Obesity Incites Fear, Depression in Women

Obesity is emotionally disturbing to women, according to a new study, which indicates that slender women feel anxious and depressed when they see someone who is overweight.

Women feel the pressure to be thin much more than men, according to a new study that found normal weight women who are in good health actually get depressed at the sight of someone who is overweight, because of concerns about their own body image. Male study subjects showed no indication of being disturbed by images of obese people.

In the study, scientists conducted brain scans on fit, well adjusted women to test their psychological reactions when shown pictures of people who are obese. Even though most said they had no ill feelings surrounding obesity, their brain scans told a different story.

Lead researcher Dr. Mark Allen, a neuroscientist from Brigham Young University, told LiveScience journal, “Even though they claim they don’t care about body issues…their brains are showing that it really bugs them to think about the prospect of being overweight.”

Surprisingly, the brain activity in the women participants showed similarities that are seen in women who suffer from eating disorders, like anorexia and bulimia. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), researchers noted that for female study participants, pictures of obese women elicited a spike in the medial prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain thought to be involved in self-assessment and evaluation of self-worth.

In contrast, the brain scans of fit, well adjusted men didn’t show any sign that they were disturbed by the idea of obesity. Researchers speculate that the difference between the men and women is a result of the greater societal pressure that women feel to be thin, rather than biological difference between the sexes.

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