Obesity / Risk Involved /Mental HC

Links between obesity and mental health

Negative feelings fuel depression, and people often use food to self-medicate.

At a glance

  • Rather than focus on the end result of obesity, look at the patient's underlying emotional health.
  • Studies have found depression to correlate with the onset of obesity and obesity to predict the onset of depression.
  • If you suspect an overweight patient is struggling with a mental health issue, approach the possibility directly.
  • Obesity prevention is a public health issue because of the costs it creates for an already overburdened system.

Seventy-three million Americans are obese —a startling statistic that becomes more than a number in our day-to-day clinical lives as we treat patients suffering from the sequelae of this epidemic: gastroesophageal reflux disorder, diabetes, hypertension, polycystic ovary syndrome, infertility, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, and hyperlipidemia. Primary-care practitioners should be aware of a potential underlying cause of obesity: mental illness.

Recent studies have shown that many cases of obesity are the result of such mental illnesses as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), binge eating disorder, and night eating syndrome. In a busy clinic it's difficult even to begin to unearth and address these factors when the purpose of the patient's appointment is chronic illness management. However, instead of focusing on the end result of obesity, we may be of greater assistance to our patients by looking at their underlying emotional health and intervening as appropriate.