In the United States today, both obesity and depression are major health concerns that can affect an individual’s ability to function day to day. Currently, about 43% of American adults are living with both obesity and depression along with other associated conditions.
Depression is a highly complex condition and experts have yet to find definitive ways to identify causes or cure depression so they do their best to treat it. Sometimes depression is caused by chemical imbalances in the body and some forms of depression can be situational but can being overweight cause depression? Let’s look at this question in more detail to learn more about how depression, obesity, or being overweight might be related.
What Is The Relationship Between Depression And Obesity?
A study by Yale University found a link between overeating and depression. We have all heard the terms “stress eating” or “comfort foods” which are used to describe a scenario where food is used to elevate or change a mood temporarily. The typical types of food consumed by individuals with chronic stress are high-fat and contributing factors to mood disorders and metabolic issues like type 2 diabetes.
An article published by The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) reported that people who suffer from obesity experience anxiety and depression more frequently than individuals with a healthy body mass index (BMI) The same study also showed a correlation between unhealthy eating habits and the elevated risk of experiencing anxiety and depression.
Another report revealed that fat cells contribute to depression because they secrete inflammatory cytokines. These are proteins that are distributed in the central nervous system and the immune system. Elevated cytokine levels directly contribute to the creation of mood disorders and depression.
The link between being overweight and depression has been the subject of many medical studies and articles. This link was further explored in a medical study conducted in Germany which concluded that obesity does contribute to depression. It also discussed how these two conditions (obesity and depression) cause a cyclical effect, feed off each other, and create a bigger problem.
How Can Being Overweight Cause Depression?
Overweight individuals often experience issues in social situations that promote depression. Many are ostracized, stereotyped, or discriminated against because of the way they look. Obesity and carrying extra weight can lead to joint pain, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and other conditions which can lead to social withdrawal and mood disorders. Obese people are 25% more likely to experience mood swings, self-esteem issues, poor self-image, and feelings of low self-worth.
Generally, people who suffer from depression have many areas of their brain that are less active than individuals who do not suffer from depression which would explain why many depressed individuals are often lethargic and exhausted.
Can Depression Cause Weight Gain?
Brain scans performed on obese individuals showed that the areas of the brain that are impacted by their weight were related to the regulation of appetite and self-control.
Depressed individuals exhibited increased levels of activity in the limbic region of the brain. This is the part of the brain responsible for emotional and behavioral responses, the rewards center, pleasure, and survival. It was also learned that individuals with depression have lower serotonin levels which can cause cravings for carbohydrates.
The University of Maryland School of Medicine conducted a study on teenagers that concluded that young adults who are depressed are more likely to become overweight or obese due to unhealthy food choices and lack of physical activity.
When regions of the brain do not function as they should, an individual may become vulnerable to cravings and begin to chronically overeat. This leads to weight gain and creates a vicious cycle of overeating, weight gain, and depression. Another factor that can come into play is that many antidepressants cause weight gain which just exacerbates the existing problem.
How Do I Know If I Am Overweight Or Obese?
Body mass index or BMI is a measurement that was developed in the 18th century to classify individuals by their body weight. It is not an accurate measurement of body fat or the health of an individual but a tool that is inexpensive and quick to use as a baseline.
Obesity puts individuals in a higher risk category for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, fertility issues, mental health conditions, etc.
Classification categories on the BMI scale run from underweight to severely obese. To find out where you fall on the BMI scale, use our handy BMI calculator.
Which Comes First: Obesity Or Depression?
Regardless of whether being overweight causes depression or vice versa, there is clearly a link between the two with one influencing the other.
Depression can trigger unhealthy eating habits, which promotes weight gain, which then can trigger feelings of negative self-image, and lead to depression. It creates a downward spiral that is hard to escape.
Signs of depression that are linked to obesity:
- Changes in eating habits: depressive eating, binge-eating unhealthy foods, and sweets, etc.;
- Not getting enough sleep;
- Avoiding physical activity.
What Are Some Signs Of Depressive Eating?
Depressive eating is just what it sounds like, eating because you are depressed. Eating to gain emotional relief, and not because one is hungry, causes overeating and weight gain because there is never a feeling of satisfaction. Some signs of depressive eating include:
- Binge-eating large amounts of food;
- Finding it difficult to stop eating;
- Feeling no satisfaction after eating;
- Not enjoying eating, feeling numb, emotionally removed, or mindless while eating;
- Feelings of depression or self-loathing after eating.
