Many people who carry the bipolar diagnosis also carry something else – extra pounds – primarily due to the medications used to treat mania or depression. Atypical antipsychotics, including Zyprexa and Seroquel; anti-manics, including lithium and Depakote; and even some antidepressants have been known to pack on the pounds, despite a person’s best efforts to stay fit and trim.

85 Comments to
Preventing and Reversing Weight Gain Associated with Psychiatric Medications

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  1. Weight gain is an often ignored side effect and doctors do not realize how detrimental it can be!

  2. I went from 125 lbs to over 150+ in a matter of 8 weeks. I was on Abilify. I stopped taking it and my doctor prescribed Geodon, and I haven’t even taken it because I’m so scared I’m going to gain more weight. I am a health conscious person…I go to the gym on a regular basis and I used to model. Taking those meds and gaining weight is counterproductive in my eyes because it causes me more depression than ever!!!

  3. I’m in college and piled on the weight due to my meds, now my clothes don’t fit properly and I can’t afford new ones. It’s so embarressing and I’ll have to resort to stealing if I get any bigger………. I used to be a slim active girl now I’m too embarressed to go to the gym because my gym clothes are too small. Please guys any suggestions????

  4. Ruby–

    The only thing I can suggest is borrowing from bigger friends if you can’t afford new clothes. I had to buy new gym clothes this week and I got some good deals from Kohl’s and JCPenny. I know how broke it is being in college, but you could always try Goodwill for some TShirts and stuff. I feel your pain because I went from a size 6 to a 12 and I had to buy new clothes and it wasn’t cheap…I couldn’t live in sweats everyday. Keep your chin up…I’m trying to do the same.

  5. The idea that weight gain from the atypicals is caused by an increase in appetite was just plain wrong. I have tried abilify and respiradal and gained 2-3 pounds a week, even though I was dieting and exercising regularly. I got so fat from these drugs — gained 35 pounds, 20% of my bodyweight — that I feel more depressed than ever. They work wonders, no question. But the rate of weight gain on these drugs is terrifying. I’ve had been slender all my life and now I am just fat.

  6. I appreciate the information that is provided in the article. However, I strongly disagree with the notion that a “gym membership is unnecessary” and all you need to do is walk around 30 minutes a day. I’ve read that so many times. While it may people feel good, it is simply untrue based on my own personal experience. In my case, I started Lithium six months ago being about 40 lbs. overweight. Guess what got me there? Depression and anxiety, in part. Hard to be motivated to lose weight when you’re depressed. Now that I’m on Lithium, I feel great and motivated to lose weight. I’ve lost fifteen pounds since June, but it’s been extremely difficult…far more difficult than in past attempts. I work out at the gym almost everyday (doing both an hour of aerobics and half an hour of strength training). I keep a exercise journal to monitor my progress and set goals. I watch what I eat carefully, focusing on eating plenty of fiber, vegetables and leaner proteins. Lithium is associated with weight gain because it inevitably causes hyperthyroidism according to my psychiatrist. My last blood test indicated borderline hyperthyroidism which means I’ll inevitably need to be on synthetic thyroid hormone. My weight loss has halted and I’ve become exhausted from my concerted efforts. Hopefully, once I’m on the synthetic hormone it will be easier. Sorry about the negativity, but this has been my experience. If you really want to lose weight be serious about exercise and try to do it everyday (knowing you won’t really end up doing it every day). 50 to 60 minutes of aerobics (bicycling, treadmill, elliptical) and get some good nutrition books (not diet books).
    Good luck you all. I know it’s not easy and can be depressing even when on meds that work.

  7. I have been on a combination of citalopram, olanzapine and bupropion for a few months and I have gained 20 pounds. None of my old clothes fit anymore, I feel absolutely terrible about how I look, and I am ashamed to be naked in front of my partner. I’ve got to get off these meds, but I’m too afraid of what I will be like without them knowing how bad I was before. I don’t know what to do!

  8. I went from 115 to 180 in a month and a half on Rispedol. I lost 30 once I quit taking it and now I am quickly jumping back up again on zyprexa. I am 5′ and 192lbs. I have high blood pressure and have severe pitting edema and neither my GP nor my psych doc seem to care. My psych put me on the magic disolvable tablets that leave a horrid taste in the mouth for hours after taking them. I have ripped the seat out of five pairs of pants this year from my ever widening rear end. I once battle bulemia for a while so this is extremely trying on me. The pitting edema makes my legs hurt as if there is a turniquet on them and my GP tells me it is because I am “fat and need to lose weight”. I am going to see a dietician for a glimmer of hope all though I eat nothing but salads and fruits. Exercise? I get winded from bending over to tie my shoes. I take a diuretic with my blood pressure med but it doesn’t work what so ever and my doctor says it is because I am over weight, now does that sound feasible? Anyone have any ideas? I am thinking about just eating my doctors and saying forget it.

