Depression is a debilitating illness; almost everyone has known someone affected by it, but few know that depression doesn’t just cause emotional and mental symptoms. Like other mental illnesses, depression can manifest itself physically. For some people, that leads to unexpected weight gain. Many depression symptoms factor into the weight gain caused by depression, and you may be affected by some or all of them.
Weight Gain Caused by Depression
Weight gain and depression often go hand-in-hand. Depression can be caused by a number of factors, including external stress, internal stress or unbalanced chemical levels in the brain. When you’re depressed, you may find yourself wandering over to the refrigerator more often than usual; emotional eating is a sneaky, hard-to-break habit that can lead to you packing on extra pounds. Since stress is often one of the factors that leads to a depression diagnosis, many depression sufferers find themselves eating when they are actually upset about work, their marriage or finances.
Depression slows down your body. If you pay attention to someone with major depressive disorder, you may notice that their body seems to be depressed as well. Their reaction times may be slower, they move slower in fine and gross motor movements, and seem more tired than non-depressed people. The slowed movement and increased food intake can lead to slower metabolism, which causes more weight gain and fat accumulation.
Another side effect of depression that makes you gain weight is insomnia. If you’re depressed and never seem to be able to get a full night of sleep, you’re not alone; insomnia is a very common side effect of depression.It also causes your body to work less efficiently; you need to get plenty of sleep on a regular basis to be successful at losing weight, and spending hours tossing and turning every night is counterproductive to that goal.
People with depression may suffer from seasonal affective disorder. It’s a type of depression that occurs during the winter months when there is little natural sunlight and the days are shorter. It leads to a depressed mood, oversleeping and carbohydrate cravings. Add these factors to the fact that you can’t get much exercise outside and you’ll see why it is difficult for someone with seasonal affective disorder to avoid gaining weight during the colder months of the year.
How to Stop Weight Gain Caused by Depression
Although weight gain may seem inevitable if you’re depressed, there is a way to fight it, and the great part is that it can also alleviate depression symptoms. Regular exercise keeps extra weight off, and it also leads to increased endorphin release in the brain. Endorphins alleviate depression symptoms, improve mood and stabilize mood when you exercise regularly over a long period of time. Be sure to mix cardio exercise and strength training to get the full benefits of regular exercise.
If you’re worried about depression taking over your life and stopping your weight loss goals, talk to your doctor about setting up an exercise plan that can help you.