Obesophobia: Weight loss obsession is a thing! Let go of it before it’s too late

Are you afraid of gaining weight? You might be suffering from obesophobia. Here's everything you need to know about the condition.
Dr Komal Manshani Published: 8 Nov 2022, 16:00 pm IST
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Obesophobia, as the name suggests, is a type of phobia. Phobias are extremely irrational and inexplicable fears of any specific objects or situations. One such fear is gaining weight, medically called obesophobia. This is not a regular, preoccupation with weight but rather it is a mental health condition where there is an extreme fear of gaining weight.

Scroll down to know everything about obesophobia – the fear of gaining weight!

Symptoms of obesophobia

Common symptoms of obesophobia basically include lots of measures which are taken to prevent weight gain or lose weight. One may find yourself exercising excessively, being overly critical about one’s own self and their weight, avoiding gatherings and social situations which may entail eating or even bringing their own food with them.

People with obesophobia tend to eat small portions and also put in a lot of time and effort in looking, feeling and being thinner. People with obesophobia also face severe anxiety whenever there is a discussion about weight, weight gain etc. Whenever such topics are spoken about, they experience symptoms of anxiety such as shortness of breath, trembling, increased heartbeat, nausea etc.

weight loss obsession
Are you obsessed with weight loss? Image Courtesy: Shutterstock

Diagnosis of this weight loss obsession

Although people with obesophobia may understand that their fears are irrational, they may not be able to help themselves. This may often lead to malnourishment and other mental and physical health concerns. Obesophobia is a type of disorder which is categorized as a specific phobia which is a type of anxiety disorder.

For obesophobia to be diagnosed, the symptoms should be present for a duration of six months leading to the avoidance of any anxiety-causing situation. This condition may also lead to disruption in one’s social and occupational functioning. It can be diagnosed by any mental health expert.

Who is more prone to the condition?

While it can affect both males and females across all ages, females are believed to be at a higher risk. Women, especially adolescents are understood to be more vulnerable to obesophobia.

Causes of weight loss obsession

Obesophobia is categorized as a different form of phobia. This in itself can often lead to additional physical and mental health concerns. It can especially be seen as overlapping with eating disorders like anorexia nervosa, Bulimia. These eating disorders are understood to be more complex, often involving behaviour such as eating, purging after eating, being extremely malnourished, having poor self-worth, etc.

Know the causes of obesophobia. Image Courtesy; Shutterstock

As is true with many other physiological disorders, we are unable to ascertain a single cause that can lead to obesophobia, but there can be several factors that can add up.

1. Internal predispositions: These include genetics or brain chemistry. People who tend to be anxious or have a family history of anxiety or mental illnesses, in general, tend to be more vulnerable.

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2. Media and society play a key role: Our society promotes an image of thin being healthy and desirable. There is an inherent stigma against people who are overweight, they are often ridiculed and often become targets of casual jokes and remarks.

Hence media, popular culture, and fad diets promote unrealistic body sizes often leading to feelings of worthlessness, shame, anxiety etc. Also, people who have been bullied for being overweight or have been brought up in a family of weight-conscious people often suffer from this disorder.

How to prevent obesophobia?

First, it is crucial to understand and identify the symptoms of the condition. Once you have done that, you should reach out for support and help. Having said that, here are some tips that can help you prevent the onset of the disease.

1. Exercise

Regular exercise is highly recommended. It acts as a stress buster and helps reduce and manage anxiety. Not only does it improve your mood, but it also improves sleep.

Exercise to get rid of anxiety due to obesophobia. Image Courtesy: Shutterstock

2. Eat a healthy diet

Basically, sticking to nutritious home-cooked and freshly cooked meals will benefit you physically and mentally.

3. Be mindful

It is vital to be mindful of what you watch and your surroundings. Ensure you are not going overboard or following role models who aren’t eating or living healthily. Avoid content that may trigger anxiety, so that is something you should be aware of.

4. Practice yoga

Meditation, yoga, and breathing exercises are some of the best ways that help you relax. Practicing these can be extremely helpful.

weight loss obsession
Yoga to keep weight loss obsession at bay. Image Courtesy: Shutterstock

5. Seek support

Lastly, you should seek help whenever you feel anxiety is taking over. In case you feel overwhelmed, alone or keeping these things bottled up. You can also join support groups or connect with people struggling with their weight, people suffering from anxiety.

Treatment of obesophobia

When we talk about the treatment of obesophobia, it is usually understood to be a combination of therapy and medication. The therapist can help you identify your negative thoughts and behaviours contributing to the phobia. You can also look out for the triggers and learn how to manage anxiety. With professional help, you can learn coping skills to manage anxiety. Medication, of course, also helps you in managing the condition.

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About the Author

Dr Komal Manshani, Consultant, Psychiatry, Max Smart Super Speciality Hospital, Saket ...Read More

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