Is There Any Link Between Obesity And Mental Health?

About 42% of adults in the US suffer from the severe and widespread condition of obesity. Obesity can raise your risk of developing physical health issues like type 2 diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, and some types of cancer. Obesity can even affect mental health at various stages of one’s life. 

Link Between Obesity And Mental Health

What Mental Health Effects Can Obesity Have?

Obesity, mood and anxiety disorders are related, according to NCBI. In other words, if you are obese, you might be more likely to experience a mental health condition like depression or anxiety.

You might wonder whether obesity leads to mental health problems or the opposite. Researchers have varying perspectives on the connection between obesity and mental health. According to Harvard Health Publishing, emotional distress can make some people eat more than they should. Stress management techniques that involve food can lead to obesity and uncontrollable weight gain.

Others may experience psychological distress due to obesity. Being overweight can cause one to feel bad about themselves. Those who are overweight may undergo stigma or judgement from others. These incidents may cause low self-esteem. People who are obese may find it challenging to engage in constructive activities, making it more difficult to manage negative emotions. Furthermore, obesity is associated with a more significant number of physical health issues and pain, which can elevate stress.

Read More: Is Mental Health A Global Issue?

Which Mental Health Issues Are Associated With Obesity?

Obesity is linked to an increased risk of developing mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder.


Significant worry is a component of the mental health disorder known as anxiety. According to NCBI, people who are obese are more likely to suffer from anxiety disorders like social anxiety, panic disorder, and generalised anxiety. The definitions of these three disorders are as follows:

  • Generalised anxiety involves overly worrying about various aspects of one’s life.
  • Social anxiety occurs when a person is concerned about social interactions with others.
  • Panic disorder frequently coexists with other anxiety disorders. Individuals with panic disorder experience panic attacks, which are periods of extreme anxiety accompanied by symptoms like dizziness, shortness of breath, and chest pain.

According to NCBI back, a biological explanation for the connection between anxiety and obesity. The Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis, a brain region, is known to become more active during anxiety. Several processes, including digestion and emotion control, are regulated by the HPA axis. Advanced appetite, which may result in weight gain and obesity, can happen when it isn’t working correctly.

Another risk factor for anxiety and obesity is a history of childhood abuse and personality traits like neuroticism, sensitivity to criticism, and a tendency to avoid stress.


A mood disorder called depression is characterised by sadness, a decline in one’s interests and hobbies, and unfavourable self-perceptions. Depression frequently causes an increase in appetite and weight gain, which increases the risk of obesity in depressed people. For female adolescents, the connection between obesity and depression is most vital.

According to sagepub, in some cases, having depression can cause obesity and vice versa. People with depression may use food as a coping mechanism for unpleasant emotions, resulting in excessive weight gain.

Depression can cause low energy and a lack of motivation to exercise, contributing to weight gain. For those who already have obesity, the strain of managing the condition and its effects on one’s life can cause unfavourable emotions that can develop into depression.

Bipolar disorder

Another type of mood disorder that includes manic and depressive episodes is bipolar disorder. A person has either an elevated or irritable mood for at least a week during a manic episode. Additional signs include:

  • overconfidence in one’s importance or skills,
  • increased energy that keeps you awake,
  • racing thoughts, 
  • impulsive actions, etc.

According to PubMed, specific factors may have contributed to the connection between obesity and bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder patients, like those with other mental health conditions, may use food as a coping mechanism.

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You should be aware that assistance is available if you are an older adult struggling with both excess weight and mental health problems. When traditional weight loss methods are insufficient, safe and efficient anti-obesity medications can offer additional support. Additionally, these drugs might help prevent weight gain brought on by some medicines for mental health.

We all deserve to be healthy and happy, regardless of our age. A well-rounded, holistic treatment programme can help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight while boosting your mood and outlook.

Now that you know the link between obesity and mental health let’s see whether these mental health issues are genetic or occur due to external factors. To learn more, click here. 

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