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Is it Hard to Lose Weight on Psychiatric Drugs?

People who take antidepressants and/or antipsychotics and participate in a weight management program can still lose a significant amount of weight, regardless of the weight gain potential of their mental health medication, according to a new Canadian study published in the journal Obesity.

Individuals with mental health disorders are at an increased risk of having obesity, in part because many of the medications used to treat these conditions are known to cause weight gain, say the researchers.

However, it has remained unclear if taking these medications would put people at a disadvantage for weight loss. The study is the first to examine weight loss outcomes in individuals taking antidepressants or antipsychotics alone, in combination or not at all.

“The results of this study are relevant not only to the healthcare professionals providing care to those who have both excess weight and mental illness, but also to the patients who experience these comorbidities themselves,” said lead author Rebecca Christensen, a Ph.D. student at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health in Canada.

For the study, the researchers reviewed data from 17,519 patients enrolled in a life-style weight loss program at the Wharton Medical Clinic (WMC) in Ontario, Canada.

Because of known gender differences in weight loss and prevalence in mental health conditions, the researchers conducted separate analyses for male and female patients. They examined weight change differences based on psychiatric medication group and weight gain potential.

Participants were categorized as taking an antidepressant(s) alone, antipsychotic(s) alone, a combination of both, or no psychiatric medication. The authors also conducted a sub-analysis, where patients were categorized as taking psychiatric medications known to cause weight gain, or medications that are weight neutral and/or can cause weight loss.

Overall, more than 23 percent of patients were taking at least one psychiatric medication.

Trained medical professionals took participants’ height and weight measurements, and patients met with a physician and/or bariatric educator monthly for dietary and physical activity suggestions based on current lifestyle practices.

WMC staff provided treatment in accordance with Canadian clinical practice guidelines on the management and prevention of obesity in adults and children and the National Institutes of Health guidelines on the identification, evaluation and treatment of overweight and obesity in adults.

The findings show that while men lost a significant amount of weight regardless of the type of psychiatric medication, men taking antidepressants alone lost slightly less weight than men taking both antidepressants and antipsychotics, and men taking neither medication. Women lost a similar amount of weight regardless of their psychiatric medication use.

Christensen and colleagues also observed that both men and women were able to lose a significant amount of weight regardless of the weight gain potential of their mental health medication.

The results of this study are promising, said Christensen, but additional research is needed to confirm the findings.

Source: The Obesity Society



Is it Hard to Lose Weight on Psychiatric Drugs?

Traci Pedersen

Traci Pedersen is a professional writer with over a decade of experience. Her work consists of writing for both print and online publishers in a variety of genres including science chapter books, college and career articles, and elementary school curriculum.

APA Reference
Pedersen, T. (2019). Is it Hard to Lose Weight on Psychiatric Drugs?. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 29, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 24 Aug 2019 (Originally: 24 Aug 2019)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 24 Aug 2019
Published on Psych All rights reserved.