Obesity can lead to depression, and depression can lead to overeating, and overeating can lead to obesity, and around and around and around. I struggled with obesity and depression for a large part of my life. Although I am no longer obese or depressed, I still wonder about the link between depression and obesity: Which came first, depression or obesity?
The Link Between Obesity and Depression
Depression and obesity are without question linked, and researchers are devoting a fair amount of time trying to determine if it is a cause and effect affair or simply a correlation. No matter. Where there is one, there is a good chance for the other.
Dutch researchers have found that obesity increases the risk for depression in individuals who were initially not depressed by 55% while depression increases the risk for obesity in normal weight individuals by 58%. In addition a recent study found that one of every four cases of obesity has a mood or anxiety disorder.
Am I Depressed?
All of us have felt sad or unhappy or downright miserable at one time or another. Such feelings present for all of us and are of face value. They happen.
But depression is different; depression is when these feelings consume a person and interfere with daily living for a period of weeks or longer.
Depression is a mood disorder that distorts our world view. Things are viewed negatively and resolutions to problems and situations seem beyond reach.
Symptoms of depression include agitation and irritability, isolation, difficulty concentrating, lack of energy, feelings of hopelessness, feelings of worthlessness, trouble sleeping or sleeping too much, and thoughts of suicide. Depression can also manifest itself as anger.
Obesity As a Link to Depression
Obesity can result in poor self-image, low self-esteem, and social isolation. Those individuals who are obese might find themselves ostracized, stereotyped, or discriminated against, and the extra pounds they carry can lead to joint pain as well as diseases such as diabetes. All of these factors can contribute to depression.
People who are obese and experience poor health or who have issues about person appearance are more likely to become depressed. This has particular relevance for women and people of high socio-economic status.
Depression As a Link to Obesity
A Cincinnati study discovered that adolescents who were depressed were more likely to become obese in the next year and that teenagers who were borderline obese as well as depressed became substantially obese over the next year.
People who are depressed have poor diets and make poor food choices. They also do not exercise and often have sedentary lifestyles.
In addition, there are physiological changes in hormone and immune systems when a person becomes depressed. Decreased levels of serotonin often lead people to overeat carbohydrates (sugars, grains) as a type of self-medication.
Overcoming Obesity and Depression
Because of the co-morbidity of obesity and depression, both should be treated simultaneously to address the reciprocal association.