Semaglutide Mental Health

Lifestyle Changes while Taking Weight Loss Medications:

Implications for Wellbeing


Lifestyle changes and/or behavior modification can have an impact on weight loss and weight management, especially without some of the side effects of anti-obesity medications.

If you’ve watched TV any time during the last year, you’ve likely seen commercials that tout the benefits of weight loss medications like Wegovy or Ozempic. While anti-obesity medications can facilitate and expedite weight loss, they are not necessarily a universal remedy for weight loss or weight maintenance. It’s important to consider how lifestyle changes and/or behavior modification can also have an impact on weight loss and weight management, especially without some of the side effects of anti-obesity medications.

The Side Effects of Wegovy and Ozempic

As with any medication, side effects can occur. The most commonly reported side effects reported for Wegovy and Ozempic, whose active ingredient is semaglutide, include nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, abdominal pain, headache, and fatigue. In addition to these physical side effects, semaglutide side effects also include depression or other mental health side effects, those these are rarer.

Some patients taking semaglutide drugs have reported feelings of depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts. Fortunately, Ozempic now has a suicidal thoughts warning printed on its label and the FDA is monitoring mental health side effects.

How to Deal with Side Effects of Semaglutide

If you are taking a semaglutide drug and are experiences symptoms of depression or anxiety or are having suicidal thoughts, it is important to contact your health care provider. Your health care provider can provide guidance and evaluate your symptoms and identify options for managing and evaluating these symptoms. If you are taking semaglutide drugs, you should monitor yourself for the following symptoms:

  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities you typically enjoy
  • Feelings hopelessness or worthlessness
  • Suicidal or self-harm thoughts
  • Disturbances in your sleep pattern
  • Appetite changes
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Other symptoms that you are notice are affecting your daily well-being

Lifestyle Changes and Modifying Your Behavior

While anti-obesity medications can jumpstart your weight loss journey and help you to maintain weight, there are several other available options available that don’t elevate your risk of physical or psychological side effects.

Lifestyle changes related to diet and exercise have been proven to be effective strategies for weight loss. If you are taking semaglutide drugs, changing your diet to include lean proteins, fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, and healthy fats found in seafood and nuts can help you build healthy eating habits so that when you stop taking anti-obesity medications you have a health-eating foundation already established.

As you are monitoring dietary changes, be sure pay attention to eating behaviors that may be underpinned by emotions, depression, or stress. If you notice changes in your eating patterns due to changes in your mental health, be sure to talk with your health care provider about strategies for managing your diet as you work on improving your mental health. Your health care provider may suggest a therapist who could work with you to develop behavior modification strategies to manage your eating habits.

Physical activity is strongly correlated with enhancing your mood and psychological well-being. While taking anti-obesity medications be sure to include physical activity. The current recommendation from the American Heart Association is 150 minutes of aerobic activity each week and strength training.

Anti-obesity medications are promising, but they are most effective when paired with lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise. Semaglutide drugs are just one tool in your weight loss toolbox. Keep in mind that if your health care provider is prescribing a semaglutide medication, they are also likely including lifestyle changes as part reducing your weight. Changes to diet and exercise are more sustainable long-term and more effective than anti-obesity medications on their own. Lifestyle changes help you build healthy eating habits and change your behavior.

Be sure to discuss any concerns related to changes in your mental health if you have started taking a semaglutide medication such as Wegovy or Ozempic. Also be sure to discuss a sustainable and appropriate exercise program that will fit your needs and match your current ability to participate in increased physical activity. Before beginning any weight loss program, whether it includes anti-obesity medication or not, be sure to consult with your health care provider to make sure your desired weight loss strategy is right for you.

About the Author: Dr. Dawn M. Sweet has over 20 years of experience in the field of communication. Dr. Sweet has given several invited talks to and workshops for academic and private sector audiences on the role of nonverbal and verbal communication in achieving positive outcomes and mitigating bias. Her research has been published in several top ranked peer-review journals, and it has been featured on NPR’s River to River / All Things Considered, Buzzfeed, and Science Daily. Her research has also been used to inform expert testimony.

* Wegovy® and Ozempic® are registered trademarks of Novo Nordisk A/S. Novo Nordisk is a registered trademark of Novo Nordisk A/S.

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