Posted on Sep 25, 2021 | Author Dr. Bhavna Barmi
You could be pondering 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 might lead to overeating in certain people. Food can be used to cope with stress, which can lead to obesity and excessive weight gain. Others may experience emotional anguish as a result of their weight.
Being overweight can make people feel bad about themselves. Overweight people may encounter stigma or discrimination from others. These occurrences may have a negative effect on a person’s self-esteem.
Obese people may have a harder time participating in pleasant activities, making coping with negative feelings more difficult. Obesity is associated with a higher number of physical health issues and suffering, which can lead to increased stress.
Obesity has been linked to an increased risk of mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder.
Anxiety is connected to increased activity in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis of the brain. The HPA axis plays a role in digestion and emotional control, among other things. It can cause an increase in hunger when it isn’t 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 features such as neuroticism, sensitivity to criticism, and a desire to avoid stress.
Studies on the link between depression and obesity have discovered that depression can sometimes lead to obesity and vice versa. Food may be used to cope with negative feelings in those who already have depression, which can lead to excessive weight gain over time. Depressed feelings can lead to 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 one’s life can lead to unpleasant feelings, which can convert into depression in persons who already have it.
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 eating as a coping mechanism. Another possibility is that certain mood stabilisers, as well as drugs used to treat bipolar disorder, can have adverse effects such as increased hunger and weight gain. As a result, people who take these medications 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 has detrimental consequences on both physical and mental health, and as a result of poor self-image and physical ailments, it can progress to full-blown mental illness.
As a result of drug side effects, hormone imbalances, and behavioural challenges caused by psychiatric diseases, psychiatric complaints can lead to obesity. Although general healthy eating guidelines are essential, they may not be sufficient in causing change in this particular group.
Additional education is frequently required for patients in order to gain a better grasp of the relationship between diet and mood and make tiny but substantial changes. Improvements in dietary intake and one’s relationship with food are likely to result in decreased weight gain and improved mental health, as well as better medication adherence.
STIGMAS AROUND MENTAL HEALTH
A stigma is a negative judgment that is associated with a certain characteristic or condition, develops on a social level, and is not specific to a person. Stigmatization is a complex phenomenon that has political and social influence and it also affects political, social, and individual environments.
Stigmas about mental health are widely endorsed by the general public, media, and society in general. The social pressure of being “normal” manifests in unhealthy stigmas about mental health that make it difficult to accept any mental illness that one suffers from or that someone else suffers from.
Mental health issues are very common as our lives are getting busier and more fast-paced every day. It is becoming increasingly difficult for people to find time to care for their physical and mental health.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2015, around every fifth Indian suffered from depression once in their lifetime, which is equivalent to about 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, not much awareness was being spread about the same.
Even after the recent surge in mental health awareness programs and talks, what is required to get rid of social stigmas is the effort to change the underlying beliefs and myths about mental health.
These stigmas impact in two ways, public stigma, and self-stigma.
Public stigma is the reaction of the general population about mental illness and self-stigma is the prejudice that people with mental illness have against themselves. These are all internalized beliefs that are rooted in social reality.
Individuals with mental illness are considered to be risky, vicious, attention-seeking, and a liability to society. But in reality, they are at more risk of being harmed, assaulted, and hurt by society. It is also believed that people with mental health problems are weak.
However, it is important to understand that in a society that stigmatizes mental health, it takes a lot of courage to accept your problem, talk about it and seek help for it.
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 have shown significant improvement in their mental health after therapy and treatment.
The worst of these social stigmas is the belief that young individuals, individuals with money and power cannot suffer from mental illness like anxiety or depression because they’re either too young or they have everything. However, mental health problems have a variety of causes and factors associated with them, like unhealthy parenting and childhood trauma, or loneliness.
People with mental illness are challenged not only by their own symptoms but also by the prejudices and stereotypes that result from these misconceptions. As a result of both, people with mental illness are robbed of the opportunities that define a quality life: good jobs, safe housing, satisfactory health care, and affiliation with a diverse group of people.
In addition, access to mental healthcare in India is poor in both urban and rural areas. Nuanced professional training is not the norm. Insurance does not make mental healthcare affordable. The understanding of the difference between psychological attention and psychiatric care is very limited and there is a greater emphasis on medications and reliance on old, primitive methods of dealing with mental health issues.
Despite progress on paper and some progress in practical as well, there remains a pathetic lack of social infrastructure and reconstruction in dealing with this issue, and this suppresses demand for care. Social stigma and discrimination persist in society and cultures. They are still the largest barriers to mental health service utilization in our country and the rest of the world.