Obesity: Health and Psychology

Mental Health and Physical Health


* A healthy discussion was spurred between my classmates where we each formed our opinion on whether obesity is a disease or not. The following article was my method of communication where I explained my opinions to my classmates.


        A disease is defined as a disorder that impairs the normal functioning of human parts or processes. Obesity affects physical health and is caused by many factors such as a lack of exercise, unstable consumption of food, and mental illness. One-third of U.S. adults are affected by obesity and are forced to seek medical attention when obesity-related conditions cause potential harm. With this in mind, consider that medical costs associated with obesity are estimated at $190 billion by Rueters. The debate on obesity as a disease or lifestyle choice is highly controversial with supportive arguments on both sides.

Exercising and eating are lifestyle choices everyone makes daily. There are groups that believe obesity is caused only by unhealthy choices voluntarily made by individuals. However, I argue that not all people make these choices willingly if they are affected by a mental illness. Another argument on the lifestyle choice is the American environment. Our society is geared for people to make negative health choices with easy access to cheap fast food and a lack of exercise motivation. Society pressures make it difficult for people to seek out healthy life choices, but society cannot be the blame for obesity.

            Consider a main cause of obesity is from a mental disorder. Medical News Today discusses how, “the October issue of the Harvard Mental Health Letter looks at the undefined relationship between mental health and obesity.”  The “undefined” relationship can be strengthened by considering the following examples. Anorexia is an eating disorder that causes people to lose more weight than is considered healthy for their body type. Someone suffering from anorexia also suffers from a mental illness. They use the disorder to control their life, emotions, self-esteem, and happiness; obese people have claimed to use food in order to control their lives in similar ways. Both anorexia and obesity are mental illnesses as people try to control a portion of their life using food and exercise in an unhealthy manner. Nicotine and alcohol dependence are two disorders that are also recognized as mental health problems that cause physical dysfunctions.

            If we start to recognize obesity as a mental illness methods of prevention can be developed to decrease the percentage of people who suffer from obesity. Paula Caplan stated in her article, “Should Obesity Be Called A Mental Disorder” that, “relatively little is known about physical conditions that can lead to obesity, so it is currently virtually impossible to rule out physiological causes of extreme weight gain.” Each patient has specific problems that need prevention and intervention steps formed directly to help them. Treatment needs to be looked at from a physical and psychological point of view. If one area of the body is working improperly, then the whole body is affected.

The issue of obesity as a disease has many factors to be considered and mental illness is one aspect. More research on obesity and the link of mental health would benefit the conversation. In conclusion, obesity is a mental health issue and can be classified as a disease. Do you care to share your opinion? Join the American Psychological Association in their discussion for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual about adding obesity to the manual.



Works Cited:

Brauser, Deborah. “Obesity, Mental Illness ‘Dangerously Linked'” Medscape News Today.

WebMD, LLC, 3 Feb. 2012. Web. 15 Apr. 2013.


Caplan, Paula J. “Should Obesity Be Called A Mental Disorder.” Psychology Today. Sussex

Publishers, LLC, 16 May 2011. Web. 12 Apr. 2013.

“Is Obesity a Mental Health Issue?” Medical News Today. MediLexicon International, 03 Oct.

2004. Web. 13 Apr. 2013.


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