    • Amen sister. Same experience for me. Any solution yet?

  9. I went from 110 to 243. i have been on every kind of psych med for bipolar there is. ive been bipolar since 2001. the only thing i have found that works in counter acting the weight gain is the atkins diet. when i follow it like it states to i can maintain a size ten and a 150 weight mark at 5’6. Its a lifestyle change and may not work for everyone. I did not exersise either while on it other than working ad walking.

  10. I’m taking a combination of antidepressants, mood stabilizers and anti-anxiety meds (along with hypothryoid and high doses of Vit. D). I work full-time and have a healthy diet.

    While I’m relieved that I’m not manic or depressed, I have gained 50% of my body weight in the past 6 years (120 to 180). I like that this article addresses the fact that going to gym and simply exercising is difficult b/c of how demoralizing and depressing it can be to have weight gain.

    I don’t recognize myself anymore and it’s very difficult. There HAS to be a balance here. First, I just need to get the energy to go to the gym and start with the basics. I’ve never had to before, but now I do.

  11. I gained 50 lbs in 6 mths on zyprexa. I feel great other than being fat. I have a history of anorexia and bulimia so this weight gain is very difficult to accept. Sane and fat or thin and crazy? Of course, I will take the first but I can’t say the weight isn’t a problem. Going from a size 8 to a size 16 cost me a fortune in clothes. I am only taking 2.5 mg of zyprexa right now but the damage has already been done.

  12. My reaction is extreme. My mother had bipolar & was not able to be helped & committed suicide when I was 15. My father told me she killed herself she because “she was losing her looks.” She was a very beautiful woman & he always was focused on her looks & not much else.

    Well, I internalized that value of his & 2 1/2 yrs. ago when my husband told me that he no longer found me sexually attractive after my weight gain of 50 lbs. over 10 yrs. on psych meds for bipolar 1–I immediately felt that I had no worth as a woman & reacted just as my mother did–a suicide attempt…

  13. I gained almost 100 pounds on my first meds. The doctors kept switching meds, ignoring the weight gain. Then I found a great doctor who added Topamax to my med regime. I lost 85 pounds in a year and half and feel great. I am rarely hungry on Topamax and have to keep a careful schedule to remind myself to eat regularly. I also don’t have the extreme carb cravings I was having on my regular meds alone. Exercise is such an important part of keeping this condition under control, I have found. A good sleep routine, a regulated diet, and daily exercise have put me back together again after an extreme breakdown nine years ago.

  14. i have been on quetiapine for 8 weeks and have gained 1 stone thats 14 pounds. mentaly i’ve never felt so balanced but the increased weight gain is worrying me and making me feel very conscious of my figure. I keep craving mashed potatoe…. i take my meds in the morning and at night but when i take them in the day they make me feel so tired that i have no energy to do excercise.

  15. I am so glad I found this site just glad to know I’m not the only one.I was diagnosed as Bipolar a year and a half ago my weight gain soon followed.After changing my meds a few times everything from risperdal to depekote to abilify my weight had sky rocketed from 150 to 260 over one hundred pounds gained scary I know and in such a short amount of time. The meds made me very tired and hungry!!! I had no motivation coming from anywhere. I have recently moved and now see a new doctor who has changed my meds to Geodon; this has been a good switch for me mentally and also I have stopped gaining weight…but now i struggle with obesity and high blood sugar all thanks to being Bipolar.

  16. I have been on a boatload of dif kinds of anti-depressants and mood stabilizers for ADHD and even those meds caused major weight probs for me. I am currently taking a combo of cymbalta, concerta, and topamax and talked to my doctor about going off my meds as an adult. The only problem is that I feel mentally and emotionally great…but within the past two weeks of taking LESS medication ive gained 7-8 lbs. I dont want to take medication just to keep my weight down and if it isnt necessary to take as much I would like to go that route but I didnt think I would run into the issue of gaining weight as Im being tappered off my meds!

