Does Bipolar Disorder Cause Weight Gain?

Bipolar disorder is associated with several serious health conditions, including weight gain and obesity.

The World Health Organization defines overweight and obese as “abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that presents a risk to someone’s health.”

Bipolar disorder is a mental health disorder that causes a person to experience intense and sudden changes in moods, emotions, and behaviors.

Episodes can be manic, where a person may feel overly happy and energized—but also more irritable and likely to engage in risky behaviors. Other episodes can be depressive, where a person feels sad, hopeless, and low energy. Many people with bipolar disorder experience mixed episodes, where manic and depressive symptoms occur simultaneously.

Bipolar disorder can affect all aspects of a person’s life, from personal relationships to performance in work or school. It can also mean that a person is more likely to have certain other conditions, some related to mental health and others related to physical health.

Some of the most significant health problems that have been associated with bipolar disorder are weight gain and obesity.

Overweight and obese

The World Health Organization defines overweight and obese as “abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that presents a risk to someone’s health.”

Being obese has the potential to damage nearly every aspect of a person’s health. It increases a person’s risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and early death. It is associated with multiple types of cancers. It can impair reproductive health, lung function, and cognitive health.

Studies have found an association between obesity and mood disorders—including bipolar disorder—though the relationship is not fully understood. Obesity is prevalent among people with bipolar disorder, but it is also prevalent among Americans in general.

In 2020, it was estimated that 41.9 percent of Americans ages 20 or over were obese. The prevalence of obesity among Americans has been increasing over the past few decades. The prevalence of severe obesity—having a BMI of 40 or higher—has also been increasing.

Weight gain and bipolar disorder

Body weight is something that people with bipolar disorder should discuss with a healthcare provider. Bipolar disorder has been associated with weight gain for a few reasons:

  • Having bipolar disorder can make it more difficult to follow a healthy lifestyle, including exercising consistently and following healthy eating habits, both of which are essential to maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Research shows that having severe mental illness, including bipolar disorder, makes a person more likely to spend more time being sedentary.
  • Certain medications that are used to treat bipolar disorder can lead to weight gain for some people. Weight gain can be the result of medications causing changes to appetite or changes to metabolism.
  • Socioeconomic factors also play a role. Obesity is more prevalent among Americans living in poverty. Bipolar disorder is associated with a significantly higher risk of unemployment.
  • Genetic factors that are associated with bipolar disorder may also put a person at higher risk of being overweight or obese, as well as a higher risk for metabolic disorders and cardiovascular disease. However, more research is needed, and these risk factors are not fully understood. As with many diseases, many people with bipolar disorder have family members who also have mental health disorders.

Work with your healthcare provider

Bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition that requires treatment. While there is no known cure for bipolar disorder, there are effective treatments that can help control the condition. Treatment typically includes medications and therapy and is overseen by a psychiatrist, a medical doctor who specializes in treating mental health disorders.

If you have bipolar disorder, weight and weight gain are topics that you should discuss with your healthcare providers. If you need to lose weight, your healthcare providers can help you come up with a safe and sustainable plan to get to a healthier weight.

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