Just like other phobias, Obesophobia can stem from internal predispositions and traumatic events. This phobia refers to the abnormal fear of gaining weight. Also known as pocrescophobia, the condition is more prevalent in women but can be present in men as well. Obesophobia is a kind of anxiety disorder, and like the rest of the phobias, this condition also involves irrational and intense fear of a specific situation.
People suffering from Obesophobia can feel an exaggerated sense of anxiety while thinking or talking about weight gain. Patients may suffer from overwhelming dread around the situation that is associated with weight gain. If somebody is scared of gaining weight, they will go out of their way to avoid it. The efforts, however, are not healthy. There is an increased risk of developing eating disorders.
How do people develop Obesophobia?
There are no clear reasons as to why people develop Obesophobia. Various factors are linked with the onset of the condition.
In a society like today’s, where people have come a long way, trying to get over stigmas, some still exist. Weight stigma is present in most countries, and people are predominantly judged based on their weight. In Western societies, where thinness is considered a charm ingredient, weight stigma seeps in. People might experience weight stigma from factors like peer pressure and family expectations. The stigma generally discriminates against people who suffer from obesity or are overweight. This might result in the development of fear of gaining weight among people.
Many anxiety disorders also contribute to Obesophobia. Individuals with social anxiety disorders or the fear of societal rejection can get Obesophobia. There is a good chance that people who take the attitude of society on weight gain seriously can get terrified if the scale moves a little higher.
As society gains pace and moves towards a more fashionist era, more and more people have started idealizing thinness. In modern society, weight gain is considered a flaw. People who have a strong need of getting into the perfectionist bracket are at a higher risk of getting Obesophobia. Perfectionism is usually related to the pressure from society and friends, and some people also have a genetic tendency for it.
Obesophobia can stem from personal experiences too. People who get teased for their appearance or weight try hard to escape negative judgment. As a result of this, many are afraid of gaining weight and get anxiety regarding the same.
How do you know you have Obesophobia?
The symptoms include having severe negative emotions when talking or thinking about weight gain. This can include:
- High blood pressure
- An intense and overwhelming fear
- Panic attacks
These feelings can get persistent when affected people experience weight gain or are involved in situations that can contribute to weight gain, like being in social events involving food. People with Obesophobia can try many things to avoid weight gain, including:
- Counting calories obsessively
- Frequent dieting
- Exercising too much
The complications and risk factors related to Obesophobia
One of the primary complications of Obesophobia is having an unhealthy and obsessive reaction to food and body weight. This condition increases the risk of getting an eating disorder, which is then characterized by other dangerous eating behaviours. Some common eating disorders associated with Obesophobia include:
Anorexia Nervosa is developing an intense fear of weight gain. Individuals suffering from this condition often think that they are abnormally overweight or underweight. Some of the common symptoms for Anorexia Nervosa, along with Obesophobia, includes:
- Distorted body image
- Severely restricted food intake
- Extreme thinness
- Obsession with body shape and weight
- Distorted body image
- Forced vomiting
- Excessive exercising
- Frequent use of diuretics and laxatives
Anorexia nervosa is not only about the problem with food or weight. People experiencing this issue may find rigorous weight loss and extreme dieting as ways to cope with underlying emotional issues. People with Anorexia nervosa lack calories, which can then lead to multi-organ failure and muscle wasting.
Another disorder associated with Obesophobia is Bulimia nervosa, where individuals undergo recurring episodes of purging and bingeing. Purging means getting rid of excess calories with unhealthy behaviours like forced vomiting, fasting, excessive exercising, and frequent usage of laxatives/diuretics. Bingeing, on the other hand, is eating more than normal food in short periods. People with bulimia can be slightly overweight, underweight, or have moderate weight. These behaviours are related to Obesophobia. Bulimia Nervosa can be identified with other symptoms like:
- Hiding food for bingeing
- Anxiety about food
- Intense mood changes
- Avoiding situations involving food
Anorexia Nervosa: When to seek medical help
Anorexia nervosa is common in patients who experience Obesophobia. If the condition threatens your daily life, it is best to seek medical help. People should see a doctor when they:
- Experience intense anxiety thinking about weight gain
- Undergo unhealthy and frequent dieting
- Develop negative body image
- Avoid social events with food
- Obsess over weight loss.
- Restrict food intake
- Exercise way too much
- Vomit on purpose
- Count calories obsessively
These symptoms are an indication that Obesophobia has led to eating disorders like Anorexia Nervosa.
There is no formal test to determine whether or not you have Obesophobia. But just like other anxiety disorders, this condition can also be identified by a mental health provider. To determine the presence of Obesophobia, the health provider will take a psychological evaluation. They might ask you questions about the symptoms, evaluate eating behavior, and analyze medical, social, and psychiatric history.
Treatment for Obesophobia
Obesophobia is commonly treated by a mental health provider. The goal of the treatment approach is to manage the fear regarding weight gain and correct or reduce the risk of an eating disorder. If an individual is diagnosed with Obesophobia along with an eating disorder like Anorexia Nervosa, treatment can involve different approaches.
In this approach medical professionals with talk to the individual over multiple sessions. The session is directed to decrease the anxiety related to weight gain and simultaneously increase the body image. One of the most common methods used in psychotherapy involves cognitive behavioural therapy. This involves changing unhealthy beliefs, recognizing distorted patterns, and learning positive habits.
Usually, Phobias are not treated with medicines. But if the health provider thinks that Obesophobia is linked directly to anxiety disorder, they might help you with anti-anxiety drugs. These drugs involve antipsychotics, mood stabilizers, and anti-depressants. As anxiety and eating disorder co-exist, your doctor can also prescribe medication if you are diagnosed with an eating disorder.
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