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National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month: Obesity can take a heavy toll on children’s emotional health

09-07-17 Category: Health

National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month: Obesity can take a heavy toll on children’s emotional health

Gary (name changed) can barely make it to his apartment on the first floor without using the elevator. The 43-year-old man from San Diego dreads moments when there has been a technical fault, compelling him to huff and puff his way up the short flight of steps to his door. “As a child, I was always overweight,” recalls Gary. Being the object of scorn and ridicule as child, and later during his teens, he struggled with low self-worth and depression for years.

In fact, Gary says that he couldn’t believe that he weighed over 21 stones, a little before his 18th birthday. He blames his compulsive eating behaviors to be one of the major causes, besides genetics. “It has been an exceptionally tough and painful journey, both physically and emotionally,” he says.

Gary is not the only one who has experienced a painful childhood grappling with obesity. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the percentage of children with obesity in the United States has more than tripled since the 1970s. Today, about 20 percent children aged 6 to 19 years have obesity, reveals the CDC data.

Battling a ballooning waistline during childhood render children vulnerable to not only physical illnesses but also a host of emotional problems, which may spill over to adulthood. Right from being bullied at school and body shamed at home, carrying the burden of those extra pounds of flesh are known to quadruple the odds of developing chronic depression, in addition to obesity during one’s adulthood.

The consequences of childhood obesity have overarching implications not only on the afflicted children, but also on their families and surrounding communities. Studies show that obese children are often victims of peer bullying, which could lead to depressive disorders and intense feelings of worthlessness. The causes of obesity are many, but the most common ones are lack of awareness about the condition, parental failure to prepare healthy food at home and deceptive marketing tactics to push unhealthy junk food.

How do eating disorders gain hold in children?

Bullying someone for their body weight can contribute in great measure to the development of an eating disorder. Experts say that in a bid to deal with the psychological pain of body shaming experiences, children may be drawn toward food instead of moving away from it. Such circumstances mostly culminate in binge-and-purge behaviors. Binging on food provides such children the much-required comfort to bear the shame, whereas they believe that inducing forced vomiting can expel the unwanted extra calories from the system. Over time, the child may get addicted to such habits and end up becoming a bulimic patient. Therefore, professional assistance is the key to helping children battling problems such as obesity, eating disorders, along with mental health issues.

In the wake of the growing numbers of childhood obesity victims, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has designated September 2017 as National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month to spread awareness about the condition among families and organizations.

Way forward

Studies suggest that children with obesity are more likely to experience anxiety, depression and other mental problems, which may continue into their adulthood. If you or your loved one is battling obesity-related depression, get in touch with Sovereign Health’s state-of-the-art treatment centers for depression spread across the U.S. You may also call our 24/7 helpline or chat online to know about our effective inpatient programs for depression.

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