Bipolar Disorder: Obesity and Weight Loss

  • 14 January 2016
  • Petra_1

In this section, I thought it would be best to pick up some of the most common questions that people have regarding Bipolar Disorder and its relation with Obesity, and try and answer them as specifically as possible.

Does Bipolar Disorder cause more weight gain in women?

Yes. Studies have shown that Bipolar women are more susceptible to weight gain than Bipolar men.

How does Bipolar Disorder cause weight gain?

Different studies have been conducted over the years to understand how obesity and bipolar disorder could be connected.

According to research, bipolar patients experience significant weight gain. Here are some observations that relate to this:

  1. Psychotropic drugs do cause an increase in body weight. Lithium is one such drug that causes a noticeable weight gain. Other drugs that favor obesity in bipolar patients are Zyprexa, Valproate, and Symbyax. However, studies have shown that patients gain weight even if the effect of the drugs is taken out of the equation. Therefore, something else contributes to overweight and obesity in addition to the drugs.
  2. Binge eating occurs in mentally ill patients more than it appears in the general population. While scientists have not discovered how exactly binge eating connects to bipolar disorder, this eating anomaly is guilty of piling up the pounds. 
  3. Bipolar depression causes mental and physical fatigue which demotivates patients from exercising and engaging in other physical activities.
  4. Obesity is a condition that affects the body hormones in such a way that weight loss becomes more difficult. Obesity causes over production of leptin, which is an adipokine. This is produced by the adipose tissue (fat) that acts as a chemical mediator in order to let the brain know how much fat is in the body. Obesity causes leptin resistance, which keeps the brain uninformed about the actual amount of fat there is in the body. Thus, the brain releases signals to increase body appetite.
  5. Since a lot of bipolar medications cause weight gain, often patients become medically noncompliant and their situation worsens. Their body weight keeps increasing without any therapy or remedial interventions.

Do weight loss medicines work for bipolar patients?

Medicines like Contrave, Belviq and Qsymia are known to cause weight loss, but scientists yet do not know what effect they will have on bipolar patients. This is why they are not administered. Zonisamide is known to cause weight loss, and is now being studied for more information.

How can bipolar patients combat weight gain or lose excessive weight?

Research proves that behavioral intervention works the best in order to reduce weight gain or facilitate weight loss. Clinically established weight loss programs like Nutrisystem and Weight Watchers can help. Patients are kept under close watch and their weight is constantly monitored. Also, psychiatrists and dieticians design proper physical activities and meal plans to make sure that the patients do not over eat but consume only healthy nutrients. Such measures help a lot in keeping obesity away.

Patients need to understand that they can maintain good health with the help of rigorous dieting, proper exercising and a positive attitude. It is hard for people to live up to it, but trying to balance life despite the challenges is what ultimately counts.