The Link Between Obesity and Depression


Carrying around excess body weight comes with a lot of consequences for your health, a fact that most of us are well aware of at this point. Diabetes, heart disease, stroke and a host of other terminal conditions are directly associated with obesity, but there are other, lesser-known conditions that are also exacerbated by obesity—namely, depression.

According to the Centers For Disease Control, 43% of people with depression were also obese in 2010. People who are obese are more likely to be depressed than those who are not, especially women in all age demographics. As depressive symptoms become more severe, obesity rates only continue to climb. Put simply, the relationship between depression and obesity is both extremely close and extremely damaging.

Dr. Dirk feels that depression is a co-morbidity directly related to obesity. Obesity is a medical condition where hormones and chemicals within the body do not allow the body to work efficiently. Likewise, depression is an active chemical imbalance in the brain.

Depression and weight gain, and ultimately obesity, are linked in a number of ways. Research suggests a genetic link between the two, and symptoms of both can exacerbate the other co-existing condition. Psychological factors, like bullying and discrimination, also likely come into play. As obesity rates in the United States have continued to climb, so have instances of clinical depression.

Trying to lose the weight on your own can also complicate depression, especially when you’re not seeing the numbers on the scale budge. According to Obesity Action, the limited mobility caused by obesity may also contribute to this phenomenon. “Being seriously overweight at any age is a major source of dissatisfaction, sadness and frustration. Extra pounds often cause chronic joint and extremity pain, making individuals less able to get around, enjoy life or exercise.”

When your weight impacts the quality of your life, it is no surprise that depression and obesity so frequently co-exist. In some people, depression can cause weight loss, but in many others, weight gain is a common symptom. Sometimes it’s hard to tell which illness came first, which can make them both difficult to treat.

Studies have shown, however, that significant weight loss through bariatric surgery can have a dramatic impact on depression. A study of over 2,000 patients at the Scottsdale Bariatric Center found that significant loss of excess body weight was “accompanied by a reduction in depressive symptoms.” This study is admittedly small, but it points to the significant promise that bariatric surgery can have in helping people improve their quality of life.

In Dr. Dirk’s experience, teenagers who are obese often suffer from depression related to taunting, teasing and bullying in school. Sadly, this bullying can even become severe enough that the teenager’s parents feel they must pull their children from school in favor of homeschooling. Dr. Dirk has treated teenage patients who, after undergoing bariatric surgery, have been able to return to regular schooling.

Bariatric surgery is certainly not a magical fix for depression, but there is enough research to suggest that patients who suffer from both obesity and depression could find relief in the procedure. Especially if your own attempts to lose weight have failed, the guidance that Dr. Dirk and the knowledgeable team at Nobilis Health Corp can shine a little light on the journey out of depression and obesity.

Still have questions about weight loss surgery? Learn more from Dr. Dirk here.