Association between obesity and mental health


Posted on Sep 25, 2021 | Author Dr Bhavna Barmi

You might wonder if obesity causes mental health problems or if mental health problems cause obesity. The nature of the link between obesity and mental health varies from individual to individual.

Emotional distress can lead to overeating in some people. Food can be used to deal with stress, which can lead to obesity and excessive weight gain. Others may experience emotional anguish because of their weight.

Being overweight can make people feel bad about themselves. Overweight people may face stigma or discrimination from others. These events can have a negative effect on a person’s self-esteem.

People who are obese may find it more difficult to participate in enjoyable activities, which makes it harder to deal with negative feelings. Obesity is associated with a higher number of physical health problems and suffering, which can lead to increased stress.

Obesity has been linked to an increased risk of mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder.


Anxiety is linked to increased activity in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis of the brain. Among other things, the HPA axis plays a role in digestion and emotional control. It can cause increased hunger when not working properly, which can lead to weight gain and obesity. Anxiety and obesity have a number of risk factors, such as a history of childhood abuse and personality traits such as neuroticism, sensitivity to criticism, and the desire to avoid stress.


Studies on the link between depression and obesity have found that depression can sometimes lead to obesity and vice versa. Food can be used to deal with negative feelings in those who are already suffering from depression, which can lead to excessive weight gain over time. Feelings of depression can cause a lack of energy and enthusiasm to engage in physical activity, which can lead to weight gain.

The stress of managing obesity and its effects on life can lead to unpleasant sensations, which can turn into depression in people who already have it.

Bipolar disorder

There is no established cause for the association between bipolar disorder and obesity. People with bipolar disorder, like those with other mental illnesses, may turn to diet as a coping mechanism. Another possibility is that certain mood stabilizers, as well as drugs used to treat bipolar disorder, may have side effects such as increased hunger and weight gain. Therefore, people who take these drugs for a long time are more likely to become obese.

The association between obesity and mental illness is influenced by a wide range of factors. Obesity takes a toll on physical and mental health, and due to poor self-image and physical illnesses, it can progress to a full-blown mental illness.

Due to the side effects of medications, hormonal imbalances, and behavioral problems caused by psychiatric illnesses, psychiatric disorders can lead to obesity. While general healthy eating guidelines are essential, they may not be enough to bring about changes in this particular group.

Additional training is often required for patients to better understand the relationship between diet and mood and to make small but substantial changes. Improving food intake and relationship to food is likely to lead to decreased weight gain and improved mental health, as well as better medication adherence.


A stigma is a negative judgment that is associated with a certain characteristic or condition, develops socially, and is not specific to a person. Stigma is a complex phenomenon which has political and social influence and which also affects political, social and individual environments.

The stigma associated with mental health is widely endorsed by the general public, the media and society in general. Social pressure to be “normal” manifests itself in unhealthy mental health stigmas that make it difficult to accept any mental illness that you have or that someone else has.

Mental health issues are very common as our lives get busier and hectic every day. It is becoming increasingly difficult for people to find the time to take care of their physical and mental health.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2015, about one in five Indians suffered from depression once in their lifetime, which equates to around 200 million people. However, due to the stigma associated with mental illness, lack of awareness and limited access to services, only 10-12% of these people can seek help.

Social stigma around mental health is so common because there is no clear understanding of the importance of mental health care and until very recently little awareness was being disseminated about it.

Even after the recent wave of mental health awareness programs and conferences, what is needed to remove social stigma is the effort to change underlying beliefs and myths about mental health.

These stigmas have an impact in two ways, public stigma and self-stigma.

Public stigma is the reaction of the general population to mental illness, and self-stigma is the prejudice that people with mental illness hold against themselves. These are all internalized beliefs that are rooted in social reality.

People with mental illness are seen as risky, vicious, attention-seeking and a handicap to society. But in reality, they are more likely to be hurt, assaulted and hurt by society. People with mental health issues are also believed to be weak.

However, it’s important to understand that in a society that stigmatizes mental health, it takes a lot of courage to come to terms with your problem, talk about it, and seek help.

Another common misconception is that mental illness lasts forever and therapy is a waste of time, but studies have shown that 70-90% of people with a positive prognosis show significant improvement in their mental health after therapy. and processing.

The worst of these social stigmas is the belief that young individuals, individuals with money and power cannot suffer from mental illnesses like anxiety or depression because they are too young or have all. However, mental health issues have a variety of causes and factors associated with them, such as unhealthy parenthood and childhood trauma, or loneliness.

People with mental illness face not only their own symptoms, but also the prejudices and stereotypes that result from these misconceptions. Because of both, people with mental illness are deprived of the opportunities that define a quality life: good jobs, safe housing, good health care, and membership in a diverse group of people.

In addition, access to mental health care in India is low in both urban and rural areas. Qualified professional training is not the norm. Insurance does not make mental health care affordable. Understanding of the difference between psychological attention and psychiatric care is very limited, and the emphasis is more on drugs and the use of old and primitive methods to treat mental health problems.

Despite progress on paper and some progress in practice, there remains a pathetic lack of social and reconstruction infrastructure to deal with this problem, which suppresses the demand for care. Social stigma and discrimination persist in society and cultures. They remain the biggest barriers to using mental health services in our country and around the world.

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