Abilify is an atypical antipsychotic medication used to treat symptoms related to mental health conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. It works by balancing out the levels of specific chemicals in the brain that are thought to be unbalanced in people with these and other conditions.
It’s no secret that most drugs can have unwanted side effects, and Abilify (aripiprazole) is no exception. While it’s not an adverse effect, weight gain is a common concern for many when trying a new medication. But does Abilify cause weight gain? While, yes, Abilify may cause weight gain, research shows it’s not as significant as other antipsychotic drugs.
It’s essential to understand the potential risks, including weight gain, associated with any drug before starting it, so let’s take an in-depth look at Abilify weight gain — why it may occur and how to avoid weight change if possible. Learn all you need to know about Abilify and weight gain right here.
Why Does Abilify Cause Weight Gain?
Though it’s not fully understood why it causes some people to gain weight, there are several possible explanations for Abilify weight gain. We do know that in some cases, weight gain can happen continuously over time. Some of the main factors that may contribute to the relationship between Abilify and weight gain include:
- Increased appetite: As mentioned above, one of the primary ways this psychiatric medication works is by altering neurotransmitter levels. Specifically, Abilify blocks dopamine receptors in the brain, which can cause an increase in appetite leading to overeating or cravings for unhealthy foods.
- Metabolic changes: Another explanation is that metabolic changes can occur when taking Abilify, which can slow down metabolism and result in more calories being stored as fat rather than burned off as energy.
- Hormonal imbalances: It’s possible that hormonal imbalances caused by Abilify could contribute to weight gain as well, since hormones play a significant role in regulating our metabolism and hunger levels.
- Less desire to work out: One of the side effects of Abilify is it can cause you to be drowsy, which might hinder your motivation when it comes to working out.
- Genetics: Genetics can play a big role in body type and the likelihood of gaining weight. Therefore, some people are more naturally prone to weight gain than others.
How much weight do you gain from Abilify?
Abilify weight gain can depend on several factors, including age, gender, lifestyle habits, and other medications you may be taking. Generally speaking, people who take Abilify might gain anywhere from 1 – 10 pounds throughout the antipsychotic treatment.
Some studies show that for those who did experience weight gain after taking Abilify, it was an average of 7% (or more) of their body weight when they started taking the antipsychotic drug. Other research, though, shows that when used short-term, Abilify weight gain was just over 2 pounds.
It’s important to note that some people might not experience any weight change, while others may see significant increases in their body mass index (BMI). Weight gain and other side effects of Abilify vary from person to person.
How to Avoid Weight Gain on Abilify
“There are ways to control the antipsychotic induced weight gain by Abilify: portion control, maintaining a regular exercise routine, reducing the dosage, keeping track of your weight, and talking to your doctor about medications that may help.”– Talkspace therapist Cynthia Catchings, LCSW-S, CMHIMP
If you’re concerned about significant weight gain while taking Abilify, there are several steps you can take to help offset the risk:
Eat healthy foods
Eating healthy meals mainly consisting of lean proteins, like fish or chicken, and fruits and vegetables can help keep your calorie intake under control without sacrificing nutrition or flavor. You should also try limiting processed snacks, like chips or candy bars, that contain empty calories but no nutritional value.
Regular exercise helps burn excess calories, so get at least 30 minutes per day if possible. Even just going for a walk around your neighborhood can positively affect your physical and mental health, so don’t underestimate the benefit.
Monitor your weight
Keep track of your weight when taking any psychiatric medication that may cause weight gain. Keeping a regular record of your body mass index (BMI) will help you identify any changes in your body composition early on and adjust accordingly. If you notice your BMI increasing more than expected, talk with your doctor about ways to manage the situation before it becomes a bigger problem.
Talk to your doctor
If, despite following these tips, you still notice weight change after starting a treatment plan that includes Abilify, you should speak to your doctor about adjusting the dosage or switching medications altogether if necessary. Different drugs can have different side effects, so a different medication might not cause gain weight. Your doctor also might suggest lifestyle changes like reducing alcohol consumption or quitting smoking — these habits have been linked to an increased risk of obesity even without taking medications.
“You are in control, so keeping a food diary, purchasing healthy foods, or working with a nutritionist can help you prevent weight gain.”– Talkspace therapist Cynthia Catchings, LCSW-S, CMHIMP
Find Out If Abilify Is Right for You With Talkspace Psychiatry
Talkspace’s online psychiatry offers personalized care from licensed professionals who specialize in helping patients manage their mental health through treatment tailored towards individual needs — no matter where they live or work. With Talkspace Psychiatry’s help, you can get an accurate assessment of your condition and learn how to proceed when considering treatments like Abilify online. All without ever having to leave home. So don’t wait — start getting help today by scheduling an appointment.
We also provide online therapy services to help you understand and manage your symptoms. Let us help guide you on the path toward better mental and physical health! Get connected with a healthcare provider today.
- Dayabandara M, Hanwella R, Ratnatunga S, Seneviratne S, Suraweera C, de Silva V. Antipsychotic-associated weight gain: Management strategies and impact on treatment adherence. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment. 2017;Volume 13:2231-2241. doi:10.2147/ndt.s113099. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5574691/. Accessed February 10, 2023.
- Weiss C, Weiller E, Baker RA, et al. The effects of brexpiprazole and aripiprazole on body weight as monotherapy in patients with schizophrenia and as adjunctive treatment in patients with major depressive disorder. International Clinical Psychopharmacology. 2018;33(5):255-260. doi:10.1097/yic.0000000000000226. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6078484/. Accessed February 10, 2023.
- McQuade, Ph.D. RD, Stock, M.D. E, Marcus, M.D. R, Jody, M.D. D. A comparison of weight change during treatment with olanzapine or … A Comparison of Weight Change During Treatment With Olanzapine or Aripiprazole: Results From a Randomized, Double-Blind Study . https://www.psychiatrist.com/read-pdf/3523/. Accessed February 10, 2023.