Anxiety & Obesity Treatment

Anxiety is a normal reaction to stressors we experience on a regular basis. However, for some individuals, their anxiety can be present in such excessive amounts that it can greatly impact their ability to complete everyday activities and function properly in other areas of life. There are many different types of anxiety disorders, such as panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, all of which display a variety of different symptoms. While each anxiety disorder is different in its own way, the core feature is a persistent state of fear or worry in situations where others would not typically feel threatened. For some individuals, their anxiety can include ongoing, unwanted thoughts or repetitive behaviors. Others may experience a number of physical symptoms, such as a pounding heart, trouble breathing, or being easily startled.

Over time, if an anxiety disorder is left untreated, the symptoms can have a lasting impact on a person’s physical and mental health. Some individuals may go on to develop additional mental health concerns, such as depression or social phobia. In an attempt to cope with the debilitating symptoms of anxiety, some sufferers of anxiety may begin to abuse drugs and/or alcohol, which can lead to the development of a substance use disorder. Furthermore, those battling anxiety may find it increasingly difficult to maintain employment or healthy interpersonal relationships with others. Fortunately, there are a number of treatment options available that can help someone with anxiety learn to manage his or her symptoms and go on to live a happier life.

The Connection Between Anxiety and Obesity Show More Show Less

There has been a significant amount of research that establishes a connection between anxiety and obesity. While obesity does not directly cause anxiety, some evidence suggests that obesity contributes to anxiety because it throws off a person’s hormones, of which can potentially contribute to other behaviors that produce anxiety. That being said, it has also been suggested that anxiety may play a role in certain issues that may eventually lead to the development of obesity. Discussed in more detail below are some ways in which anxiety may contribute to weight gain:

  • Increased cortisol levels, as the result of anxiety, cause fat to build up in the stomach and leads to an increase in weight. The longer that a person experiences stress and anxiety, the more weight he or she can potentially gain.
  • Digestion changes, such as slowed digestion, often occurs in those who are anxious and, overtime, can lead to weight gain.
  • Anxiety can cause increased fatigue and a general overall lack of energy, which cause an individual to be less active. Without regular movement, the body is unable to burn calories and when enough calories are not burned on a daily basis, it will lead to weight gain.
  • Certain anxiety medications, such as Xanax and other antianxiety agents, can sometimes cause fatigue and have been linked to subsequent weight gain.
  • Finally, it is quite common for individuals experiencing increased levels of anxiety to turn to food for comfort. Whether it is to satisfy an emotional need or done as a means of coping with inner turmoil, consuming food, even when one is not hungry, can occur when a person is anxious. Should this unhealthy method of coping occur regularly, weight gain is likely to result. 

Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety Show More Show Less

There are a wide variety of signs and symptoms that indicate the presence of an anxiety disorder. And while everyone’s experience will differ depending upon the type and severity of his or her anxiety, some of the most common signs and symptoms that may be present include:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Avoidance of certain places
  • Inability to complete daily activities
  • Consistently drinking or using drugs to numb unpleasant feelings
  • Isolating oneself from others
  • Having an explosive temper
  • Finding it hard to express one’s opinion
  • Difficulty being assertive
  • Engaging in self-harm

Physical symptoms:

  • Breathing rapidly
  • Pounding heart
  • Choking sensation
  • Dizziness
  • Hot flashes
  • Muscle tension
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Feeling weak or tired
  • Restlessness and sleeping problems

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Trouble concentrating
  • Problems thinking about anything other than present worry
  • Catastrophic thinking
  • Absentmindedness
  • Feelings of detachment
  • Is easily distracted

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Persistent state of apprehension
  • Feelings of dread
  • Irritability
  • Intense sudden feelings of panic or doom
  • Fear of losing control

If you feel that you are in crisis, or are having thoughts about hurting yourself or others, please call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately. 

Effects of Anxiety When an Individual is Battling a Weight Concern Show More Show Less

Being overweight and having anxiety can cause a significant amount of distress in an individual’s life and can ultimately affect one’s overall general health. If both the anxiety and weight concerns are not properly addressed, there is an increased chance for the development of the following negative consequences:

  • The development or worsening of other mental health conditions, such as depression
  • Additional weight gain
  • Overall poor quality of life
  • Inability to enjoy certain daily activities
  • Low self-esteem
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Social isolation
  • Stress and conflict within the family
  • Serious health problems, including heart disease, Type 2 Diabetes, sleep apnea, and osteoarthritis
  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviors 

Co-occurring Mental Health Disorders Show More Show Less

There are a variety of mental health issues that can arise when an individual is struggling with excessive weight problems and an anxiety disorder. While these mental health concerns are not directly caused by weight gain, the emotional effects that can develop as the result of lowered self-esteem and poor quality of life can contribute to their development. Some of these mental health conditions may include:

  • Substance use disorders
  • Depressive disorders
  • Additional anxiety disorders
  • Binge-eating disorder
  • Bulimia nervosa
  • Body dysmorphic disorder 

Treatment for Anxiety When an Individual is Battling a Weight Concern Show More Show Less

When an individual is struggling with an anxiety disorder in addition to excessive weight concerns, both conditions need to be addressed and properly treated. No matter what caused your weight gain, the treatment is still the same; healthy eating and plenty of exercise. When mental health concerns, such as anxiety, are present in addition to a weight problem, additional treatment methods will be implemented to ensure overall long-term success.

Many individuals with significant weight concerns have found weight loss programs extremely beneficial at helping them adopt healthy behaviors and lifestyle changes that will lead to weight loss and a healthier lifestyle. Most weight loss programs implement a combination of treatment methods, including nutrition counseling, fitness programs, and psychological interventions to educate individuals and help them jump start a healthy lifestyle. For some individuals, psychological interventions can help address underlying psychological concerns, such as anxiety, that may be interfering with his or her ability to maintain a healthy weight. By entering a weight loss program, individuals are able to build a solid foundation for long-term weight loss success. 

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