‘Depression and weight gain’ are like the ‘chicken and egg’ confusion; you don’t know which comes first. The basic problem with weight gain and depression is hard to tell as their symptoms are interlinked.
Their relationship is intertwined, and the increase in one problem drastically increases the other. In simple, if you are depressed, there is a high chance that you will gain weight, and if you are obese, you may go into depression.
It is important to note that the scenario is not common to all people. There are several people who are obese and yet living a happy life, and there are people who are depressed and lean.
Why are depression and weight gain so entwined?
Have you ever wondered why at times you tend to eat more and yet you are not satiated? You may have observed that you consume more food when you are stressed, or have a personal or emotional problem that has been around for some time.
You may have also gained a lot of weight in a while, while you were trying to get through a rough patch. Did you ever wonder why this is? What is the link between stress or depression and excessive eating?
A part of your brain called the limbic system is responsible for your emotions. It also controls your appetite. When the emotional part of the brain is disturbed, it disturbs the appetite part as well.
This happens especially in people who are suffering from depression. Furthermore, weight management is an issue on its own which is entwined with depression.
To many people, being overweight feeds into self-deprecating or criticizing oneself, and the thinking pattern gets tied to depression.
Several people go into a phase where they start to dislike how they look, what they do, how others treat them, and so on. When they dislike how they look, it affects their limbic system, leading to a behavioral pattern that induces depression and weight gain parallelly.
Affect of Depression on Limbic System
When the limbic system is affected, a person who is obese dislikes how he or she looks and tends to have a change in appetite. A person who is depressed goes through the same problems with a change in mood which leads to a change in appetite.
You may consume food more often than regularly to self-soothe and in turn gain excessive weight. Overweight or being obese makes a person dislike how they look, leading to depression. Depression and weight gain are not only entwined, but they form a cycle that keeps going on and on.
Depression and weight gain Vs depression and weight loss
Depression is associated with weight loss, as much as it is associated with weight gain. When a person has depression, the appetite-controlling center in the brain can get thrown off in any direction.
While some people with depression have problems with weight gain, others suffer from weight loss. Whether you gain weight or lose them depends on your body’s coping mechanism and the unique biology of the human body.
Depression and weight gain, as well as depression and weight loss, can happen with the same person. Your body acts in response to different instances of depression. The type of symptom of depression you experience also determines whether you shed or gain weight.
For example, a person with seasonal affective disorder may become lazy, sluggish, and gain weight during winter, and shed weight during spring.
On the other hand, a person with anxiety and depression may tend to pace a lot, treble due to accelerated metabolism, and lose weight.
Experts say that people suffering from depression don’t lose so much weight that they put their life at risk. But that’s not the case with depression and weight gain. People who gain weight due to depression become obese.
An obese person develops several health problems such as diabetes, heart disease among others. An increase in weight that is caused by depression has to be addressed immediately before it is too late.
Depression and weight gain; the gender gap!
Did you know that women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression than men? Considering many aspects of life, men are more likely to face severe health conditions such as heart attack, or cancer.
But depression affects women more than it does men. What causes this gender bias is unclear, but it is believed that it is due to the combination of genes, environmental stress, and hormones.
Depression is a medical condition that can occur at any age and to any person. Normal hormonal changes can affect a person’s feelings and cause mood swings, anxiety, anger, and feelings. But hormonal changes alone cannot cause depression.
Other factors include personal life experiences and circumstances, inherited traits, and several other biological factors that lead to depression.
What causes depression in women?
Some of the factors that are responsible for depression in women that does not affect men include
Puberty is a result of hormonal changes and during this period, there is a high risk of being subject to depression. It is associated with other experiences such as conflict with family, sexuality, or identity issues, increased social pressure that can play a role in depression.
2. Premenstrual problems
Premenstrual syndrome or PMS symptoms such as bloating, irritability, headaches, breast tenderness and such may be minor and short-lived. But to many women, these symptoms disrupt their lives when they become severe, and lead to a type of depression called a premenstrual dysphoric disorder.
The hormonal change during pregnancy is dramatic and can affect a woman’s mood in such a way that it may lead to depression.
Other issues related to pregnancy that can cause depression include miscarriage, unwanted pregnancy, infertility, change in lifestyle, relationship problems during pregnancy, lack of support among others.
4. Postpartum depression
Postpartum depression is a common form of depression as many new mothers experience several emotions such as anger, irritability, and anger among many other emotions. Sometimes called baby blues, these emotions can become more serious in the long run and lead to postpartum depression.
It is a serious medical condition that occurs in 10% to 15% of women. It is associated with problems such as breastfeeding issues, poor support, added responsibility, and change in looks, medical complications, among others.
5. Perimenopause and menopause
Perimenopause is a stage of transition to menopause. The risk of depression is high during this stage due to fluctuation in the estrogen levels, interrupted sleep, stress, anxiety, high BMI, weight gain among others.
6. Culture and life circumstances
Biology alone is not the reason behind depression in a woman. Cultural stressors and life circumstances such as unequal power status, work overload that includes office and home, physical, emotional, or sexual abuse also cause depression.
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Depression is a condition that can affect both men and women, but women are more prone to it. The condition leads to weight gain and other health problems associated with obesity. It is one of the major causes of obesity in women, which is higher than it is in men.
If you are experiencing the symptoms of depression, seek medical help immediately.
Here are some useful Links
SUICIDE HELPLINE NUMBERS - indian helpline numbers
Depression - World Health Organization