'Ozempic Personality': Why You May Not Act Like Yourself on Weight Loss Drugs

A female sitting in a chair looking at a smartphone.
  • “Ozempic personality” is a side effect reported by some users of popular GLP-1 obesity and diabetes medications.

  • The term refers to a cluster of mental health issues, including increased anxiety, depression, and anhedonia.

  • Experts contacted by Healthline disputed the term and reaffirmed that GLP-1 medications are safe and effective.

First, there was “Ozempic face,” then “Ozempic butt,” and now there’s a new side effect known as “Ozempic personality,” being reported among users of the popular drug — but what is it, and is there any scientific backing?

Terms like “Ozempic face” and “Ozempic butt” have gained traction among the general public to describe the profound weight loss effects of Ozempic and similar drugs. These drugs (which include Wegovy, Mounjaro, Zepbound, and others) belong to a class of drugs known as glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists (GLP-1 RAs).

These medications work by simulating a hormone secreted in the gut that slows digestion, makes you feel more full, and increases feelings of satiety in the brain.

The drugs have proven incredibly effective for weight loss, with some patients losing 20% of their body weight.

Such powerful medication has created a whole new vocabulary for how people talk about their experiences, leading to terms like “Ozempic butt.” While these terms are certainly not valid scientific terms, they can potentially be indicators of side effects.

The latest term, “Ozempic personality,” which has been reported across social media and has shown up in various media outlets, including the NY Post and The Daily Mail, suggests that patients using GLP-1 drugs may experience changes in their mood and demeanor. Some have gone on to say that the drugs have caused increased anxiety, depression, and even suicidal ideation.

It should be noted that, despite these anecdotal reports, a large study recently found no link between GLP-1 medications and suicidal ideation. Furthermore, experts contacted by Healthline refuted many of the claims made about “Ozempic personality” and decried the negative light that it puts on individuals using the drugs.

“Whoever is coming up with this stuff really doesn’t get it,” Caroline Apovian, MD, a Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and the co-director of the Center for Weight Management and Wellness at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, told Healthline.

Sun Kim, MD, an Associate Professor of Endocrinology at Stanford Health, told Healthline:

“GLP-1s can change your relationship to food. Food is an integral part of social activity, and when it is less important to you, it can change your social interactions. My patients, especially those who have diabetes or significant comorbidities associated with obesity, are mostly happy with their new lifestyle on GLP-1s. They can worry less about food; they can be more active.”

What is ‘Ozempic personality,’ and is it real?

While there is no single definition for the term, it encompasses a cluster of symptoms or feelings. The most commonly reported symptoms of “Ozempic personality” are:

  • Worse mood

  • Increased feelings of anxiety and depression

  • Feelings of anhedonia, or lacking an interest in previously enjoyed activities

  • Decreased libido (less interest in sex)

These negative feelings are generally attributed to changes in the dopamine or “reward center” of the brain. But it’s not entirely clear how GLP-1 drugs are interacting with dopamine in the brain.

Derek Daniels, PhD, a Professor and Chair of the Department of Biological Sciences at the University at Buffalo, has studied the effects of GLP-1 medications on thirst and drinking behavior in animal models.

“As we’re getting these signals from the process of eating or drinking, it’s all feeding back to the dopamine systems, making them less responsive to more eating or drinking,” he told Healthline.

“Whether the GLP-1 is making an animal feel full faster and then those signals are what’s turning down dopamine or if GLP-1 is acting directly on the dopamine receptors, so that they’re less responsive, I don’t know the answer to that,” said Daniels.

But there could be a simpler answer, too: eating less, losing weight, and giving up foods you love is hard.

“You’re soothing yourself with all these bad foods and developing obesity, and so now you don’t feel like rewarding yourself with sugary food, and you’re in a bad mood. It’s not the Ozempic that did that. It was the addiction in the first place. That’s how I think people should look at this,” said Apovian.

The link between weight loss drugs and addictive behaviors

By directly or indirectly affecting the dopamine system, GLP-1 drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy might play a larger role in diminishing cravings of all kinds.

“It doesn’t surprise me that there are overall changes in people that are on these drugs. I think some of them are probably subtle, but in animal models, these drugs turn down almost any motivated behavior that we can imagine,” said Daniels.

Researchers have looked at the role these medications can play in other addictive disorders, including drugs, alcohol, and tobacco.

A review of the medical literature published in 2022 found that GLP-1 drugs resulted in “potent reductions” in alcohol and substance use.

The report also states, “individuals suffering from obesity and individuals suffering from addiction have overlapping brain dysregulations, and the anti‐obesity effects of GLP‐1 receptor agonists support the potential usefulness of GLP‐1 receptor agonists for the treatment of substance use disorder and alcohol use disorder.”

Another study from that same year found that GLP-1 drugs could also “represent an important step in the development of novel drug therapies for cocaine use disorder.”

How to address “Ozempic personality”

Experts agreed that they do not like the negative connotations of the term “Ozempic personality,” but that doesn’t mean that individuals using GLP-1 drugs won’t deal with real mental health issues.

“I don’t like that headline. I don’t think it’s changing personalities at all. I think it’s changing the way that people are thinking about food,” said Rachel Goldman, PhD, a licensed psychologist in private practice in NYC and clinical assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at New York University.

Goldman, who works with patients with obesity and those who have undergone bariatric surgery, understands the challenges, both mental and physical, that patients go through during weight loss.

“It’s going to help you become healthier. It’s going to help you on this health journey, but depending on what’s going on in your life, it may or may not improve those depressive symptoms. It’s unrealistic to think that just losing weight is going to make everybody happy and healthy.”

She encourages anyone taking weight loss drugs who is experiencing mental health issues to address them with a healthcare professional.

Daniels adds that it’s also important to see the big picture with any course of treatment:

“These are really promising drugs. I think you have to balance the risks and the benefits of the drug with what you’re trying to treat. Clearly, obesity is a huge health problem that carries all kinds of horrible risks. So, even if there is a downside to  these drugs, you have to take that in the context of all of the upsides.”

The bottom line

Reports of so-called “Ozempic personality,” have begun appearing on social media and through various news outlets.

The term is not a scientific one but characterizes a sense of worsening mental health, including anxiety, depression, and anhedonia in individuals taking GLP-1 medications like Ozempic and Wegovy.

Experts interviewed by Healthline expressed their frustration with the negative connotations of the term and reiterated that GLP-1 drugs are safe and effective.

Individuals experiencing mental health issues should address them with healthcare professionals.

View the original article on Healthline

Advertisement