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Anxiety and Stress Disorders

Obesity and Anxiety Attacks

01/27/2005

Question:

How does obesity cause anxiety attacks?

Answer:

I have actually never heard of obesity CAUSING anxiety attacks.  I don't believe there is any evidence of a physical, genetic or psychological cause for obesity causing anxiety.  However... there is an association with anxiety leading to weight gain and obesity.  And people with eating disorders, including compulsive overeating, bulimia and anorexia, often have co-existing anxiety and depression.

Obesity is defined as being significantly overweight with a body mass index over 30  (go to http://nhlbisupport.com/bmi/bmicalc.htm for a BMI calculator to figure out your BMI).  In some people, obesity might be considered a physical symptom of depression or anxiety.  And just like with other physical symptoms, as the obesity gets worse, it can make a person feel more anxious and depressed.  That is why, when treating people who are obese, a psychological, as well as physical, plan is often included.

However, not all obese people are anxious, and certainly not all anxious people are obese.  They are related to each other, but one does not necessarily cause the other to happen.

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Response by:

Nancy   Elder, MD Nancy Elder, MD
Associate Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati