Yes, losing weight can help improve depressive symptoms immensely if a person is overweight or obese.
A healthy weight loss may help manage depression in the following ways:
- Boosting confidence level
- Improving self-esteem
- Stabilizing mood
- Obtaining a better self-image
- Gaining appreciation and attention from others
- Improving the quality of life
Moreover, losing weight boosts energy levels and helps people with depression cope with depressive symptoms and pass through the difficult phase of their lives. This, however, does not mean that one should not seek medical help to manage depression and rely on weight loss alone.
If a person has been prescribed medications or asked to take therapy for depression, they should not stop taking them unless advised by the doctor.
What is depression?
Depression is a mood disorder that affects personal, family, social, educational, occupational, and other important functioning areas. It can affect thinking, feeling, and behavior in an adverse manner.
People with depression may feel worthless, hopeless, and are at risk of harming themselves (depression is a major risk factor for suicide).
According to National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2016, approximately 16.2 million adults in the United States are suffering from depression.
Relation between depression and weight
The link between depression and weight is connected in both ways equally. People with depression are more likely to be obese, and obesity puts them at a greater risk of developing depression.
People with depression are less motivated to exercise and tend to eat more (unsatisfied hunger), leading to uncontrollable cravings for food, binge eating, and bulimia.
Also, cortisol (stress hormone) plays a vital role in weight gain in people with depression due to its association with insulin resistance. Long-term stress in depression may lead to high insulin levels that reduce blood sugar and causes cravings for sugar and fatty foods.
What causes depression?
Depression is a complex disease, with no exact cause known. It can be due to a combination of genetic, environmental, biological, and psychological factors.
Researchers speculate people with depression have a smaller hippocampus (a part of the brain responsible for memory storage) than normal individuals.
Some experts believe that excess production of cortisol (stress hormone) could be the reason for the shrinking of the hippocampus, whereas some say that people with depression are born with a smaller hippocampus.
Other contributing factors linked to this condition include:
- Age: More common in adults and the elderly.
- Gender: Women are two times more likely to be affected than men.
- Personality: Pessimistic and people who are easily overwhelmed by stress are more likely to experience depression.
- Family history: Children, siblings of people with depression are more vulnerable.
- Medical illnesses: Chronic or life-threatening medical conditions, such as diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, cancer, and human immunodeficiency virus can trigger depression.
- Grief: Death or separation of a loved one.
- Loneliness: People living alone may be at a higher risk of depression.
- Conflicts: Disputes with family or friends.
- Abuse: Emotional, physical, or sexual abuse in childhood could cause depression later in life.
- Major life events: Stressful life events, such as losing a job, business failure, getting divorced, becoming homeless, can increase the risk.
- Medications: Beta-blockers, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, isotretinoin (used to treat acne), interferon-alpha, and corticosteroids can increase the risk.
- Substance abuse: Alcohol, tobacco, nicotine, opioids (codeine, morphine), and other recreational drugs can elevate mood temporarily but eventually aggravate depression.
11 signs and symptoms of depression
The symptoms of depression vary with people and can range from mild to severe.
- Feeling sad often or all the time
- Anxious for no reason
- Irritable, frustrated
- Not interested in daily activities
- Unable to sleep or sleep for long hours
- Excessive eating or lack of appetite
- Pains, headaches with no relief even after medications
- Unable to concentrate or make decisions
- Extreme tiredness
- Feeling guilty, hopeless, helpless, or worthless
- Planning to hurt oneself or suicidal tendency
How is depression diagnosed?
Diagnosis of depression is generally made by the doctor based on detailed medical history. They may conduct a physical examination and order certain tests to reach a definitive diagnosis.
- Physical examination: The doctor may focus primarily to rule out neurological and endocrine (hormonal) conditions, such as hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, Cushing’s disease (adrenal gland disorder).
- Blood tests: To check electrolytes, hemoglobin, liver, and kidney function.
- Computed tomography scan or magnetic resonance imaging of the brain: To rule out brain tumors.
- Electroencephalogram: To check the electrical activity of the brain.
Certain questionnaires and screening tools can help a mental health professional to confirm the diagnosis:
- The Patient Health Questionnaire-9
- Beck Depression Inventory
- Zung Self-Rating Depression Scale
- Center for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression Scale
- Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression
- CDC Warns of Potentially Fatal Bacterial Illness on U.S. Gulf Coast
- Helping Others as Volunteers Helps Kids 'Flourish': Study
- FDA Approves Pfizer's RSV Shot for Older Adults
- What to Do When Tough-to-Treat Lymphoma Strikes During Pregnancy
- Rate of Pregnant U.S. Women Who Have Diabetes Keeps Rising
- More Health News »
What can be done to treat depression?
