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Depression Linked to Obesity and Anorexia, Study Says

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In June, 2009, Science Daily reported that “A new study connects abnormalities of the "stress" hormone cortisol with symptoms of depression in obese children, and confirms that obesity and depression often occur together, even in children.”

These findings were announced at The Endocrine Society's 91st Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. by Panagiota Pervanidou, MD, of Athens University Medical School who reported this link has already been established in adults. She went on to say, “We recommend that obese children be screened for depression and anxiety, especially female adolescents, who have the highest risk ...

In addition, children with a diagnosis of depression should be evaluated for disordered eating, because these patients frequently develop obesity or anorexia.” Depression, obesity and anorexia in the same study. Hopefully, for our children's sake, the medical community is connecting the dots.

Like Ann in last week’s article, "When a Diet Becomes a Deadly Eating Disorder," some obese and overweight adolescent females start dieting in an attempt to become healthy but go too far and become anorexic. The question that should be asked first is why is this young girl overweight to begin with? It makes sense that the underlying depression needs to be addressed before the issue of diet. This study by Pervanidou may begin to shed some light on how an overweight girl becomes a victim of anorexia nervosa.

Why is this girl overweight? In this country with so many overweight people, that question isn’t usually asked. It does seem like a silly question. We all understand the siren aroma of a homemade meal, and of course, there’s the junk food: a milk shake, burger with fries or a big piece of chocolate cake -- the feel-good food.

There are so many temptations and opportunities to become overweight with a fattening fast-food restaurant or coffee shop on every corner. Who can resist?

However, for my fictional Ann, it’s the first day of a new school year, and she had a hard time sleeping last night worrying how the day would turn out. She walks into the crowded classroom by herself because her two girlfriends were assigned to another homeroom. Ann hopes the butterflies stay in her stomach and don’t work their way up her throat and onto the classroom floor. In the middle of the noise and commotion, there is a tight knot of girls whose perfume stings Ann’s eyes. They’re all slim with long shinny hair, all dressed in the uniform of the day: tight skinny jeans and cool tee-shirts. As Ann walks by, she can hear the whispers begin. She takes a seat across from a guy slumped in his desk who mutters just loud enough to be heard, “Can’t believe she fit in the desk.” A few guys snicker. Ann pretends not to notice.

Who wouldn’t be depressed? How could repeated experiences like this one not affect the self-esteem of a young adolescent?


Add a Comment2 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

I never worked out whether my eating disorder caused depression or whether the eating disorder was caused, in part, by an underlying depression. They got all tangled up somewhere along the way.
It’s hard to dispute that an eating disorder presses all the right depression buttons: it’s isolating and draining and frustrating and desperate. But maybe the isolation and drainedness and frustration and desperation triggered the eating disorder. It goes both ways.
I am not surprised that research is beginning to identify a link - but it just emphasises the importance of exploring and understanding depression and ways of working through the paralysing feelings. For me, recovery from an eating disorder came hand in hand with moving out of depression; tand, as Finding Melissa explores, the common factor for both was the development of some much needed self confidence and self belief.

November 10, 2009 - 2:16pm
(reply to Anonymous)

You are so right. Eating disorders, self-esteem issues and depression are all tangled up together. It will be complicated to untangle, but I believe it is critical for the medical community to do so. A new study also added the heredity factor into the mix. I'll be writing about depression, self-esteem and eating disorders again this week. It's just so important.

You are living proof of the connection, and I'm so glad you found that connection yourself, and that you’ve recovered. You are a very strong person because I know it is excruciatingly painful and difficult to overcoming an eating disorder. Not everyone is so strong. Congratulations. And thank you for commenting on this article,

Mary Sornberger

November 16, 2009 - 6:38am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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