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Ozempic and Depression: What You Need to Know

by | Mar 21, 2024 | Last updated Mar 21, 2024

Ozempic and depression

If you’re taking Ozempic (semaglutide) for weight loss, you may be speeding toward your weight loss goals. For many people, the medication is highly effective in helping you feel fuller after eating fewer calories. Your blood sugar and blood pressure may also be improving, and you may see a positive change in the levels of fat in your blood (triglycerides). However, amid all the reports of how Ozempic can improve your physical health, concerns have also surfaced around a link between Ozempic and depression.

Why is there so much talk about Ozempic and depression?

The FDA spent months investigating whether weight loss medications increase the rate of suicidal thoughts or actions. This happened after they had received more than 150 reports in 2023 that people taking Ozempic and other Glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists (GLP-1 RAs) had experienced these mental health challenges. These reports were submitted via their FDA Adverse Event Reporting System (FAERS).

In addition to these reports, the FDA combed through various clinical trials, including outcome studies and observational studies. 

Following its review, the FDA released its findings in January 2024. One thing that was clear from the review was that there was no evidence that weight loss meds cause higher rates of suicide or suicidal ideation.

The antidepressant effect of weight loss medications

This is where it gets a little tricky. There’s actually a correlation between carrying excess weight and experiencing depression. So could that be the reason why people taking Ozempic (who must meet various qualifications, including being overweight, to be prescribed the medication) may be experiencing higher rates of depression than the general population? Possibly.

What we do know, based on the FDA’s research, is that there’s no proven connection between taking Ozempic and experiencing depression, anxiety, or other negative mental health side effects. 

In fact, studies suggest glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists (GLP-1 RAs) such as Ozempic modulate the release of serotonin, dopamine, and other feel-good chemicals in the brain–which means weight loss meds may actually alleviate depression.

According to another recent study reported in The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, adults treated with weight loss meds showed a significant decrease in their depression symptoms versus those who didn’t receive the drugs

While this is all good news so far, researchers are continuing to study these medications to see if they may impact other mood disorders or symptoms. So, if you experience any changes in your mood while taking Ozempic or other GLP-1 RAs, it’s important that you always tell your doctor right away!

The power of self-care: lifestyle changes that can help boost your mood

Weight loss meds can accelerate your weight loss journey, but taking a pill alone isn’t enough. It’s important to practice a holistic approach to losing weight for long-lasting change. This includes maintaining a lifestyle filled with healthy habits that will not only help you reach your weight loss goals, but will also do wonders for your mental health:

1. Eat healthy, regular meals.
Enjoying a balanced diet is the key to feeling energized throughout the day—as well as seeing the numbers on the scale tick down to your goal weight. Avoiding sugars can also help prevent mood swings.

2. Prioritize a good night’s sleep. 

Studies show that getting at least eight hours of sleep lowers your risk of depression and regulates your appetite (plus a dozen other benefits). When you’re sleep-deprived, two hormones—ghrelin and leptin—go haywire and make you feel hungrier.

3. Stick to a regular exercise routine.

In addition to helping you crush your weight loss goals, regular exercise—even just 30 minutes a day—will release feel-good hormones that can boost your mood.

4. Practice gratitude.

Embrace things you’re thankful for every day. Keep a journal and log one thing you’re thankful for each day. Then go back and read what you’ve written as often as possible.

5. Stay hydrated.

Water not only keeps your body functioning at its best, it also helps you feel fuller—which is a good thing when you’re trying to lose weight.

6. Be conservative with caffeine.

Too much coffee or tea will leave you feeling jittery and anxious. It can also interfere with your ability to sleep well at night, especially if you consume it late in the day.

7. Stay connected to others.
Building a network of friends and family that will support you during your weight-loss journey—and all the other adventures in your life—is key to good mental health.

8. Try a relaxing activity.
Meditate, color, knit, practice restorative yoga … choose an activity that makes you feel tranquil and gives you peace of mind and indulge in it daily. 

The importance of talking to your doctor

Tell your doctor right away if you’re taking Ozempic and you develop new depression, anxiety, or other mental health concerns. Your doctor can adjust your medications and treatment plan, if necessary, so it’s important that you discuss both your physical and your mental health at every visit.

If you have mental health concerns, your clinician may refer you to a therapist who specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This type of talk therapy is very valuable in helping you with existing mental health conditions, as well as working through any concerns that arise during your weight loss journey. During CBT, a therapist will help you learn how to change your thinking patterns so you can find new ways to cope with the challenges in your life.

Building a supportive community

Talking to a professional helps—and so does having a solid support system in place. Expanding your social circle will also help you cope with changes that you might be experiencing in some of your relationships. 

If you and your partner (or BFF) typically bond over cocktails, for example, replacing those get-togethers with booze-free hikes might go over well. By meeting new people, you’re less dependent on these relationships and can surround yourself with positive energy, instead of conflict.

The takeaway on Ozempic and depression

Taking Ozempic can help you speed toward your weight loss goals much faster than if you were trying to lose weight without medication. 

And while you may have heard about people on Ozempic reporting increased rates of depression, there is currently no strong evidence connecting Ozempic and depression. In fact, there is some early data that actually indicates the opposite: that it can reduce depression symptoms, which are known to be more common among people who are overweight.

Your doctor is your #1 partner in your weight loss journey, so be sure to check in with them frequently to share how you’re feeling, both physically and mentally. If you have any concerns about your mental health while taking Ozempic, including new depression or anxiety, be sure to tell your health care provider right away. 

Note: Ozempic is not FDA approved to treat obesity or for weight loss.

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Linda Anegawa, MD is Noom’s Chief Medical Officer where she brings decades of experience in academic primary care, bariatrics, advisory board service, and leadership in digital health. She is certified by the American Board of Obesity Medicine and the National Board of Physicians and Surgeons, and is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians.