Pedaling Into the Wind – Abilify and Weakness

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What are our Drs always telling us?  Exercise is essential for a healthier mind.  OK.  My husband and I both got a new bicycle this past weekend.  Cycling.  That’s got to be good for you.

So, we set out yesterday for our first real ride.  All we wanted to do was pedal to the lake (not far at all – I usually walk it), go half way around (not terrible far – I can walk it) and come home.  Much to my embarrassment, I had to stop a few times along the way.  And, I have an electric bicycle.

I was doing fine when we started out…honestly!  It was fun!  Then, the wind picked up.  In all fairness the wind was sustained at 30km/hr, gusting to 40.  Challenging, surely.  But the amount of muscle drain I felt not just in my legs but all over my body was really concerning. It was more than just being out of shape.  For most of the ride I kept thinking at a pitch just below panic, “What is going on?”

After I got home, although I had just been out riding, I was experiencing a chill.  Well, that’s not surprising.  I have that freakish Abilify side effect where I can’t regulate my body temp very well.  It’s pretty pronounced now that I am on 7.5mg instead of my usual 2.5 (yes, I am also freaksihly sensitive to this med as well.)  Oh.  But, wait a minute…isn’t one of the less common side effects of Abilify muscle weakness?  Off to Google I went.

Sure enough, lack of strength, weakness and muscle weakness have been reported and are listed one way or another in the US Abilify drug insert information and on ehealthme.com.  Now, bear in mind the latter site is meant for consumers to self-report adverse effects so the results are far from those gleaned in controlled studies. In some respects, however, this data is more helpful and gives me greater peace of mind.   This chart alone (from ehealthme) is worth 1,000 words:

Time on Abilify when people have Lack of strength, muscle weakness, weakness * :

< 1 month 1 – 6 months 6 – 12 months 1 – 2 years 2 – 5 years 5 – 10 years 10+ years
Lack of strength, muscle weakness, weakness 45.45% 30.68% 10.23% 6.82% 5.68% 1.14% 0.00%
*  If anyone from ehealthme.com objects to the use of the chart, please contact me.  I’ll remove it immediately.
 

So…how to approach this with my Drs.  First off, my Drs do not believe Abilify causes weight gain.  They use some antiquated PDR-like bibe-looking thing  from 2008 as their go-to reference.  It does not list weight gain.  My hips, however, list otherwise.  Second off…well, I’m in a bad place here.  My Abilify dose was jacked up to 7.5 from 2.5 because I tried to wean off and experienced a mild psychosis.  I have a lot of stress, and I mean a lot of stressful events, coming up in the next six weeks.  Not only don’t I have Drs who believe the latest package insert warnings, but now is not a good time at all to switch antipsychotic medication.

But, enough of my whining.  Are there any of you out there who have experienced severe weakness while taking Abilify?  I’d love to know.  So when it is time to address this with my Drs I can say with honesty, “…and I know of others who’ve had the same issue.”

25 thoughts on “Pedaling Into the Wind – Abilify and Weakness

    bpshielsy said:
    April 23, 2012 at 11:50 AM

    I’ve not had Abilify so I can’t comment. I would encourage you to keep up the exercise though. I know its a struggle, but it might be a good way to naturally combat the side affect. Plus when you see improvement & being able to cycle a little further, you’ll hopefully feel a little better.

    Maybe check with your Dr though, in case whilst on Abilify, exercise isn’t recommended.

    Good luck

      ManicMuses responded:
      April 24, 2012 at 10:10 AM

      Thanks! I really do need to check with the Dr. I’m not giving up on the cycling, I’m just going to be smart about it and use the throttle more often until I can get the med / timing / stress thing sorted. Assuming you exercise, how long did it take for you to feel some sort of harmony with moods, med and exercise?

        bpshielsy said:
        April 24, 2012 at 1:13 PM

        Yeah I exercise daily & I think it really helps with my bipolar. Certainly as a boost for beating the lows anyway.

