Weight Loss Tracker

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Depression and Obesity

Because I know I have suffered from both, I read this and found it interesting. It may help others.

Depression can lead to overeating and weight gain; obesity can lead to overwhelming sadness. Learn how to break the cycle.

By Dennis Thompson, Jr.
Medically reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH

Does depression cause obesity, or does obesity prompt depression? Researchers have been puzzling over this chicken-or-the-egg dilemma for years.

There's no question that obesity and depression are linked in both adolescents and adults. Now, doctors want to know the nature of that relationship, so they can craft effective treatments for both conditions.

Obesity-Depression Links

Research has shown that there's no clear, one-way connection between obesity and depression. Instead, studies have shown that the two tend to feed off each other in a vicious, self-destructive circle.

* Obesity causes depression. Studies have shown that obese people are about 25 percent more likely to experience a mood disorder like depression compared with those who are not obese. Obesity can cause poor self-image, low self-esteem, and social isolation, all known contributors to depression. Those who are obes can also find themselves ostracized, stereotyped, and discriminated against. The extra weight carried around by obese people can result in chronic joint pain as well as serious diseases like diabetes and hypertension, all of which have been linked to depression.

* Depression causes obesity. A study of adolescents in Cincinnati found that teenagers with symptoms of depression were more likely to become obese within the next year. The study also found that kids who were borderline obese and depressed became substantially obese over the following year. People experiencing depression are more likely to overeat or make poor food choices, avoid exercising, and become more sedentary. Researchers have found that depressed people with decreased levels of the hormone serotonin also have a tendency toward obesity — they tend to eat in an attempt to self-medicate and restore their serotonin levels to normal.

* Depression and obesity share common risk factors. Some factors apparently can trigger both obesity and depression. Belonging to a lower socioeconomic class and not participating in physical activity increases risk for developing either condition.

Treating Obesity and Depression

As they attempt to understand the link between depression and obesity, doctors also are trying to figure out how to treat both conditions in a way that will produce overall good results.

* Depression. Successfully treating depression can be a lot easier than successfully treating obesity, so doctors recommend that people with depressive symptoms — especially if they are adolescents — seek treatment as soon as possible. Treatment can include psychotherapy or antidepressants.

Obesity. A study of people who underwent bariatric surgery for their obesity found that as they shed pounds, they also shed their depression. A year after surgery, the subjects had experienced a 77 percent loss of excess body weight, and an accompanying 18 percent reduction in symptoms of depression. Younger people, women, and those who experienced greater weight-loss results were more likely to feel less depressed. These results indicate that a team approach might be best for dealing with depression and obesity. Your family physician can help craft a plan of diet and exercise that will lead to healthy weight loss. You might want to bring in a nutritionist or personal trainer to help you better follow your physician's weight-loss plan. At the same time, a psychologist or psychiatrist can help you deal with your feelings of depression and confront the stress, anxiety, or other triggers that are leading to your depression and obesity. Finally, you may also benefit from the use of antidepressants.



  1. Thank you for posting this Beth, I totally believe the "self-medication" factor is real - eating increases serotonin! Increased serotonin makes one's mood better! It is pretty simple. A problem for me too.

  2. It's kinda like which came first, the chicken or the egg. I guess so long as we can get off the roller coaster, it should fix itself.