Obesity and Mental Health: How Are They Related? Or ARE They?

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The chicken or the egg? Which came first? Almost regardless of context, this is a debate that has gone on for centuries and that has no clear-cut answer. All that we know at this point is that the two are obviously related. In a certain sense, the same could be said when it comes to obesity and mental health. Is a person obese because he or she is suffering from mental health problems, or is it the other way around?

In our ongoing series regarding everyday ideas that could help with your mental health, we’re going to dive into the question of obesity and mental health. The bottom line? It’s always beneficial to do what you can to avoid a state of obesity, and yes, doing so can help you with regards to your mental health for a lot of reasons. The opposite is also true in many situations.

Obesity Defined

In a medical sense, obesity is defined using what is known as BMI, or Body Mass Index. BMI is basically an equation, whereby you take a person’s weight as measured in pounds (or kilograms) and divide that weight by that person’s height as measured in inches (or meters) squared. The equation is BMI = lb./in2. There are ranges of BMI that help to define whether or not a person is at a healthy weight, and they are as follows, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute:

  • Underweight = <18.5
  • Normal weight = 18.5–24.9
  • Overweight = 25–29.9
  • Obesity = BMI of 30 or greater

As you can see, a BMI of 30 or greater is considered obese, and people who face this challenge need to take steps to change their situation. Failing to do so could lead to potentially serious health problems.

Obesity and Physical Health

Before getting into obesity and mental health, it’s important to note the risks that exist between obesity and physical health, as these physical risks could be relevant when it comes to a person’s mental wellbeing. It should also come as a surprise to no one that obesity has strong ties to several dangerous physical conditions.

According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the CDC, the following are just some examples of risks associated with obesity in adults:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Sleep apnea
  • General breathing problems
  • Several types of cancer
  • Body pain
  • Difficulty functioning physically
  • Mental illness challenges

For obvious reasons, below we’re going to delve into obesity and mental health, as this is an emerging body of study that is sounding alarms around the world, particularly in places such as the United States where obesity rates are relatively high.

Obesity and Mental Health

When it comes to studies on obesity and mental health, there is certainly no shortage of outlets and options that point to a direct correlation between these two challenges. Despite the relative consensus on the research, the problem that seems to be coming to the forefront is that it’s very difficult to determine which one causes the other. What is starting to become clear, however, is that obesity and mental health are almost codependent in a way in that each condition makes it much more difficult to treat the other.

For instance, someone who is obese may struggle to deal with mental health challenges due to physical limitations or other biological problems such as high blood pressure. Conversely, people who suffer from a mental health condition such as depression may find it extremely difficult to do what’s necessary to lower their BMI.

In just one of the many studies that has been published recently, researchers discovered that a high BMI causes a much higher risk of depression, and several others have linked obesity to anxiety and other mood disorders. The National Institutes of Health published a study that revealed a strong link between obesity and psychotic disorders, an intermediate link between obesity and major mood disorders, and a link between obesity and anxiety and personality disorders.

What Does All Of This Mean?

We could list hundreds of additional studies that show a link between obesity and mental health challenges, but the message is clear: Obesity and mental health are a difficult pair of challenges to handle. However, each is its own dangerous medical condition and each must be attacked in the best way possible.

If you or someone you love is not at a healthy weight and you’re struggling with any type of mental health problem or problems, the best place to start towards resolving these difficulties is to speak to your doctor. He or she may be able to help you set out a plan that provides you with a pathway to lose weight and to improve your mental health. It may be the case that simply improving your fitness, your diet and your overall biomarkers could help improve your mental health as well.

What you should not do is simply decide to try to deal with this situation alone. Obesity and mental health are complex medical challenges, and simply doing something like going on a crash diet or making sudden, radical changes to your lifestyle could lead to additional and unforeseen consequences. Work through this with the help of medical professionals who can help oversee your progress.

How SoCal Empowered Can Help

If you need to discuss your mental health challenges with someone who understands these situations, then you can always reach out to our team at SoCal Empowered. We are an inpatient Orange County mental healthcare facility that works with people who face extremely difficult mental health hurdles.

We will listen to your situation and help you define a pathway towards the treatment you need, whether it’s with us or someone else. We will also deal directly with your insurance provider so that you fully understand what you’re committing to before you come to stay with us. Contact us today to get started on building a happier and healthier life for yourself.

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