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Understanding the Link Between Depression and Weight Changes

Understanding the Link Between Depression and Weight Changes

Major depressive disorder — also known as depression — affects about 17.3 million women and men over the age of 18 in the United States and approximately 1.9 million children aged 3-17. Although depression is a mental health issue, it affects your physical health, too. Depression raises your risk for everything from a heart attack to cancer. 

Depression also affects your relationship with food. In fact, up to half of patients who have the eating disorder anorexia, which causes extreme and dangerous weight loss, also have a mood disorder, including depression. 

If you or a loved one has recently experienced unexpected weight gain or loss, it could be a sign of depression. At Maria Cole Family Practice in Odessa, Texas, our expert health practitioners are committed to helping you and your family stay healthy in body and mind through our women’s health and men’s health programs. 

Both weight gain and weight loss are tied to depression. Here’s how. 

Depression dampens enjoyment

One of the hallmarks of depression is losing interest in activities that once gave you great joy, a condition known as anhedonia, which can even extend to eating. When you’re depressed, it takes more stimulation to activate your brain’s reward systems than usual.

If you don’t get as much pleasure from food anymore, if you can’t revel in its tastes and textures, you may start eating less and less. You may also start to feel that you don’t deserve to eat.

Another outcome of anhedonia is actually eating more than usual. Since food doesn’t give you the same “high” anymore, you keep on eating more and more in order to get the same feelings of pleasure and satiety. This form of anhedonia leads to weight gain and possibly even obesity.

Depression interferes with impulse control

Even if you know that fruits, vegetables, and high-quality proteins are good for your body, but sugar and trans fats aren’t, if you’re depressed you may reach first for a processed snack instead of nourishing food. When you’re depressed, you’re looking for relief. Self-medication may take the form of alcohol or drug abuse, or overeating.

In fact, about 43 percent of adults who have clinical depression are also obese. Even children who are depressed are more likely to have a higher body mass index (BMI) than children who aren’t.

Poor impulse control and obesity team up to make self-care more difficult. Although exercise is essential to a healthy body and mind, if you’re obese and depressed, it’s more difficult physically and emotionally to gear yourself up for a workout. 

And, of course, if you give in to the impulse of staying sedentary, you’re more likely to gain weight. Weight gain then worsens the depression and increases the likelihood of gaining even more weight.

Depression distorts the way you see yourself

Women and men who are depressed may also have body dysmorphia, which prevents them from viewing their physical bodies realistically. If you have anorexia and depression, for instance, you may feel compelled to restrict your calories because you perceive yourself as “too fat,” even though in actuality you may be skeletal.

If you’re underweight or overweight, working with one of our caring and expert nurse practitioners allows you to feel better about yourself while you learn to take better care of your body. If you’re overweight or obese, we guide you toward healthy weight loss with our medically supervised weight loss programs. 

We also consider mental health in our women’s health and men’s health examinations. When appropriate, we may refer you to a counselor so you learn to nourish your body and mind. 

If you or someone you love struggles with weight gain or weight loss, call our team right away at 432-200-9087. You can also reach us with our online message form to book a women’s health or men’s health evaluation.

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