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What Are the Causes of Sudden Weight Gain in Teenagers?

author image August McLaughlin
August McLaughlin is a certified nutritionist and health writer with more than nine years of professional experience. Her work has been featured in various magazines such as "Healthy Aging," "CitySmart," "IAmThatGirl" and "ULM." She holds specializations in eating disorders, healthy weight management and sports nutrition. She is currently completing her second cookbook and Weight Limit—a series of body image/nutrition-related PSAs.
What Are the Causes of Sudden Weight Gain in Teenagers?
What Are the Causes of Sudden Weight Gain in Teenagers? Photo Credit: Thinkstock Images/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Weight fluctuations are a normal part of physical development for teenagers. When weight gain is severe, sudden or accompanies additional symptoms, an underlying medical condition may exist. Unexpected weight gain in teenagers may develop as a side effect of certain medications, from thyroid problems or as a result of emotional disorders, such as depression. If your child exhibits sudden weight gain, discuss his or her symptoms with your doctor.

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Anti-psychotic Drugs

Anti-psychotic drugs may cause weight gain.
Anti-psychotic drugs may cause weight gain. Photo Credit: Jack Hollingsworth/Photodisc/Getty Images

Anti-psychotic drugs are prescribed to reduce symptoms of schizophrenia and schizophrenia-related disorders. According to an article published in the New York Times on Oct. 27, 2009, the newest varieties of anti-psychotic drugs are triggering sudden weight gain and related symptoms, such as metabolic disorders and increased risk for type 2 diabetes and obesity, among teenagers. Research cited in the The Journal of the American Medical Association indicates a potential gain of 8 to 15 percent of teenagers' weight within 12 weeks of utilizing the drugs. Some drugs thought to cause such weight gain include Zyprexa, Abilify, Risperdal and Seroquel. If your child requires treatment for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or other related conditions, be sure to discuss all potential side effects with your doctor or psychiatrist.


Seek proper testing and diagnosis from your teen's doctor.
Seek proper testing and diagnosis from your teen's doctor. Photo Credit: monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images

Hypothyroidism, or under-active thyroid, occurs when your thyroid gland doesn't produce adequate amounts of certain hormones that affect a person's metabolism. Though middle-aged women are most likely to develop the condition, children and teenagers may experience it as well. According to the Mayo Clinic, unexpected weight gain is a common symptom of hypothryroidism. Additional symptoms for teens may include jaundice (yellowed white of the eyes or skin tone), puffy face and an enlarged tongue. As the illness progresses, teens may experience constipation, weak muscles and lethargy. If left untreated these symptoms can lead to obesity, joint pain, infertility and heart problems. To prevent these problems and help manage or prevent further weight gain, seek proper testing and diagnosis from your teen's doctor. In most cases, hypothyroidism is treated effectively through synthetic hormones or other treatments.


Depression may be a cause of weight gain.
Depression may be a cause of weight gain. Photo Credit: Thinkstock Images/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Depression is a complex disorder that involves prolonged periods of negative moods, such as sadness, loneliness, apathy or purposelessness. According to the University of Michigan Depression Center, approximately 5 percent of youth under age 18 experience serious depression at any given time. After puberty, a child's likelihood of developing depression increases. Changes in weight and appetite are common symptoms of depression. Some teenagers experience increased appetite, while others develop emotional eating behaviors (eating out of emotional need rather than physiological). Both of these factors commonly contribute to weight gain. In addition, numerous medications used to reduce symptoms of depression cause weight gain for some people. If your teenager exhibits symptoms of depression, such as weight gain, seek guidance from a qualified therapist who can guide you toward proper diagnosis and management, if needed, of the disease. Weight gain caused by depression often goes away once emotional wellness is restored. A healthy dietary lifestyle coupled with regular physical activity is also recommended as a means of promoting physical as well as emotional health.

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