Obesity and Mental Health – Complicated and Complex

To round up my posts on the obesity articles of the January issue of the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, I would like to briefly highlight some of my comments published in an editorial I wrote for this issue.

Reader will by now be familiar of the many links between obesity and mental health problems. With regard to this relationship, I write:

“Thus, while it is not complicated to appreciate the fact that mental health is an important determinant of body weight, it is also important to recognize that this relationship is complex.

While the links between mental illness and weight gain can be as simple as the induction of ‘hedonic hyperphagia’ with the use of ‘atypical’ antipsychotics, they can be as complex as the link between early childhood trauma and binge eating disorder or the recurrence of addictions following bariatric surgery.”

I conclude with what I have said often enough:

“It is therefore of considerable importance that mental health practitioners familiarize themselves with the complexity of obesity and its management whilst, by the same notion, anyone attempting to manage obesity requires at least basic competencies in the art and science of assessing mental health.

Indeed, nowhere are mental and physical health closer related to one another than in the context of the mental health and obesity epidemics – close enough perhaps to consider them close cousins, if not siblings. While reducing the burden of mental health on Canadians may well go a long way in improving their physical health, reducing the burden of obesity on Canadians without also addressing their often underlying mental health problems will prove virtually impossible.”

I do hope that this issue of the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, will draw more attention to this relationship and will hopefully receive feedback on this from my readers and colleagues.

Edmonton, Alberta

p.s. Readers in Edmonton may be interested in attending a CIHR Café Scientifique: Is Canada ignoring obesity in men? Wednesday, February 15, 2012, 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Edmonton City Hall (Hosted by the CIHR Institute of Gender and Health and the Canadian Obesity Network).