The following is a list of medications commonly prescribed for bipolar affective disorder and the likelihood of weight gain being a side effect. This list is not all inclusive and is for comparison purposes.


The Stabilizers  

Lithium Weight Gain, Frequently up to 10 pounds or more.

Tegretol Weight Gain, Sometimes up to 6 pounds or more

Depakene (Valproic Acid) Weight Gain, Often 6 to 10 pounds or more

Lamotrigine (Lamictal) Weight Gain, Sometimes up to 6 pounds...less likely than with the older stabilizers

Gabapentin (Neurontin)  small weight gain but less likely than with the old stabilizers

Topirimate (Topamax):      little weight gain reported

The Antidepressants  

Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors. (MAOI's) (Marplan, Nardil, Parnate) Weight Gain, Often 6 to 10 pounds and more

Tricyclics and Tetracyclics (elavil. desipramine, imipramine, ascendin anafranil, surmontil, ludiomil...many more) Weight Gain, Frequently more than 10 pounds and more

Specific Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors(SSRI's).... (prozac, serzone, paxil, zoloft) Weight Gain, once thought to be quite rare has been now proven to cause weight gain in some people.  New atypical antidepressants such as wellbutrin are thought to not have weight gain as a side effect.

The Anti Psychotics (Major Tranquilizers) (haldol, largactil, trilafon, mellaril, many more Weight Gain, Frequently more than 10 pounds.  The newer atypical antipsychotic medications, including medications like zyprexa and risperdal also may promote weight gain.  

 Sedatives and Hypnotics Weight Gain, Sometimes up to six pounds or more

Antianxiety Medications:  Weight Gain, Sometimes up to six pounds







Metabolism defined: "All physical and chemical changes within the body involving energy and material transformations, and including two fundamental processes, anabolism (building up process) and catabolism (breaking down process)."

Simply put, metabolism is the process by which the body uses food for energy. It goes on in your body day in and day out, week in and week out, year after year. When it stops you die. But life depends on more than just the simple fact of metabolic activity. It depends on the rate of activity, its balance and its curve (high through youth, then declining).

Energy (from food) is measured in Calories, a familiar term to everyone. All foods have a Calorie equivalent which is the potential energy that that food is capable of producing.  As you sit here quietly reading this your body is using energy to breathe, blink, swallow and keep your heart beating. Despite the anguish it sometimes causes, even thinking requires energy. In fact, in this quiet state your body requires approximately 80 calories per hour of energy. Any activity increases the energy requirements of the body. This is the metabolic rate - what your body does with the food in terms of how active you are. If you "burn" or use up as many Calories as you take in through physical activity your body is in balance - you will neither lose or gain body weight. Many psychiatric drugs reduce the metabolic rate by 15 percent. The following example will show the effect of this.
example: A 150 pound person normally eats 2000 calories per day and his body weight is in
balance - he maintains that weight....neither gaining or losing.

It is important to be aware of the effect of psychiatric drugs on weight and to adjust your food intake/activity level at the outset. Anyone can tell you it is easier to prevent weight gain and maintain your weight than it is to gain it and have to lose it later.

If you're reading this and its already too late for prevention...the excess pounds have piled on....don't despair! The next section will deal with DIET - What You Can Do About It! Read on!

The Thyroid and Lithium

Approximately 10 percent of people taking lithium, especially after long term use, will also need supplemental thyroid medication. Hormones from the thyroid are among the keys to the body's metabolism. They are the regulators which maintain a steady rate of metabolism and create a sense of well being. Too little thyroid hormone slows down metabolism leading to physical and mental sluggishness and weight gain. In susceptible people lithium causes an under functioning thyroid gland leading to hypothyroidism. If you are taking lithium and gaining weight see your doctor for a simple blood thyroid level. It may be causing a problem.

Mood Improvement

One theory is that medication simply makes one feel better, have a better appetite and more. A depressed bipolar usually has little interest in is all just too much effort to be bothered. His appetite is poor and even favorite foods have no appeal.

The hypomanic or manic bipolar is just too busy to eat...his attention span is too short to prepare food or sit down to eat...running in a manic high he can go for days without touching food. .

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