Let’s begin with the definition of depression because it will help us to further understand the question, ‘can depression cause weight loss?’. So, what is depression? Depression can be defined as the feeling of serious dejection and despair. Especially, when someone does not have the self-confidence that will amount to worthlessness, this could degenerate into depression when it (self-doubt) lingers for a long time.
Depression has different effects on different folks; for some it may cause them to eat more, causing them to gain weight, and for some it may cause them to eat less, causing them to lose weight beyond a healthy level. So, you see, either way, depression is not pleasant at all.
You can say depression can lose weight, in an unhealthy way and can also cause weight gain as well, which can ultimately lead to obesity. Funny enough, depression and weight problems have always been associated. Now one may ask, do people gain or lose weight because they are depressed? Or are they depressed because they have weight issues?
According to Psychologist Leslie Heinberg, PhD, who is the director of Bariatric and Metabolic Institute at the Cleveland Clinic, says ‘ It’s a chicken and egg phenomenon’ another quote ‘But we do know that depression has lots of symptoms that can worsen obesity-appetite disturbances, lack of energy, lack of motivation to do things’.
Those were serious symptoms that could ground anybody that happens to fall into depression. But do not get it wrong, it is not as though one cannot momentarily become depressed, it is something that sometimes happens in somebody’s life. However, it becomes an issue when this condition lingers way too long, for like two weeks then you are going to need medical attention.
We are going to look at how depression can cause weight loss and weight gain, right? OK, here we go…
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How Can Depression Cause Weight Loss?
Well, it is simple math to know how depression can cause weight loss. According to Dr. Leslie Heinberg, depression symptom includes, ‘appetite disturbances’! This is a serious factor that can lead to weight loss, because, people react differently to depression.
The folks losing weight are those that lose appetite when depressed, thereby causing them to eat less. Which will often than not lead to ‘unhealthy weight loss’. Weight loss occurs because the affected person has lost interest in pleasure and so would also lose interest in eating.
Having an eating disorder is a medical condition called anorexia nervosa, which is mostly associated with depression. It is further explained that people that have this kind of problem are always fine when they are fed.
Here is another quote by Dr Leslie ‘In patients with low weight, the brain becomes starved and they develop symptoms that meet the criteria for depression’ she also added ‘Often, once you feed them, the depression goes away. it’s resolved, and it’s generally resolved quickly’.
How Can Depression Cause Weight Gain?
This is the opposite reaction of people that lose weight when depressed. These are people that eat instead of losing appetite! And really, weight gain is mostly associated with depression than weight loss.
Did you know that depressed folks gain weight more than the ones that are not depressed? And most of the weight gained is around the waist, which will ultimately cause belly fat that has risk factors that include heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure. Oh, I think that was gruesome!
Unfortunately, depression in itself has its risk factors too, such as anxiety, social isolation, addiction to drugs and alcohol, and suicide. I guess, losing weight or gaining weight as a result of depression is not pleasant at all. Therefore, weight problems and depression should be dealt with decisively. And there are ways to resolve these problems.
How To Treat Depression
First, let’s look at the vicious circle that is caused by depression. When someone is depressed, (those in the category of eating more) they tend to eat more sugar and fat content.
Let me quote Dr. James Gordon, a psychiatrist and author of Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven-Stage Journey out of Depression, he says, ‘ Some foods, especially foods with high sugar and/or fat content, make you feel better, if only briefly’, and he went on to say, ‘that good feeling makes you want to eat more, which in turn makes you feel bad about yourself. That leads to deeper depression, and more eating, and greater amounts of weight gain. It’s a vicious cycle’
Now, he went further to say, it can be challenging getting out of that circle, but he did proffer solutions. Seeking medical attention is the first thing to do, especially in the case of severe depression. By so doing, the problem of eating too much or not eating will be taking care of.
Treating depression involves talk therapy and medication, a healthy diet, and exercise. And some of the antidepressants used for the treatment of depression has a side effect of causing weight gain. Therefore, exercise must be included to counter the side effect of these drugs and even help them in shedding some weight.
Dr. Edward Abramson, an Emeritus Professor of psychology at the California State University and author of Emotional Eating: What You Need To Know Before Starting Another Diet, says ‘I won’t necessarily tell them to watch what they are eating at first, but I will work with them to get them to move.’
I think the underlying words there, is ‘getting them to move’. Getting them to be active and be able to get out of bed every morning. Getting them to exercise!
Medical treatment, exercise, and healthy foods are the three doses that can treat depression and weight loss or weight gain.
When it comes to healthy foods, we ain’t talking about fast foods or something, but something healthy you prepared or cooked by yourself.
Therefore, healthy eating is one part of the treatment that is as important, just like exercising and prescribed medications.
So, the question again, can depression cause weight loss? Depression can cause both weight loss and weight gain. But as we all have seen, most depressions are associated with weight gain than weight loss.
It is far better to prevent being depressed than to be depressed. You can help yourself by engaging in activities that would help you stay above depression such as exercising, eating healthily, and meditation.
And if you are already depressed or you know someone who is, simply see the Doctor and do all that is instructed. You shouldn’t be discouraged if the treatment is slow in showing positive results. Because, ordinarily, this takes some time to be OK.
Above all, is being ready to help yourself regain your health.
‘It goes beyond just preparing something healthier to eat than fast food, people get engaged in their care, and that’s crucial to dealing with weight’ says James Gordon.