Lipedema and mental health

It’s little wonder that there is a clear connection between Lipedema and mental health issues. A life plagued with negative body image, heaviness and discomfort is enough to make anyone feel depressed.

Did you know that around 85% of women say that Lipedema affects their mental health? 85% is a staggeringly high percentage. That’s more than 8 out of every 10 women with Lipedema that suffer with some sort of mental health issues; whether it’s binge eating or extreme dieting, body dysmorphia, low self esteem, depression, anxiety, suicidal feelings, self harm or a general lack of confidence.

In my personal experience, Lipedema has caused severe body dysmorphia resulting in spouts of depression throughout my teenage and adult life. I don’t believe it has been the sole factor in my mental health issues but it certainly hasn’t helped. But what do these mental health issues look like for other Lipedema sufferers?

Lipedema and binge eating

Due to Lipedema being a physical condition that doesn’t respond to diet and exercise, it can regularly result in sufferers going down a path of yoyo dieting and binge eating. Especially if they are undiagnosed.

When women don’t see any results from healthy eating and exercise regimes in the areas of their body they despise, it’s easy to see why extreme diets might seem like the only choice.

I spent years wondering why I could lose weight from the rest of my body but my lower legs stayed the same size. Unfortunately, in my uni days, I developed what I now realise was an eating disorder. I consumed so little calories that the rest of my body became skeletal, while my legs remained unaffected. Sadly this is probably the case with many other lippy ladies.

A cycle of extreme dieting and then binge eating when you fail to see results is a common theme for ladies who have Lipedema. What’s the point in eating well if it isn’t going to get rid of our stubborn Lipedema fat? Well it might not remove our fat, but it can definitely relieve some of our symptoms such as pain and heaviness. See my blog ‘Best diet for Lipedema’ for more details.

Lipedema and body dysmorphia

The definition of body dysmorphia, or BBD, is a mental health condition where a person spends a lot of time worrying about flaws in their appearance. These flaws are often unnoticeable to others. I think I can safely say that the majority of women with Lipedema have probably suffered with body dysmorphia at some point in their life. How can we not?

Lipedema and Body Dysmorphia

We are constantly told that we need to look a certain way and the women we see in magazines are always airbrushed to perfection. Our body type has never been represented online or in the media so of course we are going to think that there’s something wrong with it.

Since getting my Lipedema diagnosis at the end of last year, it has been so refreshing to speak to other incredible ladies who have Lipedema. Hearing their stories and seeing their images online has helped me so much and has reminded me that I’m not alone in this battle. We have an amazing community online, my advice is to make the most of it. Everyone is at different points in their journey, we can learn a lot from each other.

Lipedema and depression

It seems that Lipedema and depression go hand in hand. Depression can compromise our ability to self-manage our Lipedema and the compounded feelings of helplessness can take you down a dark path.

An inability to lose weight from your ‘problem areas’ such as knees, ankles and thighs, mixed with constant comparison to your friends, family members or even celebrities with a more desirable body type – sound familiar? It definitely does for me.

I spent years comparing myself to other women and would end up in a vicious cycle of depression and self loathing. In the past couple of years, I’ve made a conscious effort to focus on more important things than physical appearance. It has helped me a lot.

Lipedema and anxiety

Will people notice my legs in this outfit? Will he think I look fat in this? Do these self degrading questions sound familiar to you? Research shows that Lipedema is strongly linked to anxiety as well as depression, unfortunately this has been the case for me too.

I can remember many summers getting extremely worked up because I didn’t feel comfortable in the same clothes as my friends. Will people think it’s strange if I wear pants in 30 degree heat? Sometimes I’d get so worked up, I’d fabricate an excuse so I didn’t have to leave the house at all. The number of events I’ve missed out on because of my terrible relationship with my body.

Be gentle with yourself. That’s the only advice I can give. Don’t do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, but also try not to allow your Lipedema to control your life and make you miss out on things. Life is so short, even at the age of 31 there’s things I wish I hadn’t let affect me as much as they did.

Lipedema and low self esteem

Our altered body shape can often lead to low self-esteem and lack of confidence. I’ve always found this to be particularly prominent in the summer months when the weather is warmer, everyone seems to be wearing more revealing clothing which is something us Lipedema ladies don’t usually have the confidence to do.

This lack of confidence and low self esteem can restrict our social lives and relationships, even including sexual activities. For me, I spent many years feeling unworthy. Unworthy of relationships and too unattractive to possibly deserve love from my partners.

Not anymore. We are worthy. Worthy of love, relationships and compliments. I for one am not letting anyone tell me otherwise. Feeling confident in your physical appearance is great, but ultimately it’s what’s inside that really matters. It’s also our uniqueness that makes us who we are.

Has your mental health suffered as a result of your Lipedema? Send me an email to sophie@lipedemaandme.com with your coping mechanisms and stories, I’d love to hear them.

Disclaimer: My blogs talk about Lipedema, diet, surgery and much more. I’m talking from my point of view to help women, and remind them they are not alone. I am not a medical professional, so the content above is from my own perspective with research I have done into the topic. It’s not meant as medical advice, you should always consult your doctor or a specialist for both your diagnosis, and a treatment plan.

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