Is There A Connection Between Fat Shaming And Anxiety Disorder?

Is There A Connection Between Fat Shaming And Anxiety Disorder

Some people believe that making overweight people feel ashamed of their weight or eating habits may motivate them to get healthier. Nevertheless, scientific evidence confirms that nothing good happens with this kind of behaviour. Instead of motivating them, fat-shaming makes them feel terrible about themselves. Thereby, causing them to eat more and gain more weight.

Statements that a fat person usually hears from their family, friends and even co-workers is like, “Look at that flabby stomach of yours!” or “Motu”. Generally, almost all of the people who indulge in fat-shaming are slim and never had any real struggle with weight problems. Some people are in the opinion that fat-shaming an overweight person would make them feel ashamed and motivate them to eat healthy food and exercise regularly.

But in reality, this is not true and it does exactly the other way round. Fat-shaming actually makes them feel terrible about themselves which causes them to eat more and more food.

What Is Fat Shaming?

Fat-Shaming basically involves criticizing and harassing overweight people about their weight or eating habits to make them feel ashamed of themselves. Various research shows that much of the discussion on obesity on social media involves fat-shaming which usually turns into harassment and cyberbullying. It is witnessed that this scenario especially takes place against women.

In fact, it is noticed that there are entire online communities where people gather to make fun of overweight people. Nevertheless, this stigma and discrimination against overweight people cause some major psychological harm and worsen the problem.

What Causes Overweight People To Eat More?

Discrimination generally causes stress and negatively affects people. And when it comes to overweight individuals, this stress can drive them to eat more and ultimately gain more weight. In a research study of about 93 women, exposure to weight-stigmatizing information made those who were overweight but not normal weight tend to eat more calories and feel less in control of their eating.

In one of the other study on around 73 overweight women, it was found that those who watched a stigmatizing video began to eat 3 times as many calories compared to those who watched a non-stigmatizing video. 

Numerous other research studies support that any type of fat-shaming causes overweight people to become extremely stressed, eat more calories and thereby gaining more weight.

Fat-shaming Effects On Physical And Mental Health 

When people tend to stigmatise different body sizes and shapes, words have the power to hurt more than just one’s feelings. Various studies suggest that they may have real health consequences.

People who often have reported feeling diminished by negative comments about their weight were three times more likely to have a greater risk of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. On the other hand, people with similar weight who didn’t feel affected by such comments or didn’t receive them altogether did not have any of such symptoms.

The worst part of fat-shaming is the effect on the mental health of such kind of victims. Few of the harmful mental effects of fat-shaming are eating disorders, reduced self-esteem, depression, etc. The fear of rejection due to overweight usually causes people to isolate themselves from the rest. Few of them may undergo severe depression and are unable to cope with that which may even lead to suicide. 

Plenty of research studies prove that suicide is very common among people who are obese, specifically those with extreme obesity.  These researches clearly depict that fat-shaming harms people both physically and mentally.

Also, being fat-shamed shatters the confidence of a person. Moreover, the continuous urge to attain the perfect body mass index (BMI) and get that perfect body shape can put a person in a lot of stress and anxiety.

Owing to all these studies, it will not be incorrect to say that fat-shaming and anxiety disorders are closely connected.

Increased Risk Of Obesity

Many studies which are observational have looked at weight discrimination and the risk of future weight gain and obesity and found that in among 6000 people who are obese participants experienced weight discrimination. This weight discrimination was 2.5 times more likely to become obese over the next few years.

Moreover, obese people who experienced weight discrimination were 3.2 times more likely to remain obese. This clearly suggests that fat-shaming is unlikely to motivate people to lose weight.

Another section of the study of over 3000 people revealed that weight discrimination was linked to 6.67 times greater risk of becoming obese.

Harmful And Severe Effects On Obese People

The harmful and severe effects of fat-shaming go beyond increased weight gain which in itself is serious enough.

Here is a list of some of the other harmful effects supported by studies:

  • Depression – It is quite evident that people who are discriminated against due to weight are at a higher risk of depression and other mental issues. 
  • Eating Disorders – Fat-shaming is often linked to an increased risk of eating disorders such as binge eating.
  • Reduced Self-esteem – Fat-shaming is also linked to lower or reduced self-esteem.
  • Others – By causing stress, weight gain, increased levels of cortisol hormones, and mental problems, fat-shaming or weight discrimination may raise your risk of various chronic diseases.
  • Through all this research it is quite clear that fat-shaming harms people both psychologically and physically.

Risk Of Suicide

As it is already mentioned above, studies show that weight discrimination is most often linked to an increased risk of depression.

For example, one specific data of the study found that those who had experienced weight discrimination were 2.7 times more likely to become depressed. Also, numerous studies indicate that depression is very common among people who are overweight or obese especially those with extreme obesity. 

As it is known, depression is one of the top causes of increased suicide risk, and in a study of over 2500 people, severe obesity was associated with 20 times greater risk of suicidal behaviour and 10 times of greater risk of attempted suicide. 

Although studies related to fat-shaming and suicide risk are lacking, it is possible that the harmful effects of weight discrimination may lead to increased risk of suicide.

