Next time you munch on that mouth-watering pizza with extra cheese or enjoy a king-size burger with French fries and soft drink, remember that too much of junk food can not only add extra kilos around your belly but may lead you to depression, warn experts.
Binge eating episodes lead to obesity which, in turn, causes depression owing to weight stigma, poor self-esteem and reduced mobility.
On the other side, depression may also lead to obesity as such people tend to engage in ’emotional binge eating’ to deal with the pain of rejection, have poor sleep patterns and turn into couch potatoes.
“Some people especially suffering with atypical depression tend to eat more, sometimes in a binge pattern. Owing to increased eating, there is weight gain which leads to further exacerbation of depressive symptoms,” explains Ashish Kumar Mittal, MD psychiatry from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences.
“In such people, eating relieves stress for a brief duration by providing a distraction from disturbing thoughts,” he says.
Atypical depression is a subtype of major depression that involves increased appetite or weight gain, sleepiness or excessive sleep, marked fatigue or weakness, mood swings and a feeling of rejection.
“The most common cause of depression is neurotransmitter (a substance in the body that carries a signal from one nerve cell to another) imbalance in the brain, especially involving serotonin and norepinephrine,” Mittal told IANS.
Increased appetite or weight gain, sleeplessness or excessive sleep, fatigue or weakness and anxiety are general symptoms of depression.
People suffering from depression generally eat in binge pattern to comfort themselves but it may be comforting only for a while as it becomes a vicious cycle of eating more to feel better – than feeling worse.
“Psychologically or biologically, it is believed that eating leads to a release of certain chemicals which lead to satisfaction or relaxation. We do have patients who binge eat because of depression,” adds Dr Manish Jain, Senior Consultant (psychiatrist) from BLK super speciality hospital in the capital.
Apart from depression and stress, other causes of binge eating are a lack of confidence, loneliness, family history (related to genes) and hormonal deficiency. Binge-eating disorder is also defined as uncontrollable, excessive eating, followed by feelings of shame and guilt.
People with eating disorders develop habits that can cause a great deal of harm. They may diet, exercise or eat excessively which can have life-threatening or fatal consequences, including atypical depression.
Experts feel that women suffer a great deal more than men on this front owing to biological and psychological factors. A typical depression is seen two to three times more commonly in women than in men.
“Women suffer twice as compared to men from depression because of multiple factors like hormonal, social position or economic position,” says Jain.
“The most affected age group is the 40s but I would like to add that depression is a disease which can occur at any age,” Jain warns.
According to a recent report by the World Health Organisation (WHO), depression is a common illness worldwide, with an estimated 350 million people affected by it.
“People suffering from depression should avoid isolation, substance abuse and unsupervised medicine use. Patients should seek treatment for medical issues, if present,” advises Mittal.
The patient should communicate his suffering to his close family members so that they can help him or her in need.
“It is always better to seek professional help in cases of depression to prevent self-harm, social and occupational complication. Treatment of depression is done by proper medication and psychotherapy,” Dr Mittal adds.
Binge eating can be controlled by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, getting engaged in creative work, avoiding junk food, alcohol, and smoking and eating a balanced diet in intervals, the experts advise.