What Factors Cause Weight Gain in Bipolar Patients?

  • 26 January 2016
  • Petra_1

National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey has reported that about two-thirds of the American population (61% of all women and 70% of all men) is overweight. About one third of that population is obese. This news does not come as a surprise, considering the really poor health choices people have been making in an age that is dominated by chains of popular junk food restaurants and diners. However, when it comes to the topic of Bipolar Disorder and Obesity, the situation is not so easily understood.

Over half of the total population suffering from bipolar disorder (which is anywhere in between 54%- 68%) is also overweight or obese. This rate is higher than any other psychiatric illness. And it’s one of the reasons why most bipolar patients have poor health and even die. Obesity leads to cardiovascular diseases, Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes and other medical issues.

Medications are Not the Only Cause

It has always been very easy for us to blame the medications that we have been prescribed which are supposed to act as mood stabilizers, but the fact remains that typical antidepressants usually do not cause significant weight gain. Also, while some medications might cause an increase in weight, a lot of debate has been focused mainly on antipsychotic medicines, which are often prescribed to bipolar patients.


However, the amount of research done in this area has unfortunately been very little. Scientists are now explaining that a genetic link between Bipolar Disorder and Diabetes has been suspected to exist. This combination results in a condition called the Wolfram syndrome. This syndrome is responsible for causing diabetes and Bipolar Disorder in people who have this gene.

Social and Economic Background

A lot of researchers are also suspecting some socio-economic factors that could cause obesity in bipolar patients.

There are some which have been listed below that are considered to influence the onset and maintenance of obesity in bipolar patients:  

  • Geographical location of the patients
  • Gender
  • Bulimia nervosa that could co-exist with Bipolar Disorder
  • Bing-Eating Disorder appears often in bipolars
  • Physical inactivity
  • High carb intake
  • High number of depressive episodes

Apart from these few, researchers are stating that Bipolar patients are more susceptible to becoming obese if they come from the low-income group. Having a low income limits patients from buying expensive medicines and from developing a healthier and more optimistic attitude that could help them to fight their depression.

Single patients tend to gain weight as the lack of a relationships and social activities makes them not care about how they look. They also have no need to stay healthy since they have no one depending on them.

Also, the risk of bipolar disorder increases due to childhood abuse. A lot of bipolar patients are known to have come from broken families where their parents have failed to provide a good safety net for them.

All of these factors play a crucial role in determining whether a Bipolar patient will be able to pull through or not. However, all of these could be conside red to be speculations based on too little evidence. While some of the factors and  causes ring with truth, no one can deny that the amount of research and study  done in this field has been very little. This has been the prime cause for failure of current treatments. A lot of patients become medically non-compliant, and this hurts their chance of  success.

When I was taking antipsychotic medicines and mood stabilizers, I had  gained a lot of weight without knowing the reason why. This is why I decided to not  take medicines at all—a decision for which I had pay dearly later. Now, I never fail  to take medicines and I always eat healthy. I keep a close watch on my weight to  stay safe. Taking time out for physical exercise is a definite plus.

I hope the scientific community progresses rapidly in this area as this will inevitably help us tackle the problem of weight gain and obesity amongst bipolar patients.

Additional relevant sources: