Roughly 42% of Americans are obese. In fact, obesity is so prevalent in the United States that it has been named a national epidemic by the CDC.

Researchers have long been able to prove that obesity can have numerous negative effects on a person’s physical health.

Unfortunately, the harm doesn’t end there. Recent studies have shown that being obese can increase a person’s risk of developing mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety.

It’s important to understand the connection between obesity and mental health because many individuals may be able to make major improvements through simple lifestyle changes.

Read on to learn how obesity can affect your mental health and vice versa, and how you can address these issues with the information and infographic included below.

The Chicken or the Egg? 

A common question associated with the link between obesity and mental health disorders is, “Which came first?” There’s no clear answer to this question, but research has shown countless links between the two conditions.

Despite these links, it is important to note that these conditions do not always occur together. All mental health issues are not coupled with obesity, and not every person who is obese will experience a mental health issue.

Research simply shows correlations and increased percentages of risk between these conditions, which allows individuals to better understand how to preserve, plan and enjoy their lives.

What Is Obesity? 

The standards for obesity are not the same for everyone. It can vary based on weight, height, body structure, and more. However, obesity is most often determined by a person’s body mass index (BMI).

A BMI that is between 25.0 to 29.9 is generally characterized as overweight, while a BMI over 30.0 is often characterized as obese.

Obesity and Mental Health 

Numerous studies have shown that anxiety and mood disorders are linked to obesity, and vice versa. Common mental health disorders showing connections to obesity include depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder.

Obesity and Anxiety 

Research suggests that people who are overweight have a stronger possibility of experiencing certain anxiety disorders, such as social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety, and panic disorders.

It has not yet been proven why overweight individuals are more likely to experience anxiety disorders, but suspected causes are social judgment, lower self-esteem, and general health problems.

Obesity and Depression 

Studies have shown that obese individuals have a 55% higher chance of developing depression than individuals of a healthy weight. Individuals experiencing depression also have a 58% higher chance of becoming obese.

It is also expected that depression decreases as a person’s weight decreases, and vice versa. Findings from these studies show that depression linked to obesity and obesity linked to depression may be preventable.

Obesity and Bipolar Disorder 

Bipolar disorder and obesity have also been linked. It is expected that individuals affected by bipolar disorder may use food as a way to cope, resulting in overeating and eventual weight gain. Certain medications used to treat bipolar disorder may also cause increased appetite, leading to weight gain.

It is suggested that dealing with bipolar disorder and being obese at the same time can lead to more extreme depression, resistance to some treatments, and more manic or depressive episodes.

Breaking the Cycle 

The correlation between decreased weight and decreased mental health issues is a promising one. Certain lifestyle changes can positively impact physical and mental health.

For instance, eating a healthy diet, exercising often, and getting enough sleep can have positive effects on a person’s physical health that may, in turn, improve mental health.

Additionally, studies show that individuals who sleep fewer than five hours per night have a higher chance of becoming obese than those who sleep at least seven hours per night. Physical exercise has also been linked to increased mood and superior stress response.

It’s important to understand that obesity and mental health disorders are not always linked.

However, understanding the effects of one on the other can help some individuals make the lifestyle changes needed to enjoy happier and healthier lives.

To learn more about the connection between obesity and mental health, check out the accompanying resource.

This infographic was created by the Center for Weight Loss Surgery, a weight loss program in Seattle

About The Author:

Dr. Myur S. Srikanth is a board-certified bariatric and cosmetic surgeon at the Center for Weight Loss Surgery. He has been performing bariatric surgery exclusively since 2000 and has performed over 4,000 weight-loss surgeries. Dr. Srikanth performs nearly every operation that is currently available to treat obesity.

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