Losing weight can greatly improve symptoms of depression because of the following reasons.
Yes, losing weight can help improve depressive symptoms immensely if a person is overweight or obese.
A healthy weight loss may help manage depression in the following ways:
- Boosting confidence level
- Improving self-esteem
- Stabilizing mood
- Obtaining a better self-image
- Gaining appreciation and attention from others
- Improving the quality of life
Moreover, losing weight boosts energy levels and helps people with depression cope with depressive symptoms and pass through the difficult phase of their lives. This, however, does not mean that one should not seek medical help to manage depression and rely on weight loss alone.
If a person has been prescribed medications or asked to take therapy for depression, they should not stop taking them unless advised by the doctor.
What is depression?
Depression is a mood disorder that affects personal, family, social, educational, occupational, and other important functioning areas. It can affect thinking, feeling, and behavior in an adverse manner.
People with depression may feel worthless, hopeless, and are at risk of harming themselves (depression is a major risk factor for suicide).
According to National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2016, approximately 16.2 million adults in the United States are suffering from depression.
Relation between depression and weight
The link between depression and weight is connected in both ways equally. People with depression are more likely to be obese, and obesity puts them at a greater risk of developing depression.
People with depression are less motivated to exercise and tend to eat more (unsatisfied hunger), leading to uncontrollable cravings for food, binge eating, and bulimia.
Also, cortisol (stress hormone) plays a vital role in weight gain in people with depression due to its association with insulin resistance. Long-term stress in depression may lead to high insulin levels that reduce blood sugar and causes cravings for sugar and fatty foods.
What causes depression?
Depression is a complex disease, with no exact cause known. It can be due to a combination of genetic, environmental, biological, and psychological factors.
Researchers speculate people with depression have a smaller hippocampus (a part of the brain responsible for memory storage) than normal individuals.
Some experts believe that excess production of cortisol (stress hormone) could be the reason for the shrinking of the hippocampus, whereas some say that people with depression are born with a smaller hippocampus.
Other contributing factors linked to this condition include:
- Age: More common in adults and the elderly.
- Gender: Women are two times more likely to be affected than men.
- Personality: Pessimistic and people who are easily overwhelmed by stress are more likely to experience depression.
- Family history: Children, siblings of people with depression are more vulnerable.
- Medical illnesses: Chronic or life-threatening medical conditions, such as diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, cancer, and human immunodeficiency virus can trigger depression.
- Grief: Death or separation of a loved one.
- Loneliness: People living alone may be at a higher risk of depression.
- Conflicts: Disputes with family or friends.
- Abuse: Emotional, physical, or sexual abuse in childhood could cause depression later in life.
- Major life events: Stressful life events, such as losing a job, business failure, getting divorced, becoming homeless, can increase the risk.
- Medications: Beta-blockers, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, isotretinoin (used to treat acne), interferon-alpha, and corticosteroids can increase the risk.
- Substance abuse: Alcohol, tobacco, nicotine, opioids (codeine, morphine), and other recreational drugs can elevate mood temporarily but eventually aggravate depression.
11 signs and symptoms of depression
The symptoms of depression vary with people and can range from mild to severe.
- Feeling sad often or all the time
- Anxious for no reason
- Irritable, frustrated
- Not interested in daily activities
- Unable to sleep or sleep for long hours
- Excessive eating or lack of appetite
- Pains, headaches with no relief even after medications
- Unable to concentrate or make decisions
- Extreme tiredness
- Feeling guilty, hopeless, helpless, or worthless
- Planning to hurt oneself or suicidal tendency
How is depression diagnosed?
Diagnosis of depression is generally made by the doctor based on detailed medical history. They may conduct a physical examination and order certain tests to reach a definitive diagnosis.
Certain questionnaires and screening tools can help a mental health professional to confirm the diagnosis:
- The Patient Health Questionnaire-9
- Beck Depression Inventory
- Zung Self-Rating Depression Scale
- Center for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression Scale
- Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression
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What can be done to treat depression?
Depression is a risk factor for heart disease and dementia. Unfortunately, about half the people never get it diagnosed or treated.
- Diet: Eat a healthy and nutritious diet.
- Physical activity: Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day for five days a week.
- Lifestyle modifications: Avoid or quit smoking, alcohol, and other habit-forming drugs.
- Reach out to others: Talking to family and friends may help feel better.
- Find ways to engage yourself: Pick up a hobby, spend quality time with pets, loved ones, or plan a vacation.
- Psychotherapy or talk therapy: A specific form of counseling.
- Electroconvulsive therapy: An electric current is passed through the brain to relieve depression.
- Transcranial magnetic stimulation: Magnetic fields are used via a noninvasive device to target a specific part of the brain.
- Vagus nerve stimulation: Surgical implantation of a device under the collar bone that sends regular impulses to the brain.
Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2022
American Psychiatric Association. What is depression. https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/what-is-depression
National Institute of Health. Depression. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/depression
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Mental health conditions. https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips/diseases/depression-anxiety.html.
Brouillette M. The complex link between depression and weight. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/depression/features/depression-and-weight-connection