If you or someone you love suffers from both depression and an eating disorder, you probably know a little bit about how the two conditions work together, each one making the other problem worse and more difficult to overcome.
Difficult, but not impossible. Although studies show a known connection between depression and eating disorders, they are both treatable medical conditions. (1)
Today we’re going to look at how depression interacts with and can lead to an eating disorder. Our hope is that those of you who suffer from both conditions will reach out for professional help. And, just as importantly, if you experience depression by itself, perhaps you can use this knowledge to spur you toward getting professional help and preventing the development of an eating disorder in the future.
What Do Studies Tell Us About Depression and Eating Disorders?
Research shows a clear connection between depression and the development and severity of eating disorders. While this is true for people of all ages, the connection is especially strong for teens and young adults. (1)
And because eating disorders can last for years or decades if untreated, the strong association between the two in adolescence can mean a lifetime of suffering.
How Do Depression and Eating Disorders Interact?
Many people who develop depression and an eating disorder likely have a genetic component that makes them more at risk for both. (2) Still, a common pattern emerges when a person’s depression contributes to the development of anorexia, bulimia, or a binge eating disorder. Psychcentral.com explains it this way:
First, depression can change a person’s eating habits. You may eat less than you used to because the desire simply isn’t there like it once was. Or you may eat more in an effort to ward against negative feelings.
Second, depression can cause you to feel a lack of control. You may be unable to keep a positive attitude or embrace the day as you’d like. Restricting your calorie intake or the foods you eat may be a natural response. This action helps you to feel in control of at least one aspect of your body. On the other hand, you may relinquish control, giving into the feeling of helplessness and eating more than you need because it feels as though that’s destined to happen anyway.
And finally, untreated depression can leave you with the belief that you have no coping skills. (3)
But, of course, this isn’t true. You may need help learning which coping skills are the best for your unique struggles, and you may benefit from putting them into practice under the watchful eye of a doctor or therapist.
If you need help overcoming depression and an eating disorder, find the location nearest you. We would love to help you get started on your journey to healing and wholeness.