Prevention of Obesity among Individuals with Mental Illnesses

The compelling evidence exists that significant percentage of individuals with mental disorders experience poor physical health and wellbeing in comparison with the general population. Moreover, obesity is the major risk factor that results in reduced life expectancy of people with mental health problems. The given research paper aims to shed light on effective management and preventive strategies that can assist mentally ill patients in combating a pressing obesity problem.

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Although obesity is recognized as a long-term and complex phenomenon, Morden, Mistler, Weeks and Bartels (2008) claim that numerous methods and strategies can help obese individuals with mental disorders to avoid premature death. Furthermore, Ruter (2008) insists on a wide range of influential interventions, including public health strategies, effective behavioral treatment, psychiatric as well as weight loss medications, and, finally, surgery, that will positively impact the overall health of obese patients with severe mental illnesses. From a behavioral psychology perspective, the mechanism of weight gain among mentally ill people is usually either pharmacologic, nonpharmacologic or has double nature. Therefore, management and prevention of obesity in patients with mental illnesses should focus on both pharmacological and nonpharmacological interventions (Megna, Schwartz, Siddiqui & Rojas, 2011). Monitoring, efficient dietary suggestions, and motivational behavioral strategies are the main types of nonpharmacological practices and interventions that assist people with mental health problems in combating obesity (McCarron, Xiong, Keenan, Nasrallah, 2015). On the contrary, pharmacologic interventions concentrate the efforts on negative weigh gain impacts of various antipsychotic medications (Megna et al., 2011).

Taking into consideration the recommendations of the American Psychiatric Association and North American Association for the Study of Obesity, such types of nonpharmacological preventive strategies as baseline screening and regular monitoring are advantageous for obese individuals with mental disorders (Megna et al., 2011). In addition, cohort studies and numerous physician surveys provide convincing data that monitoring is not less effective because this approach eliminates the adverse metabolic effects that contribute to significant weight gain. Well-developed dietary suggestions and numerous behavioral strategies provide physicians with promising results (Megna et al., 2011). The results of the experiments that investigated the impact of balanced dietary programs and physical exercising prove that during 24 weeks patients with mental health problems managed to lose approximately 4,l5-6 kg (Megna et al., 2011).

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Thus, the statistical data, cohort studies, and physician surveys motivated researchers to come to conclusions that the use of effective behavioral interventions, especially dietitian counseling and self-directed diet, lead to positive outcomes. Abundant pharmacologic methods and strategies in the prevention of obesity among mentally ill patients have evidenced their effectiveness. Multiple statistical tests with participation of patients with schizophrenia, dipolar disorder, and other mental illnesses prove that the use of sibutramine resulted in significant weight loss among patients with mental problems (Megna et al., 2011).

Radke, Parks, and Ruter (2010) claim that because obesity among persons with severe mental disorders is a public epidemic in the USA, there is an urgent need in improved obesity prevention strategies among people with mental problems. The researchers emphasize on prevailing assumption that current obesity intervention and preventive strategies are not effective enough in addressing the needs of mentally ill patients. At the same time, numerous effective medications, especially phentermine and sibutramine, can be used for treatment of obesity among this target population. However, Huftless et al. (2013) stresse that many physicians are either unfamiliar with them, or feel uncomfortable with prescribing these medications to mentally ill people notwithstanding that behavioral and medication methods of treatment result in weight loss that is equal to 10-15%. What is more, bariatric surgery is a good life-saving intervention for mentally ill patients with morbid obesity (Huftless et al., 2013). Thus, on the one hand, obesity results in poor physical health, low self-esteem, severe problems with employability, and, finally, social isolation of mentally ill patients. On the other hand, surveys of physicians and statistical data show that psychoeducation, effective behavioral interventions, medications that foster weight loss, and, finally, bariatric surgery are a few recommendations by mental health professionals to people with serious mental illnesses (Radke et al., 2010).

Similarly, McElroy (2009) insists on significance of behavioral weight management, balanced diet, and physical exercising. The researcher claims that behavioral weight management has always been the cornerstone of effective obesity treatment. In other words, experts in behavioral science state that obese patients with mental disorders should follow three main goals, including minimized caloric intake, continuous physical activities, and influential cognitive-behavioral strategies that foster positive attitudes towards healthy dietary habits and exercising (McElroy, 2009). Moreover, although many of the medications increase obesity among mentally ill people, the other types of drugs may assist people in combating obesity without serious adverse effects (McElroy, 2009). In addition, some types of antidepressants and anticonvulsants are associated with sufficient weight loss and absence of adverse side effects among obese individuals with mental disorders (McElroy, 2009).

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As a result, the contemporary scholarly literature review allowed identification and evaluation of effective management and prevention strategies that give a chance to mentally ill patients to combat obesity and increase their life expectancy. In this light, psychological education of the target population group, behavioral interventions, balanced diet, continuous physical exercises, numerous medications, and, finally, surgery are the most effective, safe, and tolerated methods that assist in addressing obesity among mentally ill patients. Based on the fact that obesity as well as various mental illnesses are currently overlapping public health concerns, efficient preventive strategies are the best option for mentally ill people to improve the quality of their lives and overcome other related societal obstacles. Further research on obesity and mental health problems is needed because in-depth studying of the phenomenon will contribute to the development of more up-to-date and effective prevention strategies and programs tailored to promote weight reduction among risky populations.

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