  17. I was born bipolar, my mother was also bipolar, but when each of us was diagnosed ‘officially’, it was known as manic depression. I been given many different medications, but I have to keep changing drugs due to the fact that I always have too many adverse reactions to most of them. I have spent the last eight years working with my present doctor, who was the first person to ever take the time to explain what manic depression aka bipolar really is and why it is important for me to keep taking meds. I thought that I had the perfect balance, or drug ‘cocktail’ after he prescribed the latest one–Risperdal. But to my dismay, it has made me gain over 35 pounds in the first 2 months. I had to lose weight before because I have terribly high cholestoral (which has now risen even higher than before), and I have a history of heart problems in my immediate family and past generations. But my husband and I discussed it and decided that it is better to be alive than to be mentally ‘balanced’. I have an appointment next week to discuss this problem, and I am taking him with me for emotional back up. I hope my doctor will have a solution or a different med to prescribe for me that will work as well as Risperdal with less side effects…I am keeping my fingers crossed.

  18. I’ve been taking Zoloft for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder for about 2 years. Gained about 15 to 20 pounds approximately. I used to average 175 to 180’s, now it’s wavering between high 180s and 200. Now, this isn’t necessarily steady, because I’ve been struggling with maintaining/losing the weight the whole time. But for the most part I can tell you that when on Zoloft, you’ll have to ditch your old eating habits and step up the exercise. I guarantee you that if I had kept my old habits, I’d be much heavier than I am now. It’s an annoyance, but trust me, it’s better than a mind ravaged. I may be heavier, but I can say I’m happier. But not to worry, it’s not impossible. You have options.

    For one, I recommend taking Green Tea Extract. It increases your metabolism, curbs your appetite, and you lose 75 calories everyday (mind you this is if you’re generally sedentary everyday. Results vary with activity obviously).

    Good luck all.

  19. i am 46 diagnosed with bipolar. i have gained 40 lbs and i have gone up 3 clothes in one year. still looking for a magic pill to get it off as i have no energy due to the meds.

    if anyone comes up with something i sure would like to know.

    frustration in toronto.

  20. I am so happy to see I am not the only one out there. I was diagnosed bipolar 3years ago. Went from a size 6 and now a 14 pushing 16. I have been on so many drugs. I just want answers to help lose this weight. I am in the gym busting my butt 5 days a week and eating right and not losing! Talk about frustration. I think that makes me more depressed. I am getting married in a little over a year. I want to look great.

    Continuing to be frustrated.

  21. I gained 57 pounds plus on Lithium 5 years ago and am now trying to lose it. I am committed to lose this weight- joined a gym a few months ago. So far I’ve lost 22 pounds. It’s very difficult. My mental health is ok but this excess weight makes me feel like crap about myself. It is a comfort to know I’m not alone.

  22. Being a mother of a daughter who is ADHD/Bi-Polar. I know only to well what the ALL of you are going thru!! What the heck??!! See,s like a NO WIN situation.. I mean of course being diagnosed with those issues to get them under control is important. And this med has put my daughter to border line honor roll. But then the down side is since she has been taking the Symbayax, OMG in six months she has gained some 70 lbs. This is insane!! Of course the dr says with her being 12 she is just eating more and growing. Well “hello” I;m not stupid here@!@ having done reasearch have found like 21% of the persons taking Symbayax for bi-polar gain weight. Am going to make this guys ears burn this coming Friday. Yes there are extreme anger issues, but this weight gain distroys her self esteem!! She takes Aderall, but then with the extreme weight gain the 30 mg perscribed when she was 120 is hardly effective at 190. Well then am cautious with what I want her to try to get this weight off. Have been loking at a product call lipofemme. Has anyone here heard of? Just want to be sure it mixes well with the adderall,lamictal. Am thinking we are just going to get the heck off the symbayax.

  23. I have been on Zeldox (Geodon) for 12 months now. I have gained 10 kg – 20 lbs during this time and now my doctor says that I have an underactive thyroid. I am in total diesbelief. Is it possible that the slow down in metabolism is called by Zeldox and it’s a mistaken diagnoses?

  24. sorry – caused by Zeldox

  25. I just accepted the diagnosis of Bipolar from a really great internal medicine doctor and he started me on Lithium and then added Zyprexa this week. I have gained 5 lbs. since starting Lithium and since I also have a cyst on my thyroid so I saw an Endocronologist and he wants me to take Metformin and the Pill, he says it is my Thyroid causing all the problems and isn’t Bipolar – I am so confused. I have not started Endo’s recommendations because I think I am a guinea pig who is going to end up weighing 500 lbs. from the looks of it here on this site. It osunds like other’s on this site may have experienced the same thing…any advice?

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