Behavioral Therapy for Weight Loss in Patients With Schizophrenia

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Compared with the general population, individuals with schizophrenia demonstrate an increased prevalence of obesity. While most antipsychotics are associated with weight gain, certain second-generation antipsychotics (SGAs) appear to be especially problematic. Weight gain and obesity are highly distressing to these patients, can reduce treatment adherence, and may increase the relative risk of serious medical conditions and all-cause premature mortality. The selection of an antipsychotic on the basis of its effectiveness and relative side effect profile is recognized as an important initial consideration in the treatment of schizophrenia. However, less is known regarding the efficacy of dietary, pharmacologic, and behavioral therapy in reducing antipsychotic-related weight gain and obesity. Behavioral therapy, in particular, is understudied, and there are relatively few controlled trials of its effectiveness in reducing SGA-induced weight gain. Although weight loss resulting from behavioral therapy has been observed mostly as a result of effective short-term interventions, controlled behavioral studies do exist to suggest that weight can be controlled long term. In addition, a small pilot study in patients with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder recently demonstrated that behavioral therapy that utilizes stepped interventions, involving body weight self-monitoring, diet, and exercise, can prevent weight gain in patients initiating treatment with SGAs. Additional studies of behavioral therapy for long-term weight control in patients with schizophrenia and other forms of severe mental illness are warranted.

J Clin Psychiatry 2007;68(suppl 4):19-25