Saturday, June 07, 2008

TO READ: Depression and Obesity. . . and Depression

"Theory and research suggest that obesity and depression may be causally linked," says the summary of a new study in the journal Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice. If you are living with depression, chances are that you've already made that connection on your own -- after all, while some of us tend to eat (and sleep) less when we're depressed, there is also a substantial proportion of us who tend to eat and eat and sleep and sleep to try to ease the pain.

I happen to be an eater and sleeper; I especially crave carbohydrates (i.e., cookies and scones from Starbucks) when I'm way down. And, despite being a healthy weight until taking an atypical antipsychotic (which shall go unnamed) a few years ago when absolutely nothing else was helping, I'm now 20-30 pounds above where I'd like to be. It was much worse for awhile -- I gained 80 pounds in less than a year on this stuff. Very fortunately, when I finally got off of it to try a newly-released alternative, 40 pounds evaporated on its own. I've dieted to get rid of some of the rest, but it comes and goes and comes and stays -- and it's somewhat "depressing." And it often does feel like there's a chicken-and-egg quality to the situation.

So when I saw this research study suggesting that depression can lead to obesity and obesity can lead to depression, I took note. Long-term studies show that obesity predicts later depression. The authors propose that this may be due to either health or appearance issues. Meanwhile, there's some data showing that depression increases the risk of obesity, likely due to lack of exercise, negative thoughts or lack of social support. The suggestions for treating both of these include, not surprisingly, "behavioral activation" (diet and exercise) and cognitive-behavioral therapy -- but the scientists emphasize that no one's really studied how to treat both together yet.

What do you think? If you're living with both these conditions, which came first, and to what do you attribute the other? If you've recovered from one or both of these, how did you do it? I myself consider my bipolar disorder (mostly depression) well-managed now, but when I'm even slightly down, I judge myself harshly for my excess pounds. I can imagine these problems going either way.

For more info: Clin Psychol Sci Prac 15:1-20, 2008.


Mary said...

Hi Elizabeth: I too gained alot of weight on these antidepressants. Although I have always had a weight issue these have made it worse. Bad enough having depression and then this on top of it sheesh.. Starting last July, I noticed I started losing weight, which made me very happy, as of right now i have lost 28lbs. I have no idea why, because I wasnt even trying, had tests done to makes sure everything was ok, and it was.So that made me feel better, but this depression has got a hold of me again, as you can see in my blog..i hate it, and it scares me because I have been having bad thoughts of late..Mary

Mary said...

Hi Elizabeth thanks for visiting my blog. Yes the writing does help to some degree, and I'm hoping if I keep doing it it will help even more. I dont know, I find that it also makes the memories come back, so I dont know if thats a good thing or not...Mary

Michelle (The Beartwinsmom) said...

*Raising my hand here to be included in the obesity/depression connection*

I'm overweight, being treated for depression, on antidepressant meds, and I can totally relate to the chicken/egg metaphor. I wish I could lose the weight effortlessly, but like working out of the pit of depression, that takes a lot of work.

I love your blog, by the way. I've added to my reader a while back, and I really like your writing prompts (especially from an English teacher's point of view :-) )

Warm regards,
Michelle aka The Beartwinsmom

K said...

Thanks for the information on obesity and depression.

We recently wrote an article on genetics and depression Brain Blogger. It is widely known that depression results from a combination of many different factors. Environmental factors such as stressful life events can trigger the development of major depressive disorder (MDD), but doctors suspect that there may another, unheard-of underlying factor -- genetics

We would like to read your comments on our article. Thank you

Elizabeth Maynard Schaefer, Ph.D. said...

Hey, wonderful readers! Thanks for your comments -- looks like the obesity issue lights up lots of us, not just me!

Michelle, Thanks for the vote of confidence from an English teacher -- as one who was a scientist, not a lit major, I especially appreciate it.

K, I've left a comment on your interesting article. Wonderful blog -- BrainBlogger. I'll be back.

Mary, I'm going to post on your very valid concerns that sometimes the writing is really painful.

Best to all,

jumpinginpuddles said...

we so agree with the comment about obesity and depression. We find it very interesting that people are quick to note when you ahve gained and lost weight. Notice how people say wow look how much weight youve lost but never ask when youve gained weight if th4ere was a reason.
We are slowly losing weight becasue the wieght of depression is easing, so when we are asked how we lost the weight we say we are beating depression and its making us healthier.

Katie's Blog said...

Hi, I saw your comment on someone else's blog and followed the link here. I hope you don't mind. I've dealt with depression for so long. Not obesity, but had an eating disorder (bulemia) for a very long time. Doing better with that now. I have DID and for some reason, I've been the one to feel all the depression and sadness and guilt. In turn, I self injured and had an eating disorder. Not good. Doing better with it now, but it's not completely gone. :(

ricky said...

You have given some new information in your blog. It is really good. I’m also suffering from all these depression related problems, and I also have weight issue. To get rid of this I’m using Xanax,I think its good for me.

hi mik1986 said...

If you find that you are constantly stressed out about something or worrying for no reason, then you might be suffering from a panic attack. They can happen to anyone, but seeking out a therapist is good especially for those who experience panic attacks frequently.