Managing Medication-Related Weight Gain With Bipolar Disorder

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Three classes of medication are often used to treat bipolar disorder: antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and antipsychotics. Everyone is different in the way they respond to each medication, but a common problem with medications used to treat bipolar disorder is weight gain. Fortunately, lifestyle changes and changes in treatment can offset or minimize weight gain for some people.

Start Simple

Each psychiatrist will have their preferred approach to managing bipolar disorder, based on your symptoms and which medications they typically use as first-line agents. It is better to start as simple as possible with your regimen and add on later. This will make it easier to pinpoint which, if any, medications will cause weight gain. Your psychiatrist may start you with a combination of a mood stabilizer and antidepressant, or mood stabilizer monotherapy. Generally, valproate and lithium are the mood stabilizers most associated with weight gain. Other mood stabilizers, such as lamotrigine or carbamazepine, may work better in conjunction with an antidepressant and have less of an effect on your weight.

Use Antipsychotics Sparingly

In addition to some mood stabilizers, antipsychotics are another class of medications used to treat bipolar disorder that are often associated with weight gain. Newer atypical antipsychotics, such a aripiprazole and ziprasidone, then to have the least effect on weight, in contrast to olanzapine, which can cause severe, rapid weight gain. This does not mean they will not cause weight gain, but when compared to placebo in clinical trials, weight gain was minimal or negligible. When using an antipsychotic medication as part of your treatment, your psychiatrist may prefer to start you with a low dose of an atypical psychotic and rely more on other classes of medications, not only to minimize weight gain, but to reduce you risk of movement disorders.

Consider Your Diet

The weight gain associated with bipolar medication is caused by several issues. Some medications cause a significant increase in your appetite, especially for carbohydrates, but they may also change your metabolism. Finding a combination of medications that is effective, while having the least impact on your weight will be your best defense against gaining a significant amount of weight. Additionally, some changes to your diet can also help. Aiming for a diet that is lower in carbohydrates can be an effective way of managing appetite increases. When you feel the need to munch on something, have low-carb snacks around.

When weight gain is a concern with your bipolar medications, there may be other medications you can try to minimize changes in your weight, while adhering to treatment. Contact a company like Front Street Clinic for more information.