendations for medication that will support you with the lowest potential for side effects.
If you’re having a mental health emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. You can also get free 24/7 support from a suicide and crisis expert by calling or texting 988. If you’d prefer to chat online, you can chat with a suicide and crisis expert by visiting the Lifeline Chat.
How K Health Can Help
Think you might need a prescription for Celexa (citalopram)?
K Health has clinicians standing by 24/7 to evaluate your symptoms and determine if citalopram is right for you.
Get started with our free assessment, which will tell you in minutes if treatment could be a good fit. If yes, we’ll connect you right to a clinician who can prescribe medication and have it shipped right to your door.
Frequently Asked Questions
K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
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SSRI antidepressant use potentiates weight gain in the context of unhealthy lifestyles: results from a 4-year Australian follow-up study. (2017).
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Depression, emotional eating and long-term weight changes: a population-based prospective study. (2019).
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