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Bipolar Disorder and Weight Gain: Reader Story

I just received the following comment from Suzanne:

Hi Julie,

Like everyone here who has responded I’ve gained weight on my meds–50 lbs. in about 12 yrs. & now am on meds for high blood pressure & high cholesterol & am testing in the diabetic range (both parents were diabetic). I actually had a very bad relapse 3 yrs. ago (suicide attempt) when husband told me he no longer found me sexually attractive due to weight gain (well, duh, it was pretty obvious & since my self-esteem has pretty much always been in the gutter, that remark put me into the sewer system w/the rats). Have been in individual therapy & DBT since then & husband didn’t know my reaction would be so dramatic & self-destructive (as he is “normal”) & he has much remorse & is being very supportive & helpful in repairing our relationship (just celebrated 36 yrs. of marriage). Weight gain is a HUGE (bad pun) issue for us w/bipolar as we usually feel so badly about ourselves anyway. Would like to learn more about any method to help w/weight loss. Suzanne

Hi Suzanne,

 I gained 80 pounds between 1995 and 1998 when I tried every bipolar medication on the market. It was ridiculous my doctors allowed this- I didn’t get any help at all. I started to see a naturopath and that helped me lose the weight that was not medication related. I have lost 50 pounds of the weight- but the last thirty must just like me a lot- or I must like it because I keep it around! Your best option is to manage bipolar absolutely as best you can so that  you can take the lowest possible doses of your meds. That is one thing that helped me. Also, there are meds you can change to such as Abilify instead of Zyprexa that have less weight gain- I am not saying to do this as the drugs work differently= but  you can look into it!  Some people also try metformin- a medication for blood sugar, but I have no idea if it works for most- it may work for some.  No matter how you feel, you must exercise- I have two friends who use long distance bike riding and swimming to feel better- it helps.  You can exercise when you’re depressed, you just have to force yourself to do it.

Next, no junk food. Hard I know! This adds weight on top  of medication weight. So what it comes down to is that we have to do all we can to make sure we don’t add any weight on top of the weight gain caused by bipolar disorder medications. This is my challenge and has been since 1998- I tend to fluctuate by my mood- I am rarely hungry when hypo manic and only want sugar when I’m depressed! I’m working on it and will never give up!

 I am so glad your husband is being understanding, but I know we would react the same way if we stayed the same weight and our partner gained 50 + pounds- so we hav eto understand them as well!

 It’s great the therapy and DBT (Dialectal Behavior Therapy) are working!


Julie is the author of Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder: Understanding and Helping Your Partner, Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder: a Four Step Plan to Help You and Your Loved One’s to Manage the Illness and Create Lasting Stability and Get it Done When You’re Depressed: 50 Strategies for Keeping Your Life on Track.


© 2010 Julie A. Fast

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