Obesity in children is a major cause of social and emotional difficulties for those affected. It is one of the easiest diseases to recognise, but probably one of the most difficult to treat as overweight children are very likely to become overweight adults and to maintain their unhealthy lifestyles and to transfer these habits to their own children.
One of the most important psychological processes during childhood is the development of self-esteem and obese children are prone to developing very poor self-esteems, negative body images and to expressing great dissatisfaction with their physical appearance.
Studies have revealed that normal weight children rank their obese peers as the least desirable playmate in their class and that about a third of obese children do not have any reciprocated friendships. This situation is even worse for overweight girls as they are subjected to significantly higher levels of teasing, bullying and exclusion from social circles by their peers.
Complications from obesity in childhood may results in children missing 4 times more school than their normal weight peers. This often leads to decreased school performance and will further contribute to negative perceptions about themselves.
A study by Schwimmer et al (2003) reports that when a large, random sample of children were asked to rate their quality of life, the rates reported by obese children were the same as those reported by children with cancer undergoing chemotherapy.
Taking this into account it is no surprise that overweight children are often diagnosed with psychological disorders such as depression, social withdrawal, eating disorders and behaviour problems.
Obesity in children is a very serious problem and requires immediate intervention. Check out the article on addressing obesity in children for advise on how to approach this difficult topic.