Kanye West has had a really rough year: Last November, sources reportedly confirmed he was hospitalized for exhaustion, and his erratic behaviour signaled a psychiatric emergency. Some reports say he was paranoid, hallucinating, and even suicidal. Then, his wife Kim Kardashian West was robbed at gunpoint in Paris.
But the latest story making headlines? Kanye’s “dad bod.”
The Life of Pablo rapper, now 40, has been lying pretty low ever since he canceled the rest of his tour after his hospitalization and news broke that the couple is expecting their third child via surrogate. Last week, however, a few photos of West have circulated on the internet, and some fans have been pretty ruthless about his noticeable weight gain.
But others were quick to point out that West’s weight gain could simply be a byproduct of his alleged mental illness.
For starters, know that publicly fat shaming anyone is never okay. It can actually do more harm than you realize, since research suggests that people who experience stigma against their weight are at greater risk for heart issues.
And there may be some truth to the public theories behind Kanye’s weight gain: The facts reported by the media suggest this has been a stressful year for him, says licensed psychologist Ronald Levant, Ed.D., cofounder of the Society for the Psychological Study of Men and Masculinity and professor of psychology at the University of Akron in Ohio.
Experts can’t diagnose people without examining them personally—and Kanye, of course, is no different—but Levant can confidently say that the events in Kanye’s life, including an alleged psychotic break, a hectic work schedule, the robbery of a loved one, can pile up pretty quickly.
And when your mental health tanks, your physical health takes a hit, too. That’s because what goes on in our brains can’t help but affect what’s going on with the rest of us, he says.
That’s especially evident when you look at the relationship between chronic diseases and mental health, where there tends to be a huge overlap.
“In fact, 40 percent of people who meet criteria for diabetes also meet criteria for major depressive disorder,” says Levant, possibly due to genetic links, research suggests.
People who have psychiatric problems—like temporary psychosis and suicidal intentions—tend to pay less attention to daily health routines, he adds. That means they might turn to food for comfort rather than nutrition, just to feel a bit better. And those kinds of food choices can make the weight creep on.
“As far as getting to the gym, forget about it,” says Levant. “When you’re really depressed, it’s hard to even get out of bed, much less go to the gym and work out for a couple of hours.”
What’s more, certain medications—like neuroleptics, also known as antipsychotics, and tricyclic antidepressants—can actually promote weight gain, says Levant. We don’t know if Kanye is taking these particular medications, but for many people, it’s part of the road to getting better.
That means if you want to take care of your overall health—and yes, that includes mental health as well as physical health—you need to seek help before things start to spiral out of control. Otherwise, that could put you at risk for serious health issues, like high blood pressure, cholesterol, and heart disease, down the road.
But addressing both the mental and physical issues can help improve your entire wellbeing.
“Without a doubt, if your life is hitting some real headwinds, and it’s just not going very well and you have new challenges, seeking psychological help is a good thing to do for yourself,” says Levant.
But according to past research, many guys still resist that help, in part because they tend to follow the “male code,” meaning they think they should be self-reliant and solve all of their problems on their own—but that’s just not realistic, says Levant.
When depression hits, or your life’s stressors get to be too much, you can put your health and even your life at risk. That’s why every man should see a therapist.
And one thing many people didn’t point out about Kanye’s photos? He seems to be cracking a smile—meaning we can only hope he’s well on his way to recovery.
By Alisa Hrustic; images courtesy of @mikeymashila, @lindseyadler, @thepaulhagan, Twitter