Does Abilify make you hungry? (3+factors)

In this article, we will explore the potential side effects of increased hunger associated with Abilify use, examine the possible mechanisms behind this effect, and provide some coping strategies and professional guidance for managing increased hunger while taking Abilify.

Does Abilify make you hungry? 

Yes, Abilify can potentially cause hunger and increased appetite as a side effect.

Abilify (aripiprazole) is a medication that belongs to the class of atypical antipsychotics. It is used to treat various mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, and autism spectrum disorder. Abilify works by modulating the levels of dopamine and serotonin, two neurotransmitters that are involved in mood, cognition, motivation, and reward.

However, these neurotransmitters also play a role in regulating appetite and food intake. Therefore, Abilify may affect the hunger and satiety signals in the brain and body, leading to changes in appetite and weight.

How common is increased hunger with Abilify? 

One of the potential side effects of Abilify use is increased hunger or appetite. This side effect is reported by some people who take Abilify, but it is not very common or severe compared to other atypical antipsychotics. According to a phase IV clinical study based on reports from the FDA, only 0.14% of people who take Abilify experience an appetite increase (1).

Increased hunger or appetite may lead to increased food intake and weight gain over time. Weight gain is another potential side effect of Abilify use, but again, it is not very common or severe compared to other atypical antipsychotics, according to a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials comparing different atypical antipsychotics for schizophrenia treatment (2).

What causes increased hunger with Abilify?

There are not many scientific studies that specifically investigate the effect of Abilify on appetite or hunger in humans. Most studies focus on the effect of Abilify on weight or metabolic parameters, such as blood glucose, cholesterol, and triglycerides (3). However, some studies have suggested possible mechanisms behind Abilify’s effect on hunger.

Affecting brain receptors

One study found that Abilify increased food intake in rats by activating dopamine D2 receptors in the hypothalamus, a brain region that controls appetite (3). 

Another study found that Abilify reduced food intake in mice by blocking serotonin 5-HT2C receptors in the same brain region (4). These contradictory findings may reflect the complex and context-dependent effects of Abilify on different neurotransmitter systems and brain regions.

Interaction with other medications

Some antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), are known to cause weight gain. If Abilify is used as an add-on treatment for major depressive disorder along with these antidepressants, it may enhance their weight-gaining effects (5). 

Individual factors

The experiences of Abilify users regarding appetite and weight changes may vary depending on individual factors, such as dosage, duration of treatment, and lifestyle habits. Some users may report increased hunger and weight gain with Abilify, while others may report decreased hunger and weight loss. Some users may not notice any significant changes in their appetite or weight at all.

How can you manage increased hunger with Abilify?

If you experience increased hunger or weight gain with Abilify, there are some steps you can take to manage this side effect and prevent potential health problems, such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease (6).

  • You should consult your healthcare provider before making any changes to your medication regimen. Your provider may be able to adjust your dosage, switch you to a different medication, or prescribe an additional medication that can help with appetite and weight control.


  • You should adopt a healthy diet that is balanced, nutritious, and low in calories, fat, sugar, and salt. You should avoid skipping meals, binge eating, snacking between meals, and eating late at night. You should also drink plenty of water and limit your intake of alcohol and caffeine.


  • Try to engage in regular physical activity that is appropriate for your age, fitness level, and medical condition. You should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week, such as brisk walking, cycling, or swimming. You should also include some strength-training exercises that can build muscle mass and increase metabolism.


  • You should monitor your weight and body mass index (BMI) regularly and keep track of your progress. You should set realistic and achievable goals for yourself and reward yourself for reaching them. You should also seek support from your family, friends, or a professional counselor if you struggle with emotional eating or body image issues.


In my perspective, while Abilify can potentially cause increased hunger, it is important to remember that everyone’s experience with this medication is different. If you are experiencing increased hunger while taking Abilify, it is important to communicate this to your healthcare providers. They can give you professional guidance and help you manage this side effect while ensuring that your mental health condition is treated appropriately.

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Mukherjee S, Skrede S, Milbank E, Andriantsitohaina R, López M, Fernø J. Understanding the Effects of Antipsychotics on Appetite Control. Front Nutr. 2022 Jan 3;8:815456. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2021.815456. PMID: 35047549; PMCID: PMC8762106. 


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Nguyen CT, Rosen JA, Bota RG. Aripiprazole partial agonism at 5-HT2C: a comparison of weight gain associated with aripiprazole adjunctive to antidepressants with high versus low serotonergic activities. Prim Care Companion CNS Disord. 2012;14(5):PCC.12m01386. doi: 10.4088/PCC.12m01386. Epub 2012 Oct 18. PMID: 23469329; PMCID: PMC3583771. 


Alonso-Pedrero, LBes-Rastrollo, MMarti, AEffects of antidepressant and antipsychotic use on weight gain: A systematic reviewObesity Reviews2019201680-1690 


Maayan L, Correll CU. Management of antipsychotic-related weight gain. Expert Rev Neurother. 2010 Jul;10(7):1175-200. doi: 10.1586/ern.10.85. PMID: 20586697; PMCID: PMC3501406.