Lt Col Phillips
Childhood obesity can increase the risk for physical health problems, and it’s also associated with greater risk for social, psychological, and emotional problems. Dr. Patel, can you tell us about some of the emotional effects of childhood obesity?
Of course, Dr. Phillips. Obese children and adolescents often suffer from discrimination, teasing, and bullying by their peers. This kind of peer rejection can cause emotional and psychological harm, including poor self-esteem and depression. These issues often don’t resolve for many years, and children may carry these burdens into adulthood.
Additionally, kids who are unhappy with their weight are more likely to develop unhealthy dieting habits or eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia. They are also at higher risk for substance abuse.
Obese children have a tendency to mature earlier, which can lead to other problems. For example, children or adolescents who are overweight may be taller and more sexually mature than their peers, which can raise expectations about how they should act. In addition, irregular menstrual cycles and fertility problems in adulthood are problems that obese girls may experience.
Many children who are overweight suffer none of these emotional issues, but it’s important to understand that obesity increases the risk for these problems. If you’re worried about your child, talk to your healthcare provider about weight loss programs and lifestyle changes, as well as recommendations for counseling or other mental health resources.