Depression is a risk factor for heart disease and dementia. Unfortunately, about half the people never get it diagnosed or treated.
- Diet: Eat a healthy and nutritious diet.
- Physical activity: Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day for five days a week.
- Lifestyle modifications: Avoid or quit smoking, alcohol, and other habit-forming drugs.
- Reach out to others: Talking to family and friends may help feel better.
- Find ways to engage yourself: Pick up a hobby, spend quality time with pets, loved ones, or plan a vacation.
- Psychotherapy or talk therapy: A specific form of counseling.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Interpersonal therapy
- Tricyclic antidepressants, such as amitriptyline, nortriptyline
- Atypical antidepressants, such as mirtazapine, trazodone
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, such as fluoxetine and sertraline.
- Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, such as duloxetine and venlafaxine
- Electroconvulsive therapy: An electric current is passed through the brain to relieve depression.
- Transcranial magnetic stimulation: Magnetic fields are used via a noninvasive device to target a specific part of the brain.
- Vagus nerve stimulation: Surgical implantation of a device under the collar bone that sends regular impulses to the brain.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
American Psychiatric Association. What is depression. https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/what-is-depression
National Institute of Health. Depression. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/depression
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Mental health conditions. https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips/diseases/depression-anxiety.html.
Brouillette M. The complex link between depression and weight. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/depression/features/depression-and-weight-connection
Top Does Losing Weight Help With Depression Related Articles
Can Lack of Folic Acid Cause Depression?Studies identify a link between folate deficiency and depression; however, having low folate levels doesn’t always result in depression.
Can Major Depression Lead to Bipolar Disorder?Depression and bipolar disorder are not the same despite sharing some symptoms. Major depression can't lead to bipolar disorder.
Can You Lose Weight By Just Eating Protein?Protein does not cause weight loss. But a diet high in protein will keep you from feeling hungry for longer.
How Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Treat Depression?Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) uses cognitive strategies to help people change patterns in the way they think and behavioral strategies to help people change behaviors that aren't helpful. CBT can help people with mild-to-moderate major depressive disorder.
DepressionDepression is an illness that involves the body, mood, and thoughts and affects the way a person eats and sleeps, the way one feels about oneself, and the way one thinks about things. The principal types of depression are major depression, dysthymia, and bipolar disease (also called manic-depressive disease).
Learn to Spot Depression: Symptoms, Warning Signs, MedicationKnow when you or someone else is depressed. Get information on depression symptoms, signs, tests, and treatments for many types of depression chronic depression and postpartum depression.
Depression QuizMany people do not recognize the symptoms and warning signs of depression and depressive disorders in children and adults. With proper diagnosis, treatments and medications are available. Take this quiz to learn more about recovery from depression.
Depression Tips SlidesThe right exercise, diet, and activities -- even playing with a pet --can help you recover from depression. Learn simple lifestyle changes you can do to improve your mood.
Foods to Fight DepressionFoods that help fight depression include turkey, Brazil nuts, carrots, shellfish, coffee, leafy greens, salmon, milk, and berries. These are rich in antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, selenium, vitamin B12, folate, and vitamin D. Avoid central nervous system depressants like alcohol and foods containing high-glycemic simple carbohydrates and added sugars that exacerbate depression.
Is Sperm Good for Depression?Studies report that various chemicals in semen may help reduce depression in some women when absorbed in the body.
Depression Therapy MythsFalse ideas scare many depression suffers away from therapy and the quick relief and help these pros can provide. Let our experts help you understand the truth about therapy.
What Are 4 Major Causes of Depression?Depression is not a condition that has one specific cause. It can happen for many different reasons and have many triggers. Depression is a serious condition with a spectrum of diagnoses and a wide range of severity. Depression is a common yet serious mood disorder. The four types of depression include major depression, bipolar disorder, persistent depressive disorder and seasonal affective disorder.
What Are the 5 Characteristics of Depression?Although depression includes a wide range of symptoms, here are the 5 most common characteristics of the condition.
What Is Major Depression Disorder?The American Psychiatric Association defines major depressive disorder (depression) as a common, but serious, medical illness that negatively affects how one feels, thinks and acts. Depression causes sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. Depression can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and decrease a person’s ability to function at work and home.
What Is a Nervous Breakdown?A nervous or mental breakdown is a general term used to describe a period of overwhelming mental distress. This term is usually used to refer to an intense set of emotions a person experiences in a wide variety of mental illnesses, including depression, stress disorder, and anxiety.