Many are aware of the physical side effects that weight has on a person’s health. But did you know obesity has psychological effects as well? The media has promoted weight-stigmas to be associated with anyone who is obese or overweight. These stigmas include characterizing obese people as being lazy, lacking willpower, being over-indulgent, taking little interest in diet or exercise and contributing to the rising costs of health care. These commonly held viewpoints have negative consequences to an obese person’s psychological health.
Obesity Increases Risk of Social Isolation
Social isolation is the complete, or near complete, withdrawal from society. It involves staying at home for days or weeks at a time, lack of communication with friends or family and avoiding contact with people when interaction is available. Social isolation can lead to a multitude of conditions including: loneliness, increased stress, aggression, anxiety, fear, memory impairment, depression, etc.
Obesity is Linked to Behavioral Difficulties
Obesity has been shown to have a direct connection with behavioral problems, especially in children. Behavioral difficulties that have shown to have a correlation include aggression and delinquent behaviors. It is still under debate whether obesity is the cause of these types of behaviors or whether the behaviors contribute to an individual’s obesity.
Obesity Promotes Negative Self-View
Many obese people have negative self perception. Self perception is an individual’s idea of who they are as a person. It is often directly linked to how you feel others perceive you. Social stigmas can directly impact the way a person views themselves.
Obesity Effects Self-Esteem
Obese people tend to allow their weight to define who they are, what they are capable of and set the value on their self-worth. Obesity leads to intense feelings of self-doubt, shame and despair. Low self-esteem can lead to self-criticism, sensitivity to criticism from others, fear of making mistakes, always looking to please others, guilt, hostility, pessimism and envy.
Obesity and Depression Correlations
Research has shown that there is a direct correlation between obesity and depression. Depression causes a person to have persistent feelings of sadness, loss of interest, hopelessness and inadequacy. Like obesity it is associated with low self-image, low self-esteem, and social isolation. In addition to these similarities, both obesity and depression share many of the same risk factors and treatments.
Obesity Leads to Bullying and Victimization
People who are obese are oftentimes the victims of teasing, bullying and discrimination. The traumas associated with these types of experiences and lead to more weight gain. These acts also directly negatively impact a person’s emotional health. These acts can contribute to a person’s low self perception, low self-esteem and depression.
Obesity and Suicide
The psychological distresses associates with obesity can lead to suicide. Depression alone is a high risk factor of suicide. Other suicide risk factors that are associated with obesity are: feelings of hopelessness, aggression, social isolation, loss (inability to perform task you were once able to), physical illnesses associates with obesity and bullying/victimization.
The weight-stigmas associated with anyone who is obese contributes to the way these people view themselves and how other people view them. These stigmas directly impact an obese person’s psychological health. Distresses caused by weight-stigmas include: social isolation, behavioral difficulties, negative self-view, low self-esteem, depression and bullying/victimization.
Shannon Radford is the founder of The Weight Loss Project, a website dedicated to helping others lose weight. She has a B.S. in Psychology and runs a weight loss support group, The Weight Loss Project, on Facebook social network. To gain access to information on getting started with your weigh loss journey and healthy recipes