We as individuals are well aware about the effects of childhood obesity on physical well-being as it is largely talked about and researched too across the decades. On the other hand, childhood obesity does have many social, emotional and psychological consequential difficulties and it is important for us to understand them. Below are some of the many mental issues that can arise out of childhood obesity and overweightness.
Low self-esteem: Self-esteem can be termed as a person’s sense of self- worth or personal value. Having low self-esteem can indirectly lead to weight based teasing and body dissatisfaction. Childhood obesity has been shown to have a direct correlation to low self-esteem and negative self-perceptions. This can have a direct impact on all other aspects of life.
Depression: When faced with depression, children can be to have a loss of interest in otherwise liked activities, they isolate themselves and feel sad and low for longer durations of time. Excess weight has also been associated with having the symptoms of depression or depression itself. Obese adolescent girls who are documented to have an even higher risk for major bouts of depression and face a number of emotional challenges which are exacerbated by the focus on body image, common at this stage of development.
Suicidal tendencies: A recent study showed that adolescents who are obese experienced feelings of committing suicide and tended to have a history of mental health issues.
Isolation: Signs of being isolated includes lack of enthusiasm, tiredness, low self-worth and anxiety. Children who are obese are often socially isolated due to negative perceptions and rejection of their peers. This social rejection can indirectly lead to low self-esteem and feelings of loneliness and anxiety.
Anxiety: Obese children are at risk of anxiety, an experience of fear or panic accompanied by symptoms such as nausea, sweating, shortness of breath etc., because of the stress of taunting. The child learns to dread being at school or participating in activities such as physical education in which he seems different, or less accomplished, than other children.
Poor body image: Obese children often suffers from a poor body image. This may cause him/her to avoid participating in physical activities or spending time with peers. Having a poor body image can also precipitate eating disorders such as bulimia.
Bullying: Children with a negative attitude towards weight are more likely to perceive an obese peer negatively as well as tease and bully children who appear overweight. Most overweight children face bullying at school, and it falls upon the teachers and parents to make sure that does not happen.
Discrimination: There are other obesity related problems that continue well into adolescence and beyond. Overweigh teenagers and adults might face discrimination based solely on their weight. Some research suggests that they are less likely to be accepted by society. They may also have a reduced chance of landing good jobs than their thinner peers. In short, when heavy children become heavy adults, they tend to have less acceptance, and this is something that begins when they are young.
Emotional eating: In an ironic twist, some children who are overweight might seek emotional comfort in food. This leads to a vicious cycle which adds even more calories to their plates at a time when their pediatricians and parents are urging them to eat less. Add to that the other emotional peaks and troughs the come with growing up can really do a number with their dietary patterns.
Childhood obesity can intimately entangle their emotional world as well as their physical. More attention should be given on the emotional effect of childhood overweight and obesity in order to provide a more holistic care to this young population. While it cannot be underestimated that one should strive to decrease the prevalence of obesity, it is equally necessary to promote the psychosocial and emotional wellbeing of overweight individuals and ensures that they are not being ill-treated for being overweight. Effective prevention and management of childhood obesity is easier and may result in long-lasting well-being. These psychological issues coupled with unhealthy weight control and disordered eating behaviors are warnings of more severe disturbances later on in life.