Childhood obesity is a serious problem in the world today. 42 million children worldwide are estimated to be overweight or obese, if this trend continues then the number will increase to 70 million by 2025. However it is still circumstantial whether obesity is a cause or a consequence of psychological disorders.
Starting with the idea that children who are overweight are often made fun of by their peers in most social settings. This causes them to feel depressed, anxious, etc. at a very early age causing them to develop a low self esteem and a poor self image. In addition to that when these children are compared with other children of a healthier weight they found to be more depressed. Female children were found to be more depressed as compared to males due to the pressure society puts on their physical image whereas males were found to have more depressive symptoms rather than depression. In addition to that these children may develop other internalized psychological problems such as paranoia.
Studies show later on that adolescents who suffer from obesity are more likely to develop mood disorders in their adulthood which can later on lead to suicidal thoughts. Family influence/home environment also play a role in a child’s psychological ability to cope with these emotions. Maternal or Paternal mental history is also a factor in the way a child copes. In addition, the relationship between the child and his family members contributes to the levels of stress, anxiety or burden he/she may feel.
In regards to self esteem, children with obesity have significantly lower self esteem as compared to their peers who do not. As mentioned above female children have greater negative impacts in regards to self worth, and also in regards to group acceptance as there is more pressure on physical appearance by peers. The self esteem of children with obesity appears to decrease with increase of age because of their dissatisfaction with their body types. Especially in today’s world where social media and movies/television constantly give children of all age access to profiles and accounts of men/women who are within the societal norms of beauty. Children have the tendency to constantly compare themselves to these people and feel inadequate if they don’t fit into these standards of beauty. In addition to that, ridicule and rejection from peer groups also makes them feel less worthy. However, it is studied that parental intervention does not have a negative effect on a child’s body image and is usually positively affecting the child. In my opinion this is obviously due to the fact that parents have a very loving and sympathetic outlook on their children and don’t hold them to any physical standards.
Children with obesity are more likely to experience multiple psychosocial problems as compared to their peers with healthier weights. Children with obesity may tend to lash out and show aggressive, disruptive or disruptive behaviour due to the frustration they feel upon being rejected by their peers. In my opinion, I think that children with these sort of psychosocial issues regarding non acceptance, or bullying may also tend to retreat emotionally and become reclusive and isolate themselves from their peers due to fear of ridicule. Bullying can cause a negative effect on a child's performance in school, they fail to explore their talents, interests, ideas in class due to the resentment they feel from their peers. All of these factors can lead to unhealthy weight control related behaviours.
Children with obesity are very likely to develop eating disorders, especially with girls entering into their teenage years. These girls may go to extreme measures to try to reduce their weights by taking laxatives, inducing vomiting, fasting etc. These children feel that if they take part in these sorts of extreme weight loss measures they will finally be accepted by their peers. Engaging in these activities at a young age can cause them to carry these eating disorders into their teenage-hood and adulthood.
Evidence from the article shows that obesity can be effectively treated in younger children by engaging them in more physical activities and implementing healthy diets along with support from family members. This along with proper psychological care from parents will be very beneficial for the child to build up their self image throughout their lives and will help them develop healthy coping mechanisms when dealing with stress and anxiety. Body image issues will be much fewer when the child learns to not put all their self worth on their physical attributes.
To conclude, what I understood from this article was that obesity is something that affects a child psychologically and psychosocially, and these effects are something that can follow them throughout their lives if they are not tackled at an early age. It can cause great suffering not only in childhood but also in adulthood leading to depression, deep rooted self hatred, unhealthy dieting, eating disorders etc. that require a great deal of therapy to overcome. All of these factors can affect the quality of life an individual may lead in the future due to their psychological burdens, they may never fully exert themselves, or even have the will to try to which makes them unable at a very young age to achieve their full potential.
These children may often feel victimized due to the constant marketing on certain media platforms to have the perfect figure and to lose weight which makes them feel like they need to take drastic measures to lose weight rather than a more slow paced healthy one, this needs to be conveyed as wrong to them by their parents/doctors. Interventions with children are important for them to understand that their value does not only come from their physical appearance.
In addition to the above point, parents in Indian society may sometimes tend to put a great deal of pressure on children to look a certain way, it should be expressed to them the negative effects that will have on their child. Being compared with other children, or being told to constantly eat less or lose weight will create a very unhealthy relationship with not only food but also with themselves as they will constantly feel inadequate and isolated not only in social settings by their peers but also by their family members.
Having the ideal at a young age that self worth comes from physical appearance will always make them feel inadequate even if they lose weight, that is why interventions to show them that there is more to being satisfied with oneself than outward appearance is important especially in such an important age where children absorb everything that they are told and see. A good support system in their home is key for them to achieve a healthy body and mindset to carry with them in the future.