Health experts have extensively studied the link between obesity and depression. Researchers are confused whether obesity leads to depression or depression causes obesity. They explain it as a “chicken and egg case.” It is because various studies have shown that obese people are likely to become depressed while individuals who are suffering from depression have a high probability to turn obese. Researchers have tried to give various reasons to explain the connection between obesity and depression and the causal pathways that lead a person from obesity to depression and vice versa.
Experts believe that obese people are more likely to become depressed because they feel lowly about themselves. They found themselves in bad health and discontented with their appearance. The connection between obesity and depression was found to be more pronounced amongst women and people belonging to a high socioeconomic status. On the other hand, those suffering from depression are at a risk of becoming obese because of physiological changes occurring in their hormonal and immune systems. It has also seen that depressed people are less likely to take care of themselves and have problems adhering to a fitness regimen. They are liable to develop negative thoughts and overeat to derive a sense of satisfaction.
The relation between obesity and depression has been explained through hormones. In obese people, various hormonal changes take place. In healthy individuals, their body can care for the hormonal balance, but this is not so in the case of obese people. In obese people, more stress hormone called cortisol is produced. Cortisol leads to an increase in stress levels, which in turn stimulates their body to store more body fat. This process explains why obesity leads to depression and why obese individuals find it hard to resist the urge to overeat.
Scientists suggest that the extra weight in obese individuals causes additional stress on the bones, muscles, and joints, leading to more injuries or pain. A constant feeling of lethargy and suffering makes them feel depressed.
Social and Societal Pressures
Social and societal pressures are the key factors that explain the link between obesity and depression. Modern society glamorizes skinny models and slim people while obese people often ridiculed. This feeling makes obese people unhappy, and it even turns them into a recluse. It has been observed that obese people are scared to socialize and often remain at home; a lack of self-confidence and constant loneliness makes depression a common phenomenon for obese individuals.
Should Obesity and Depression be Treated Together?
As obesity and depression are strongly linked together, experts suggest that the treatment of depression and obesity should also be integrated. For instance, exercise and stress reduction treatments can help to take care of both obesity and depression simultaneously. Regular exercise will make you burn excess calories and release positive hormones that reduce depression. Stress reduction will get you to adopt a positive attitude towards life and encourage you to eat healthy, which will help you reduce weight. Experts also suggest that dieting and use of antidepressants should be discouraged. It is because dieting has the potential to worsen mood while antidepressants can lead to weight gain.