By Sandy K. Johnson

It can be a chicken or egg question: Does obesity cause depression, or does depression cause obesity?

In fact, it is a little of both. Obese people have a 55 percent risk of depression, and people with depression have a 58 percent risk of obesity, said Dr. Karen Grothe, a Mayo Clinic bariatric psychologist.

Grothe told National Press Foundation journalists about a range of psychological factors and obesity. Some types of eating disorders:

  • Emotional Eaters. These over-eaters consume more sweet, high-fat foods. Men seek out comfort foods; women choose sweet snacks and carbohydrates. It’s often induced by stress. “The hard part about emotional eating is that it works,” Grothe said. “It works – temporarily.”
  • Night-Eating Syndrome. These people often don’t eat at all in the morning, but at night they can eat from a quarter to half their calories of the entire day, often by gobbling high-calorie snacks.
  • Binge Eaters. Eating a large amount of food in a short period, often in secret. Demographics of binge eaters: 3 percent to 5 percent of women, 2 percent of men. The hallmark feature is loss of control, Grothe said, as well as feeling guilty afterward.

Many people who seek bariatric surgery have a history of depression. The depression eases after surgery – the “honeymoon year” when a patient is losing weight – and then deteriorates over time, she said.