Obesity and mental health disease often co-exist 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 issues.
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.
During the Covid 19 pandemic, social distancing norms in most countries have forced patients suffering from obesity to stay indoors. This has led to immense stress and uncertainty in the lives of individuals suffering from obesity. It has made them more vulnerable to over-eating and sedentary lifestyle, thus predisposing them to further weight gain. Currently, 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.
Patients who suffer from mental health disease to start with are also more prone to developing obesity. 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.
It is important to recognize that obesity has debilitating effects not only on physical health but also on mental health. As COVID-19 pandemic continues to create disruption in our lives, 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.
About Dr. Aparna Govil Bhasker
Dr. Aparna Govil Bhasker is an accomplished and renowned Bariatric Surgeon and Laparoscopic Surgeon.
Read more about Dr. Aparna Govil Bhasker- https://www.bestbariatricsurgeon.org/dr-aparna-govil-bhasker/
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Dr. Aparna Govil Bhasker is a visiting consultant at the following hospitals:
Dr. Aparna Govil Bhasker is an accomplished Bariatric Surgeon and Laparoscopic GI Surgeon. Extremely passionate about her field of specialization. She completed her MBBS and MS in General Surgery in 2006, from Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences (MGIMS), Sewagram. Set up in 1967 by none other than the first health minister of India, Ms. Sushila Nayar, MGIMS is deeply rooted in Gandhian ethics. Read more
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