Does Cymbalta Cause Weight Gain?

Antidepressants are often associated with weight gain, making those who take them nervous about the effect that they might have on their weight. However, most of the research surrounding antidepressants such as Cymbalta shows that weight loss is more common, with weight gain only observed in those who take Cymbalta for more than a year.

No matter which type of weight change you experience from Cymbalta, it is typically very minimal and can be negated with lifestyle changes. Because of this, weight gain should not be a concern for anyone looking for treatment through Cymbalta.  

What is Cymbalta?

Cymbalta is the brand name for duloxetine, an antidepressant medication approved to treat generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), major depressive disorder (MDD), fibromyalgia, diabetic neuropathic pain (DPNP), and chronic musculoskeletal pain.

Duloxetine is a type of drug called serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI), which changes the balance of norepinephrine and serotonin in your brain, increasing these neurotransmitters and causing an improved mood and pain relief. Typically, once neurotransmitters send their message, the brain reabsorbs them through a process called reuptake. However, SNRIs block this reabsorption process, which increases the amount of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain.

Does Cymbalta Cause Weight Gain?

Some people have reported weight changes, specifically weight gain, when taking antidepressants such as Cymbalta, but the research does not appear to support that weight gain is a side effect of Cymbalta.

In fact, the research surrounding duloxetine and weight changes suggest that weight loss is more common than weight gain, although neither weight change is significant.

A study on 1139 patients with major depressive disorder split the participants into two groups, one which received duloxetine and one that received a placebo. The results of the study showed that duloxetine was more likely to reduce the appetites of participants, leading to weight loss.

Yet another report investigated 10 studies on Cymbalta and weight changes, and found that more people taking the antidepressant reported weight loss. However, the study did find that those who took Cymbalta long-term experienced weight gain.

The amount of weight change experienced by participants was minimal, though, with short-term Cymbalta use showing an average weight loss of one pound. In comparison, long-term Cymbalta use (greater than one year) was associated with a weight gain of only two pounds. So, while Cymbalta may affect weight, it appears to have a very minimal effect.

How Does Cymbalta Affect Your Weight?

The effect of Cymbalta on weight can go either way, with some people reporting weight gain and others reporting weight loss.

Scientists are not sure what it is about antidepressants that affects weight. One theory is that the medication’s effect on the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine also affects metabolism indirectly, which can cause someone’s metabolism to increase or decrease, contributing to weight loss or gain.

Yet another theory is that the weight loss or gain is related to the treatment of the condition being treated, such as depression or anxiety. For example, if someone with depression has a symptom of reduced appetite, taking Cymbalta (and treating their depression) can cause them to eat more, leading to weight gain. 

Do Other Antidepressants Cause Weight Gain?

Similar to research with Cymbalta, research on the weight changes associated with other antidepressants is also mixed. This is primarily because many factors play into weight changes, and it is difficult to control all of them in a study.

For example, one ten-year study on more than 300,000 antidepressant users found a risk of increasing weight with antidepressant use, but the study could not determine if the weight gain was due to antidepressant usage or other factors.

There are some antidepressants that have a greater likelihood of weight gain as a side effect, such as:

  • Imipramine (Tofranil)
  • Paroxetine (Pareva, Paxil)
  • Amitriptyline (Elavil)
  • Mirtazapine (Remeron)
  • Nortriptyline (Aventyl)

However, a 2014 study found that weight gain in those who take antidepressants is typically gradual and minimal. Because of this, lifestyle changes are generally effective at negating any weight gain resulting from antidepressants.

Other Side Effects of Cymbalta

Some of the common side effects of Cymbalta include:

  • nausea
  • headache
  • dry mouth
  • diarrhea
  • increased sweating
  • decreased appetite
  • restlessness
  • nervousness
  • difficulty sleeping
  • fatigue

These side effects typically improve after taking Cymbalta for a week a two.

There are some sexual side effects of Cymbalta, such as ejaculatory delay and problems with orgasm, and these side effects typically will not improve over time.

There are also rare reports of liver failure due to Cymbalta, with an increased risk in those with chronic liver disease or who use alcohol substantially.

Additionally, some patients on Cymbalta report orthostatic hypotension, which causes a drop in blood pressure when getting up from sleeping or standing up. The risk of this complication may be greater in those who also take medications for blood pressure.

Additional serious side effects of Cymbalta include:

  • irregular menstrual cycle
  • increased heart rate
  • increased liver enzymes
  • angle closure glaucoma
  • serotonin syndrome
  • hypertensive crisis
  • myocardial infarction
  • pancreatitis

When To See a Doctor?

If you are concerned about changes in your weight at any point while taking Cymbalta, talk to your doctor.

It is important not to discontinue Cymbalta, even if you are feeling better, as this can increase your risk of relapse in your symptoms. Additionally, if you stop Cymbalta suddenly, you may experience symptoms of withdrawal, such as:

  • nausea
  • irritability
  • vomiting
  • feeling dizzy
  • headache
  • nightmares
  • pricking or tingling sensation on the skin

If you are interested in discontinuing Cymbalta, be sure to discuss this with your doctor. They will recommend a gradual discontinuation of the medication to help you avoid unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.

Get Help from An Online Doctor

If you are interested in taking Cymbalta, an online doctor such as DrHouse provides a convenient resource to discuss your symptoms and determine if this antidepressant is the best option. Additionally, for those experiencing adverse effects from Cymbalta, meeting with an online doctor allows you to discuss these side effects and determine a safe way to gradually reduce your dosage.

Key Takeaways

Cymbalta is a class of antidepressants that increase the levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain, leading to improved mood and pain relief.

Antidepressants are commonly associated with weight gain, but this may not be true for everyone. Research surrounding antidepressants actually shows that weight loss is more common when first taking Cymbalta, while taking it for more than a year may be associated with weight gain. However, it is hard to determine if these observations are from Cymbalta or other factors, and the weight changes, in either direction, are minimal.

There are some side effects of Cymbalta that should be monitored, especially if they do not improve after a week. For those interested in taking Cymbalta, an online doctor can provide a consultation and prescribe Cymbalta if it is determined to be the best option for you.

Sources

DrHouse articles are written by MDs, NPs, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. The contents of the DrHouse site are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you are experiencing high fever (>103F/39.4C), shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, chest pain, heart palpitations, abnormal bruising, abnormal bleeding, extreme fatigue, dizziness, new weakness or paralysis, difficulty with speech, confusion, extreme pain in any body part, or inability to remain hydrated or keep down fluids or feel you may have any other life-threatening condition, please go to the emergency department or call 911 immediately.

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