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June 1963

Anxiety and Depression in Obese Dieters

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1963;8(6):530-535. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1963.01720120004002

Approximately 15,000,000 people in the United States are at least moderately obese, that is, 20% or more above their ideal weight.1 In order to lose weight, many of these engage in dieting under the care of a physician. Obesity is commonly considered to be an evidence of serious unconscious emotional conflict, and many investigators have stated that dieting can and does upset the precarious psychological equilibrium with catastrophic results. In one investigation, Stunkard2 reported, "For a large number of overweight persons, the mechanical prescription of reducing diets has had unfortunate consequences. For a smaller number it has been disastrous." He found that 51% of the obese women in a nutrition clinic reported untoward responses to previous attempts at weight reduction, and a more detailed investigation of 25 women revealed that 9 had suffered emotional disturbances of psychotic intensity during present and past attempts at weight reduction.