        I’ve been lucky with the meds really, as I haven’t encountered a problem with them. I’m on Epilim Chrono 1000mg (Mood Stabilzer) & Fluoxetine 40mg (anti depressant). I know I’d rather not be on any meds, but I’m kind of used to the idea of being on them for life. I don’t like the dependency issues that surround this, but I’d take it over the lowest of the lows if push comes to shove.

        The hardest thing I’ve found was my motivation to keep the fitness going. To be honest it’s taken me roughly 10 years to be able to do regular exercise, but I think it’s mainly been down to my own willpower or lack there of. I’d always make the mistake of thinking “I feel good, so I’ll ease back on the exercise”. Within a month or so I’d pack in & about 6 months down the line depression would have sneaked up on me like the sneaky fecker it is :)

        I think exercise is as important as any medication when it comes to bipolar (at least it is with me). Even when I really don’t want to, I now force myself to run, swim or anything that gets the blood pumping. It can be hard but I think its worth it.

        Good luck with getting the balance, my fingers are crossed for you.

        ManicMuses responded:
        April 25, 2012 at 9:41 AM

        You’re spot on – motivation is my true enemy. It’s so hard to get up and going some days. I know it’s good for me, my rational mind tells me this, but there’s always some other bit of housework that calls instead of going for that walk or ride. I’m happy you’ve found your balance and a med cocktail that works. Thank you so much for sharing!

      maria said:
      August 4, 2014 at 7:21 PM

      I am in agony on abilify and it causes weight gain. l feel like i’m attached to a medieval torture rack my arms and legs feel so bad beyond weak to plain right painful. Also if anyone knows of an antipsychotic that isn’t bad for the heart that would be very helpful unlike my doctors.

    Ruby Tuesday said:
    April 23, 2012 at 12:04 PM

    I definitely experienced severe muscle weakness with Abilify. I wasn’t exercising or doing anything that would have given me a metric in a straightforward way such as that, but here’s what I can iterate.

    I couldn’t hold my children for very long without my arms starting to wobble. Some of them, even the ones who weren’t terribly heavy, I would try to pick up (as I previously had done with ease), then have to immediately return to the floor (couch, bed, wherever they had been planted) because my arms gave out completely after taking their full weight.

    Even my own weight (which wasn’t very much) became a difficulty. I couldn’t stand for more than a few minutes at a time, and while sometimes it was due to being lightheaded (which was the product of something else), there were many incidences where my legs were so tired after a few minutes that they couldn’t bear my own weight.

    Also, my tremor became increasingly severe. This was due to a multitude of factors, and muscle weakness was probably the least of them, but it was definitely still a part.

    I just wanted to say in addition, as far as the upcoming stress and feeling like it’s a bad time to switch up medications, well perhaps the answer then is to stay on the Abilify until you have made it through the next six weeks. I know that muscle weakness is frustrating and limiting, but if you keep in mind that it is temporary and that the alternative could be severe mood disturbance and/or a whole host of new and possibly worse side effects, it may seem like a more palatable solution. Perhaps you are in a place where you could try reducing your dose slightly, say to 5 mg, so you could mitigate the side effects a bit and still be stable enough.

    Just a thought. I wish you all the best with this one. And, oh, what the heck is an electric bicycle? I have never heard of such a thing! :)

      ManicMuses responded:
      April 24, 2012 at 10:04 AM

      Hi, there! How are you? You’re absolutely right, Ruby. Now is not the time to be messing with my cocktail. I’ve made peace with the fact I will have to tolerate the present concoction for a few months and have even been digging to the bottom of my summer clothes drawer to see if there’s anything in larger sizes. Sigh

      Electric bicycles! They are actually fitted with a battery and small motor to give assistance when needed. It’s great for Miss Asthma over here. Whenever I have to go up steep inclines I hit the throttle. Oh, and it’s great when I’m feeling lazy, too. :) Yeah, it’s cheating, I know. But it’s probably a blessing in disguise until I can get this weakness thing under control. Hope you’re doing well!

      e said:
      June 3, 2014 at 4:41 AM

      hi ruby. i’m having the same exact symptoms as you written. so these symptoms went away for you in six weeks? please could you reply asap. thank you so much. hurting so bad right now with muscle pain/weakness. :( thanks so much ruby

        Ruby Tuesday said:
        June 3, 2014 at 5:56 AM

        e,

        I didn’t actually have any muscle pain, just weakness. I’m not sure for how long after completely tapering off the Abilify the weakness and increased tremor continued, they probably lasted at least a few months. I was actually dealing with a specific pattern of symptoms beyond muscle weakness, a syndrome which I won’t name because it sounds a great deal scarier than it is. But the symptoms associated with my case could have lasted up to two years after the drug had cleared my system.