What Is An Anxiety Disorder?

Experiencing or facing occasional anxiety is a normal part of life. Moreover, people with anxiety disorders frequently have intense, excessive and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. Generally, anxiety disorders involve repeated episodes of sudden feelings of intense anxiety and fear or terror that reaches a peak within minutes which is termed as panic attacks.

This feeling of anxiety and panic tend to interfere with daily activities, are difficult to control, are out of proportion to the actual danger and can effectively last for a long time. Such people may avoid places or situations to prevent these feelings. Most often these symptoms may start during childhood or the teen years and continue into adulthood.

Examples of anxiety disorders often include generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder also known as social phobia, specific phobias and separation anxiety disorder. An individual can generally have more than one anxiety disorder. Also, sometimes anxiety results from a medical condition that needs treatment. 

No matter what form of anxiety you have, treatment can help.

General Symptoms Of Anxiety Disorder

The most common anxiety signs and symptoms of anxiety include:

  • A feeling of nervousness or restlessness and taking extreme tension 
  • Having a sense of forthcoming danger, panic or doom
  • Experiencing an increased heart rate
  • Tend to breathe rapidly
  • Excessive sweating
  • Experiencing trembling sensation
  • Feeling extremely weak or tired
  • Facing trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present situation.
  • Having trouble while sleeping
  • Experiencing gastric problems i.e gastrointestinal problems
  • Facing difficulty in controlling worrying about things
  • Having the urge to avoid things that specifically trigger anxiety

Is there any way out to Anxiety disorder related to fat-shaming?

No doubt, that fat-shaming and anxiety disorders are closely connected but definitely, there must be some way out of this like any other problem. 

Awareness Is Beneficial

We definitely need to have a public understanding of fat-shaming and obesity being a complex issue, but also there is a need to shift the concentration to overall health rather than just focussing on weight.

Considering fat-shaming as an offence

As fat-shaming and anxiety disorders are connected so some policies are required which could make fat-shaming an offence just like eve-teasing to prevent people from indulging in it.

Role Of Media

We also need to make sure that how the media portrays obese people. Because nowadays the media affects our lives at all levels. Media houses must take on the responsibility to prevent fat-shaming and change the mindset of common people.

Learn To Appreciate Body Positive 

There are basically a few steps that one can take for themselves like identifying body-positive people around them. It thereby helps in the reduction of the intensity of psychological effects fat shaming.

Show Some Self-love

Everyone needs to and practice to engage in self-love which generally increases self-confidence in turn. One should put all their efforts to be healthy instead of trying to fit into stereotyped “Perfection”.

“You are unique”

One should never compare yourself with others. You should always remember that you are unique and best the way you are.

Although what is evident is that fat-shaming and anxiety disorders are connected but these can surely be disconnected with little efforts from all and sundry. When you try to fit into a set mould it can only lead you to uncalled for fat-shaming and anxiety disorders.

Causes Of Anxiety

The causes of anxiety disorders are yet to be fully understood. Various life experiences such as traumatic events appear to trigger anxiety disorders in individuals who are already prone to anxiety. Some inherited traits can also be a factor. 

Medical Causes Of Anxiety

For some individuals, anxiety may be linked to an underlying health issue. While in other cases, anxiety signs and symptoms are the first indicators of a medical illness. If your physician or doctor suspects, your anxiety may have a medical cause and they may order tests to look for signs of a problem.

Examples of medical problems that can be basically linked to anxiety include:

Heart disease 


Thyroid issues such as hyperthyroidism

Respiratory disorders such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma

Drug abuse or misuse and withdrawal

Withdrawal symptoms from alcohol, anti-anxiety medications or other medications

Irritable bowel syndrome or chronic pain

Rare tumours that produce a certain fight hormones

Prevention Of Anxiety

There is no way to predict what will cause someone to develop an anxiety disorder, but you can definitely take steps to reduce the impact of symptoms if you are anxious:

You need to get help early. Anxiety, like most other mental health conditions, can be harder to treat if you wait.

Should stay active and participate in activities that you enjoy and make you feel good about yourself. Also, enjoy social interaction and caring relationships, which can lessen your worries.

Need to avoid alcohol or drug use. Because alcohol and drug abuse can cause or worsen anxiety. In case you are addicted to any of these substances, quitting can make you anxious. Moreover, if you are unable to quit on your own, you must see a doctor or find a support group to help you. 

When You Should See A Doctor?

Visit to a doctor –

  • When you feel like you are worrying too much and it is actually interfering with your work, relationships or other aspects of your life.
  • Your fear, worry or anxiety is simply upsetting to you and difficult to control.
  • You feel depressed all the time and have trouble with alcohol or drug use, or have other mental health concerns along with anxiety.
  • You feel that your anxiety can be linked to a physical health problem.
  • If you have suicidal thoughts or behaviours, you need to seek emergency treatment immediately.

Your worries and anxiety may not go away on their own and they may get worse over time if you don’t seek help. You must see a doctor or a mental health provider before your anxiety gets even worse. It’s much easier to treat if you get help early.

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