Obesity & Mental Health: Is There A Connection


Obesity is a major issue facing children and adults in the United States. Research has shown that obesity is linked to numerous physical health conditions, such as certain cancers, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and more. What many Americans don’t know is that obesity can have negative effects on mental health, and vice versa. Being obese can increase your risk of developing certain mental health issues, and mental health issues can increase your chance of becoming obese. 

It’s important to understand the relationship between obesity and mental health, so you can live a healthier and happier life. 

What Is Obesity?

Obesity is determined by your body mass index (BMI). This number is found by dividing your weight (in kilograms) by your height (in meters). The number you find determines whether you are underweight, a healthy weight, overweight or obese. Being obese, with a BMI of more than 30, means you are at a significantly higher risk of developing certain health issues. Obesity is dangerous for your physical and mental health. 

Obesity and Mental Health

Obesity can increase your risk of developing mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder. Increased anxiety among obese individuals may be linked to health problems, low self-esteem, judgement and stigma.  


This infographic was created by Center for Weight Loss Surgery, a provider of the duodenal switch procedure

Studies have shown that depression and obesity are linked, and the link is especially strong for adolescent girls. Individuals with depression may use unhealthy foods as coping mechanisms, or they may experience decreased motivation and energy. Increased caloric intake and reduced exercise can result in excessive weight gain. Individuals living with obesity may also experience stress and negative feelings about themselves, which can result in depression. 

Bipolar disorder is another mental health disorder that has been linked to obesity and vice versa. This disorder is defined by depressive and manic episodes as well as impulsive behavior, racing thoughts and more. Medications used to treat bipolar disorder can cause side effects that result in obesity, such as weight gain and increased appetite. 

Battling bipolar disorder and obesity at the same time is especially concerning, as it can lead to deeper depression, suicidal thoughts, and an increase in depressive and manic episodes. People with long-term mental health problems are two to three times more likely to be obese. The negative affect obesity has on the mind and body can greatly diminish the quality and length of a person’s life.

What You Can Do 

Just as mental health issues and obesity are linked, a healthy body is linked to a healthy brain. A therapist specializing in obesity and mental health can provide the tools needed to live a healthier, more satisfying life. 

Professional counseling could help develop ways of coping with anxiety, depression and other mental health disorders without turning to food. Individuals struggling to lose weight should speak with a doctor about developing a weight loss plan or possible surgical intervention.

The most important action to take when battling obesity and/or mental health is to be patient with yourself. Tackling these issues and reaching the goal of living a healthier and happier life will take time. For more information on this prevalent subject, be sure to consult the accompanying resource.

Author bio: Dr. Myur S. Srikanth is a board-certified bariatric and cosmetic surgeon at the Center for Weight Loss Surgery. He has been performing bariatric surgery exclusively since 2000 and has performed over 4,000 weight loss surgeries. Dr. Srikanth performs nearly every operation that is currently available to treat obesity. 

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