How Can Depression From Being Overweight Be Treated?
There are different ways of treating individuals for depression because they are overweight. Different factors must be taken into consideration when choosing the proper treatment for each individual. These factors may include the underlying cause of their eating, environmental factors, and lifestyle choices that add to their weight problems.
Some individuals may benefit from Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) while others can benefit from an assisted weight loss program or a combination of both.
Medically-Assisted Weight Loss For Treating Obesity May Help Relieve Depression
Bariatric surgery or a non-surgical weight loss alternative can help individuals who are overweight or suffer from obesity to lose weight and potentially alleviate symptoms of depression.
It is hard to lose weight on your own so opting for a doctor-supervised plan offers ongoing support, nutritional counseling, exercise coaching, and even professional resources for mental health.
Bariatric surgery is done to help an obese individual lose weight. Generally, it includes the surgical removal of about 75% of the patient’s stomach to restrict the amount of food they can eat at one time. Some bariatric surgeries also alter the digestive system reorganizing the intestines so that all the nutrients and calories eaten can not be absorbed by the body.
Bariatric surgery is very effective in promoting weight loss. Patients must meet specific qualifications before they can undergo bariatric surgery. Bariatric surgeries include gastric sleeve surgery, gastric bypass surgery, and duodenal switch surgery.
Non-Surgical Weight Loss Procedures
For patients who do not wish to undergo surgery or who do not meet the qualifications for bariatric surgery, an endoscopic weight loss procedure may be an excellent option. There are no incisions and no hospital stays required for these endoscopic procedures and they offer very short recovery times.
Bariatric Seminar - Endobariatrics - IBI Healthcare Institute
Dr. Chris explains what endoscopic bariatrics is. This incisionless technique reduces the capacity of your digestive system leading to a safe and healthy weight loss. Endoscopy is used for many types of procedures to reduce pain and increase the speed of healing.
The Orbera balloon is a temporary device that is placed in a patient’s stomach to promote weight loss. The balloon is put into the patient’s stomach through an endoscope and then inflated to take up a significant amount of the stomach’s capacity.
During the balloon’s six-month stay in the patient’s stomach, they will consume fewer calories and stay full longer which will result in weight loss. The balloon is used in conjunction with a 12-month monitored program that includes support that teaches the patient healthier habits that they should continue to ensure reaching and maintaining their weight loss goals.
Endoscopic Sleeve Gastroplasty (ESG)
ESG is a non-surgical weight loss procedure that most overweight or obese patients can qualify for. During ESG the surgeon makes the patient’s stomach 75% smaller by reshaping it and holding it in place with sutures. The procedure is completed endoscopically from the inside so there are no incisions used.
The smaller stomach controls the amount of food an individual can eat and they feel satisfied longer. ESG offers comparable weight loss results to gastric sleeve bariatric surgery but since it is non-surgical, the recovery is much faster. Patients have reported weight losses of over 100 pounds after undergoing the ESG procedure.
Losing Weight Can Help With Depression
As we have learned, excess weight can cause many physical and mental health issues. Losing weight can have a positive effect on every aspect of an individual’s life. Losing weight can help lower stress levels, promote better sleep patterns, improve mobility, send type 2 diabetes into remission, lower risks for many serious diseases, and more.
Obtaining a healthy BMI can also boost an individual’s energy level and balance out the elements in the brain that help control depression. Losing weight can also help depression in the following ways:
- Boost the individual’s confidence level;
- Improves their self-esteem;
- Helps to stabilize mood swings;
- Individuals gain a better self-image that improves their quality of life.
A behavioral weight loss study conducted by the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior reported that depressed patients who lost 8% of their body weight experienced significant improvements in their depression symptoms. In addition, these patients also experienced improvements in insulin levels, cholesterol, glucose, and blood triglyceride levels which have been linked to the increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
If you are overweight and suffer from depression because of your weight, IBI Healthcare Institute can help! Set up a consultation today to learn more about the different weight loss options we offer. Our team of professionals supports you every step of the way on your weight loss journey and does everything possible to ensure you succeed. Contact us today to begin a healthier happier life!