September 11, 2020

Mental health issues are important to address in and of themselves. What some people don’t realize, though, is that your mental health also affects aspects of your physical health — including weight.

Research out of the UK suggests a strong link between weight and mental health. A 19-year study of 4,363 government workers concluded that anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions were closely linked to weight gain and obesity. In the study, the more mental health episodes a study participant had, the more likely they were to become obese. The study’s authors also found being obese or overweight did not necessarily increase the risk of depression and other mental health conditions.

Understanding Mental Health’s Impact on Weight

There are many possible reasons for the link between mental health disorders and weight:

  • Medications: Some psychiatric medications have been linked to weight gain. The UK study adjusted for this factor, but patients who live with mental health conditions should be aware of the impact of these medications on their weight.
  • Some conditions lead to increased appetite: Depression can lead to a larger appetite in some individuals. People with anxiety may also overeat as a way to distract or soothe themselves.
  • Some conditions lead to reduced physical activity: Depression can lead to decreased interest in regular activities, such as going to the gym or interacting with others. Some people with depression may sleep longer hours or may move less, burning fewer calories.
  • Memory impairments: People with serious mental health disorders may have memory or even cognitive ability impacted. It may be harder for them to create healthy menus, keep track of the foods they eat and even prepare meals.
  • Lifestyle choices: Patients with depression and other mental illnesses sometimes turn to food, alcohol or binging of films or other distractions to find temporary relief from their condition. As a result, they tend to take in more calories and burn fewer of them.
  • Sleep problems: Anxiety, bipolar disorder, hallucinations and other mental health conditions and symptoms can disrupt sleep — and poor sleep has been linked to weight gain. Specifically, lack of adequate rest can slow metabolism and lead to a greater appetite.
  • Social and support problems: Those living with mental illness may face stigma and difficulty with employment, which in turn can lead to financial challenges that can make it harder to eat a healthy diet.

Mental health conditions do not need to lead to weight gain and obesity. Knowing the additional risks that come with mental health disorders can help doctors and patients make smart choices to ensure the best overall health possible.

Managing Mental Health’s Effect on Your Weight With Professional Treatment

If your mental health is affecting your weight, it might be time to seek professional help — and if you’re in the Folsom, California, area, you can find it at Advanced Psychiatry Associates. Our full-service psychiatric facility offers counseling services, genetic testing, psychotherapy, and medication management. Schedule an appointment today to get started.