Dr. Henry Paul, MD

Psychiatrist, Author and Educator


May 20th, 2015

What to do about weight gain in kids on psychotropic medications seems to be one of the leading concerns of parents. Some antipsychotic medications and antidepressants cause weight gain.

36947848_xlFirst, I want to make clear that these medications in many instances are very helpful in treating children with mental health disorders. Weight gain does not occur in all young people who take them. In some cases, the medications are life-saving. As a parent, you have to weigh the benefits. Usually, the benefits outweigh the risks of side effects including weight gain.

Having treated thousands of children in my career, I know that gaining weight itself comes with its problems — self-esteem, social acceptance, and of course one’s physical health.

If your child has been prescribed a medication that is known to cause weight gain, here are some things you can do. The first is to consult with your pediatrician to establish what a healthy weight is for your child. Keep track of your child’s weight. If weight is being gained, then a common sense cutback in calorie consumption is necessary. Work with your child to create a healthy lifestyle of eating and exercise and try to limit calorie content of foods as much as possible. It has been my experience that high fat and sugar snacks are often the culprits for kids on medications. Help your child to cut down noshing, and only nosh on low-calorie foods and decrease overall intake of calories.
The best thing to do is to work with children to teach them better eating habits. Encourage them to be hands-on in the decisions about what they eat. Have them help you in the kitchen. Take them food shopping. More importantly, be an example. If you are eating junk food, of course, they will want it too. Make outings more about doing things rather than about going out to eat or going for ice cream.

In the end, when your child is on antidepressant or antipsychotic medications weight should be watched. There is no magic here and no magic mechanism. As parents, we have to watch what we and what our children eat. Parents need to set a good example and help their children make good choices.

This blog is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended as medical or psychiatric advice for individual conditions or treatment and does not substitute for a medical or psychiatric examination. A psychiatrist must make a determination about any treatment or prescription. Dr. Paul does not assume any responsibility or risk for the use of any information contained within this blog.

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