The Link Between Anxiety and Obesity

MTHFR has been implicated in a variety of physical and mental health problems, including blood clots, heart attacks, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, cancer, chronic pain, migraines, neural tube defects, and recurrent miscarriage. Those with MTHFR also have a higher risk than the general population of developing an anxiety disorder.

Those with MTHFR need to be aware of cardiovascular risk factors that make blood clots, heart attacks, and strokes more likely. Unfortunately, the link between anxiety and conditions which can increase the risk of cardiovascular complications in those with MTFR, including obesity, is significant and important to be aware of.

You’re Not Alone with MTHFR

MTHFR, or methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase, is a relatively common genetic mutation that has been getting increasing attention in the medical field. There are two variants of the mutation: C677T and A1298C. About 40% of the American population has at least one copy of the first variant another 40% have the second. It is also possible to acquire one copy of each mutation.

The gene mutation is inherited from your parents at the time of your conception. If you acquire a mutation from each parent, you will likely have a homozygous mutation, which some have implicated in a variety of health issues. Get tested for MTHFR mutations.

Even though you’re not alone in this condition, it is still common to experience feelings of isolation and fears when you find out you carry the mutation.

What Are the Symptoms of Anxiety?

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses in the United States, affecting over 18% of the adult population each year. Additionally, a similar number of children and teens show symptoms of anxiety disorders, and many people will, in specific circumstances, develop situational anxiety.

While anxiety can be a normal part of life, persistent or excessive anxiety that interferes with daily activities is a cause for concern. There are many types of anxiety disorders, ranging from specific phobias to generalized anxiety and panic disorders. With specific phobias, symptoms will be felt only in particular circumstances, whereas with generalized anxiety, symptoms can be felt for hours a day, nearly every day.

Symptoms of anxiety disorders can include:

  • Feeling nervous or tense
  • Restlessness
  • Increased heart rate
  • Feelings of impending doom, death, or danger
  • Hyperventilation or rapid breathing
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Sweating without exercising or being hot
  • Feeling fatigued or weak
  • Difficulty sleeping or insomnia
  • Gastrointestinal problems, such as stomachaches or diarrhea
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Avoiding circumstances that trigger anxiety
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pressure in the chest
  • Worry that is difficult to control

How is Anxiety Related to Obesity?

Research is becoming more clear that a link exists between obesity and mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression. In fact, many cases of obesity develop in people with underlying anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and depression. Some with anxiety turn to substance abuse to cope with their symptoms, requiring drug and alcohol treatment that can address both the addiction and the underlying mental health disorder.

However, for many, food becomes the drug of choice because it is legal and easy to obtain, socially acceptable, and doesn’t have the immediate physical ramifications of other forms of addiction. People with anxiety sometimes self-medicate with “comfort foods” to deal with stress or difficult situations. This can lead to overeating, and thus, obesity.

Anxiety can also be related to obesity if eating becomes compulsive. Those with anxiety often develop compulsions to deal with the uncomfortable symptoms. When one compulsively eats, they often consume far more than what their body needs, leading to weight gain.

For those with anxiety caused by traumatic experiences, and especially sexual assault, eating and becoming overweight can actually be intentional. Research has found that obese female patients with a history of sexual trauma connect their larger body size with being a defense against future assaults. New research also shows that early childhood trauma can actually damage a person’s metabolism, causing obesity later in life.

How Can Anxiety be Managed?

While anxiety is relatively common and can have a significant impact on your life, the good news is that anxiety can be managed. If your anxiety disorder is severe or profoundly impacts your ability to work, go to school, raise a family, or fulfil your responsibilities, you might consider talking with a therapist and perhaps taking medication to help with your symptoms.

The following ideas can also help you self-manage your anxiety.

  • Practice deep breathing: Anxiety can cause you to breathe shallow, contributing to feelings of shakiness or dizziness. If you feel anxious, practice taking slow, deep breaths. This can help you get enough oxygen into your body and can also help to slow racing thoughts down.
  • Eat a healthy diet: While anxiety might cause you not to feel hungry, eating a healthy diet of plants and whole grains can help manage your anxiety. Some nutrients, such as B6, are essential for regulating serotonin levels in the brain and calming anxiety.
  • Limit caffeine and sugar: While desserts and soft drinks can help us feel better in the moment, as the sugar and caffeine are processed, your body might actually feel more anxious.
  • Exercise: One of the best ways to combat anxiety is to spend at least 20 minutes a day exercising. This can help to channel that restless energy while also flooding your body with endorphins to help boost your mood.
  • Practice relaxation: Deep breathing, yoga, tai chi, and meditation are all good ways to relax your body and focus your mind. If these aren’t your cup of tea, try participating in martial arts, getting a massage, or blasting some of your favorite music!
  • Journaling: While some people can pinpoint exactly what situations cause anxiety, others might not yet be aware of their triggers. Daily journaling can help process emotions, identify triggers, and work through anxiety-provoking situations in a safe and private way.

With MTHFR often comes a host of cardiovascular risk factors, including obesity, that we need to be aware of. Reducing those risk factors can help us to live a longer and healthier life. Managing anxiety is one of the most important ways to combat obesity and reduce its impact on our heart. With a healthy mind and a healthy body, you can live and thrive with MTHFR.

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