Understanding and Managing Weight Gain and Obesity in Psychiatry: Pharmacological Approaches

Posted on:September 25, 2018
Last Updated: May 11, 2022
Time to read: 11–13 minutes

Obesity and weight gain is a major health problem in Australia, with an increasingly large proportion of the general population – around a third – being in the obese range (BMI >=30 kg/m2).

Obesity and weight gain is linked with a number of psychiatric issues, including depression; and many people living with obesity feel stigmatised and ostracised.

But in terms of a burden of obesity, people with serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia stand out: in the Australian Study of High Impact Psychoses (SHIP), conducted in 2010, three-quarters of people with psychotic disorders were overweight or obese. [1]

Obesity, along with diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidaemia and cigarette smoking, contributes to the overall high cardiovascular risk burden associated with schizophrenia, in turn adding to decreased longevity.

Obesity is largely consequent upon overconsumption of energy-rich foods, and some of the medications we prescribe for people with schizophrenia can enhance cravings for ‘junk’ food, as well as having other effects that add to the obesity risk profile.