        I suggest you get together with your doctor asap and have them evaluate you and run basic labs. The pain could be caused by something as simple as low potassium, which is easily corrected through diet, but I don’t know and I really can’t give you any advice more helpful than to make an appointment with your primary care physician immediately so that you don’t have to suffer longer through this.

        I hope very much that you find a solution and can be back to feeling well soon.

    Sandy Sue said:
    April 23, 2012 at 12:27 PM

    To me, it seems like jacking your dosage so high after the psychosis you experienced was overkill. But that’s the dose now, so please don’t mess with it until you can talk to your doc. If and when you start to reduce the dosage, you *reallyreallyreally* need to do it under your doctor’s care and supervision. ***Titrating your meds down will make your symptoms worse*** Just like changing meds will exacerbate symptoms.

    Don’t mess with this Vivien. I’m serious.

      ManicMuses responded:
      April 24, 2012 at 9:18 AM

      :) Thank you so much, Sandy. You always know exactly what to say. I *promise* I will *not* play Dr again (ok, with my meds only) and do the self-titration-thing again. It’s really frustrating, but I’ve raised the white flag and am not even going to broach the subject of getting off/switching until the fall when all of the stress is over. [Congrats again with Callinda…the party looked like it was fun for all!]

    ...But She's Crazy said:
    April 23, 2012 at 6:30 PM

    I took Abilify for a relatively short time several years ago. I absolutely gained weight while I was on it and I know others who have bulked up while taking it. I also experienced physical weakness and was inordinately fatigued while on it. Truthfully, it didn’t help my mood much. Instead of being alert and depressed, I felt zombified and depressed. Personally, I’m not a fan of the Abilify. But that’s just this girl’s experience.

      ManicMuses responded:
      April 24, 2012 at 9:27 AM

      Thanks very much for your comment. I feel ‘medicated’ too. How fair is it that Drs give an already depressed person medication that makes them gain a bunch of weight – which wreaks further havoc with their self esteem? Not cool at all. If you don’t mind me asking, did you ever find something to help your mood?

      Kevin M. said:
      December 9, 2012 at 4:28 AM

      I’ve gained weight on Abilify, too, but I’m starting to wonder if that’s a secondary effect caused, for me, by the muscle problems. Since I’ve started Abilify, my body is stiff and achy and I don’t feel like moving much. It’s only natural that weight gain would follow—for me, anyway, because I have to fight to keep weight off. I’m not trying to generalize this, just speculating about what’s happening in my body.

      maria said:
      August 4, 2014 at 7:32 PM

      What antipsychotic do you take instead ?

    Johnson said:
    April 23, 2012 at 8:29 PM

    Hi,

    Feel free to use our results as long as the source is cited.

    To further the discussion of weakness in Abilify, and bi-polar, our studies actually show that weakness is slightly more common among bi-polar people (regardless of which drug is used) than people who use Abilify:

    http://www.ehealthme.com/ds/abilify/lack+of+strength,+muscle+weakness,+weakness

    http://www.ehealthme.com/cs/bipolar+disorder/lack+of+strength%2C+muscle+weakness%2C+weakness

    Well, for weight gain it is the opposite:

    http://www.ehealthme.com/ds/abilify/weight%20increased

    http://www.ehealthme.com/cs/bipolar+disorder/weight%20increased

    In other (very simplified) words, without consideration of other context (gender, age, etc.) , your weakness could also be likely from your condition, but weight gain more from the drug. Of course, you need to discuss all this with the doc before any action, if any, is taken.

