Monday, October 3, 2011

Mental health problems associated with obesity

Obesity is an epidemic in developed countries. In 2004, around quarter of the population were obese in UK (Psychiatry, Volume 8, Issue 6, June 2009). This epidemic would results in huge increase in type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, sleep apnea, hyperlipidaemia, increased incidence of cancer, and joint problems.

However, mental health effects of obesity are not discussed readily most of the time. But there are many mental health issues that can be directly caused by obesity. It is generally related to increased BMI or body mass index (OBESITY SURGERY, Volume 14, Number 5, 579-588).

In obese (BMI >25 kg/m2) category, Life time prevalence of anxiety and mood disorders are 25% higher than the general population. Interestingly substance misuse is lower in this category. Doctors believe it is due to the changes in brain reward system, where obese people get satisfaction from food rather than drugs of abuse (Alcohol and Opiates).

People who seek surgery for weight loss have a very high risk of developing above psychiatric disorders. In addition, there is an increased risk of psychological problems seen among women compared to men with obesity.

Obese people tend to have impulsivity, less self-control, and obsessive perfectionist traits. This would lead them to develop psychological problems but the association is not very clear.

In addition, most studies found that psychological problems tend to improve once the weight is controlled.


According to evidence certain mental health issues can cause obesity. In addition, certain other biological problems in our brain can cause both mental health problems and obesity. In addition, obesity per se can cause mental health problems. So both conditions are interdependent to some degree.

In addition, it is surprising that people with obesity have less substance use issues (Such as alcohol, cannabis and opioids).

Elsevier, Psychiatry, Volume 8, Issue 6, June 2009, Pages 198-202

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