Obesity and mental health disease co-exist as twin epidemic. Here's what to know | Health - Hindustan Times
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Obesity and mental health disease co-exist as twin epidemic. Here's what you need to know

ByZarafshan Shiraz, Delhi
Nov 04, 2022 04:09 PM IST

It is seen that mental health issues may lead to obesity and some-times obesity may lead to mental health diseases. Here's what you should know about this twin epidemic.

Obesity and mental health disease often co-exist and are sometimes referred together as the twin epidemic. It is seen that mental health issues may lead to obesity and some-times obesity may lead to mental health diseases.

Obesity and mental health disease co-exist as twin epidemic. Here's what you need to know (SHVETS production)
Obesity and mental health disease co-exist as twin epidemic. Here's what you need to know (SHVETS production)

In an interview with Dr Aparna Govil Bhasker, Bariatric and laparoscopic surgeon at Saifee, Apollo Spectra, Namaha and Currae Hospitals in Mumbai, shared, “Patients who suffer from obesity are subjected to weight-based stigma and bias in many aspects of their lives. Society perceives them in a negative manner and labels them as individuals with low willpower and self-restraint. Their value is judged on the basis of external appearance and not on the basis of their capabilities. They are constant subjects of ridicule and continuously receive unwarranted advice about their weight and body shape. This has a negative effect on body image and eventually may lead to low self-esteem and depression in many individuals. It is seen that women are more prone to depression associated with obesity than men.”

Revealing how during the Covid-19 pandemic, social distancing norms in most countries forced patients suffering from obesity to stay indoors, she said, “This led to immense stress and uncertainty in the lives of individuals suffering from obesity. It made them more vulnerable to over-eating and sedentary lifestyle, thus predisposing them to further weight gain. Social media is flooded with weight-based memes and weight stigmatizing content. Thus, further reinforcing the bias that individuals suffering from obesity may be lazy and less active and have less will-power. Internalization of these weight biased attitudes in media portrayals has been shown to cause adverse effects on psychological health, leading to more depression and anxiety, low self-esteem, body image issues, and disordered eating. Weight based internalization is also associated with greater emotional distress and has been linked with depression.”

Asserting that patients who suffer from mental health disease are also more prone to developing obesity, Dr Aparna Govil Bhasker explained, “Insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome have been seen to be associated with Schizophrenia. Many antipsychotic medications also lead to weight gain and have an impact on insulin sensitivity. Many psychiatric disorders are also associated with comfort eating, a lack of interest in preparing healthy meals, impulsive eating and sometimes food addiction. Resulting weight gain in these patients leads to further increase in psychological problems thus forming a vicious cycle.”

She suggested, “It is important to recognize that obesity has debilitating effects not only on physical health but also on mental health. It is high time that we give a thought to creating systems through which we can help our patients. We need to use technology to its full potential so that we can spread positive messages, encourage our patients online, and change the tone of social media messaging. While we need to educate our patients to practice self-compassion and mindfulness, we also need to become more sensitive to issues faced by patients suffering obesity. The medical community observes World Mental Health Day and International Obesity Day on two consecutive days in October (10th and 11th October respectively). Thus, signifying that these two diseases are closely inter-related and need our attention in a more holistic manner. While treating patients suffering from obesity finally, we must remember that the definition of “health” is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

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