    Hope this help,
    Johnson
    eHealthMe.com

      ManicMuses responded:
      May 8, 2012 at 12:55 PM

      Hi, Johnson. Please forgive the tardy reply – your reply was stuck in my Spam folder.

      Thank you very much for allowing the reference. I find a lot of great material on ehealthme. I’m going to read the links you provided as soon as I finish this reply – thanks very much for providing then. I’ll definitely bring the Abilify and weight gain material to my Drs!

      Take care,
      Vivien

    Bic said:
    August 29, 2012 at 12:04 PM

    Oh my god! I thought I was just lacking vitamin D or calcium or something. I’m on Abilify 15mg, and now I know why I can’t seem to stand for more than a minute at a time without getting tired…I’ve had tremors and shakes, and the inability to keep still, so my doctor gave me 1/8 rivotril to help me with my nerves…still struggling though to hold that cup of coffee without spilling it

      maria said:
      August 4, 2014 at 7:40 PM

      Omg they are trying to poison us l swear surely such negative impact on our physical health isn’t good for our mental health.

    ManicMuses responded:
    August 29, 2012 at 1:05 PM

    Oh my – you should talk to your doc right away! My US psychiatrist was adamant that if I started experiencing anything similar to what you are I call because it *might* be Tardive Dyskenesia http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1151826-overview. Now, I’m *NOT* a Dr or qualified to diagnose anything (not even a hangnail :) ) so this could be way off base.

    I am still having problems with Abilify, too. I’m down to 2.5mg every other day, but when I totally go off, about 5 days in I start having withdrawal symptioms.

    Good luck! Please come back and let me know how you’re doing after you see Doc / have more time on the Rivotril.

    Kevin M. said:
    December 9, 2012 at 4:24 AM

    I believe I’m experiencing muscle weakness, in addition to stiffness and some aches and pains due to Abilify. On the advice of…well, everyone, I started going to the gym this summer. I was actually going very faithfully, 6 times a week (3 for cardio, 3 for a casual machine weight circuit), and it was going well. But then I started taking abilify, a little over a month ago now. Almost immediately, I became more lethargic and resistant to going to the gym, and I think it’s because movement became markedly less comfortable. These days, when I do drag myself to the gym, I almost always abbreviate my routines, even ones that I was doing quite easily two months ago.

    The thing is, when I mentioned muscle issues (weakness, stiffness, pain) to my psychiatrist, who has a lot of experience with MAOI’s and other psychiatric drugs (I’m on Emsam in addition to Abilify…or Abilify in addition to Emsam would probably be more accurate), he shrugged it off and said he’d never heard of muscle issues as a side effect of Abilify. This blog post and some other light research has made me decide to press the issue the next time I see him.

    Thanks for this post!

      ManicMuses responded:
      December 12, 2012 at 5:12 PM

      Hi, Kevin – thanks for reading!

      Yeah, Abilify. Sigh. I know it has literally been a life-saver for some, but I just can’t get on the bandwagon. My muscles always felt like I was trying to recover from flu – mostly weak, occasionally sore – except I never did.

      Would you be willing to post another comment after you’ve had a chance to talk with your doc again? I’d love to hear what he has to tell you. Good luck!! I hope you can find a way to feel better soon.

    matt said:
    February 25, 2014 at 1:52 AM

    i enjoy long distance running but my doc put me on Abilify should I stop the one thing in life that I love for this drug?

      ManicMuses responded:
      February 25, 2014 at 2:30 AM

      I’m not a doc, but while I was on this crappy med I did exactly what I wanted, even though it made me frustrated as hell at times. I don’t recall anyone I’ve spoken with being asked to curtail activity but if you have a concern, ask your doc. If you wouldn’t mind, post back what they tell you. Good luck, Matt! I hope you feel better soon!

    maria said:
    August 4, 2014 at 7:35 PM

    I’ve stopped taking mine 48hrs ago and i was only on them a week so how long before i .am pain free cos id rather not be in pain and unhappy. I’m bipolar.

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