Antidepressants and Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are a classified mental illness. People suffering from this disease not only struggle with under and over eating, but also with anxiety and depression.

Antidepressants have proven effective in helping those recovering from eating disorders. Below is the most effective antidepressants for the three most common eating disorders, anorexia nervosa, binge eating, and bulimia nervosa.

Anorexia Nervosa

Prozac (fluoxetine) is an SRI and has proven to support treatment for people with anorexia and depression.

  • Cyproheptadine – Is an antihistamine that stimulates appetite and may help relieve depression associated with appetite loss and improve appetite for people with anorexia. *Keep in mind that loss of appetite is only one aspect of anorexia and generally develops in an advanced stage of the disease.
  • Zyprexa (Olanzapine) – People with anorexia often experience intense anxiety and subsequent depression in regard to food,their body weight, and eating. Since adopting healthier dietary habits is key toward managing and recovering from anorexia, medications that help alleviate anxiety may prove useful in treating emotional aspects of the disorder.  Zyprexa is a medication formerly used to treat schizophrenia and may improve treatment for low-weight anorexia patients.Olanzapine works by reducing anxiety, obsessive thinking, and depression caused by these symptoms.
  • Antidepressant medicines reduce binge eating and purging in up to 75% of people who have bulimia nervosa.
  • Antidepressants regulate brain chemicals that control mood. Guilt, anxiety, and depression about binging usually lead to purging. Antidepressants help keep emotions stable and can help reduce the frequency of binge-purge cycles.
  • Antidepressants work best when combined with psychological counseling for the treatment of bulimia.
  • The antidepressants that are most commonly used to reduce the binge-purge cycle associated with bulimia is Prozac (aka Fluoxetine).Prozac is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). Prozac has proven to reduce binge-purge cycles in bulimia.
  • Antidepressant medicines may reduce episodes of binge eating in those who have binge eating disorder, and they may help with related depression or anxiety.
  • Antidepressants regulate brain chemicals that control mood. They can help reduce the compulsive behavior that leads to binging. These drugs can also help people who have both depression and binge eating disorder.
  • It may take several weeks for antidepressants to relieve symptoms associated with binge eating disorder, although they may become effective sooner. You may need to continue taking antidepressants over a long period of time to prevent a relapse.
  • Antidepressants that have been proven effective in treating binge eating disorder include

Bulimia Nervosa

Binge Eating

–  Prozac (fluoxetine)

–  Luvox  (fluvoxamine.)

–  Tofranil (tricyclics)

–  Norpramin(desipramine)

–  Wellbutrin (bupropion)

–  Trazodone

Antidepressant Side Effects

  • Before starting an antidepressant, tell your doctor about every medicine or supplement (prescription or nonprescription)that you are taking. Some antidepressants can have serious interactions with other medicines or dietary supplements.
  • Antidepressants may produce some side effects.But side effects may be reduced or may go away after several weeks of treatment.
  • SSRI’s – Studies show that SSRIs may be less bothersome than other antidepressants, such as tricyclics. SSRIs have less serious side effects and are less dangerous in case of an overdose. Although side effects of SSRIs are usually mild, they can include nausea, loss of appetite, diarrhea, anxiety, irritability, problems sleeping or drowsiness,loss of sexual desire or ability, headaches, dizziness, and dry mouth. After several weeks of treatment, SSRI side effects may be less or may go away completely.
  • Tricyclic – Tricyclic side effects can include stomach upset, constipation, dry mouth, blurred vision, and drowsiness. Some people gain weight and have problems with sexual desire and ability. Tricyclics are started in low doses and gradually increased to avoid overdose and other serious side effects. Be sure to tell your doctor about all the medicines and herbal preparations you are currently taking. Tricyclic antidepressants can have serious interactions with other medicines, including those used to treat seizures, such as phenytoin (Dilantin, for example), or certain heart medicines, such as digoxin (for example, Lanoxin).
  • You may start to feel better within 1 to 3 weeks of taking antidepressant medicine. However, it can take as many as 6 to 8 weeks to see more improvement. If you have questions or concerns about your medicines, or if you do not notice any improvement by 3 weeks, talk to your doctor.
  • SSRIs make bleeding more likely in the upper gastrointestinal tract (stomach and esophagus). Taking SSRIs with NSAIDs (such as Aleve or Advil) makes bleeding even more likely. Taking medicines that control acid in the stomach may help.
  • People who purge after they take antidepressants may not get enough of the medicine into their blood. Doctors may recommend that they take antidepressant medicine at bedtime after they have stopped purging.People who purge often need to have their blood checked regularly to measure the amount of medicine in their bloodstream.

Read more about Eating Disorders.