People with severe obesity must deal with a number of factors – physical, social, and psychological – which can increase their risk of developing a mood disorder. Depression is more common in obese individuals when compared to the rest of the population, but losing weight can definitely improve or prevent this potentially life-threatening condition.
If you’re reading this, you probably know something obesity, but it’s important to understand what we’re talking about when we talk about depression. It’s not just feeling sad or down because of a setback, a tragedy, or a personal situation we’re unhappy with. It’s not even simply feeling low for a few hours or a day or two for no particular reason. Clinical depression is a prolonged period of unhappiness that can take a number of different forms. Obvious signs of sadness – such as frequent crying – may or may not be involved. In some cases, sufferers may not even think they are feeling particularly sad. It takes many forms but clinical depression is marked by an ongoing sense of hopelessness, difficulty with motivation, and a loss of interest in a person’s favorite pastimes or subjects. On the other hand, even though depression is more than simple sadness or grief, it can be triggered by a serious personal loss or disappointment. In these cases, the difference is that grief and sadness over an event eventually dissipate, while depression lingers indefinitely.
Of course, not all obese people have depression and not all depressed people are obese. Indeed, depression does causes some people to gain weight because they are using food as an escape, while other people lose weight because they have lost their interest in eating. Regardless, the evidence is clear that obese people tend to suffer from depression more often than others. People who are obese are more likely to be socially isolated, unemployed, have low self-esteem, or suffer from muscle and joint pain, as well as certain chronic illnesses – all of which can trigger depression.
Because clinical depression can be a serious, potentially life-threatening, issue that can destroy a person’s quality of life, it’s a problem that needs to be addressed quickly with the help of mental health professionals. Don’t wait to seek medical help and counseling. (If you are troubled by suicidal thoughts or feelings, please seek treatment immediately. One place to get started is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.) However, one way of improving the situation of someone whose depression may be related to a greater or lesser extent to their weight is for them to adopt a healthier lifestyle; exercise and sensible eating genuinely make people feel better. And, yes, individuals who are suffering from severe obesity – defined as having a BMI (body mass index) of 40 or above or 35 and above with related medical problems – may be candidates for a bariatric procedure, which can make significant long term weight loss vastly more achievable. Losing weight can definitely put you on a path to a healthier and happier life, as long as you are prepared to make the changes you need. An important note: defeating obesity can definitely help to alleviate depression in many cases, but it should never be thought of as a cure-all for sad or depressed feelings. Indeed, in some cases, people may mistakenly believe that all of their problems are due to their obesity and then feel disappointed when they are thinner, but not necessarily that much happier. Obtaining mental health counseling while working on your weight is never a bad idea. I’m ready for a weight loss procedure. What now? Procedures like a sleeve gastrectomy are safe and effective, but you need the help of a competent weight loss physician to ensure a positive outcome. Los Angeles area bariatric surgeon Michael Feiz, M.D., F.A.C.S. has performed countless procedures for people from all walks of life. To get started, contact Dr. Feiz & Associates at the phone number above or reach out via our contact page.