The Connection Between Eating Disorders & Depression


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Depression & Eating Disorders


Unfortunately, a growing majority of any women find flaws with their bodies, scrutinizing every detail. Given the continued societal pressures to achieve this “thin ideal,” feelings of inadequacy about their bodies can leave them feeling depressed, often leading them to take extreme measures to improve their body image. While a negative body image is only one potential factor in the development of an eating disorder, symptoms of depression can also put someone at risk. According to research, 32-39% of those with anorexia nervosa, 36-50% of those with bulimia nervosa, and 33% of those with binge eating disorder are also diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder.


What is Depression?

Before we can understand the connection between depression and eating disorders, it is important to understand more about depression along with the signs and symptoms. Depression is more than just feeling sad or down, it is a severe mental health disorder affecting over 7% of the U.S. population. Depressive episodes can last for months to years without proper treatment. 


Depression, which is the most common disorder to co-occur with an eating disorder, is defined as a persistent mood disorder. Common symptoms of depression may include:

  • Feelings of helplessness, guilt, or worthlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Feelings of intense sadness
  • Overeating or under-eating
  • Irritability or anger
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feelings of suicide ideation

Those who suffer from depression may exhibit a suppressed appetite, have trouble sleeping, or loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, along with difficulty concentrating and lack of energy. Additionally, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fifth Edition (DSM-5), the risk of suicide is higher for those who suffer from both anorexia and depression.


What is the connection between eating disorders and depression?

The onset of Eating disorders or depression are different mental illnesses, can easily trigger one another for many reasons. The extreme physical and emotional effects of an eating disorder are often correlated with biopsychosocial disturbances in the brain, which can intensely dysregulate an individual’s mood. Additionally, negative body image and low self-esteem are often correlated with feelings of anxiety and depression. Ultimately, these feelings can lead those in suffering to become more socially isolated which can also increase symptoms of depression. 


With the introduction of the COVID-19 pandemic into our daily lives, the past several months have also brought an additional risk factor for the development of depression and eating disorders. Social isolation has led to increased loneliness, which has created a shift in daily routine, as well as fractured support systems, which can be a primary source of comfort. For those suffering from an eating disorder, these changes have resulted in countless hours ruminating on food and body image often leading to increased negative thoughts and behaviors. Research has also indicated an increase in symptoms of depression and anxiety,  which is also correlated with increased eating disorder behaviors.   


What help is available?

At Selah House, we understand the need to provide treatment that heals the entire body. Our holistic approach to eating disorder treatment is designed to meet the unique needs of each individual on her recovery journey. Our team of experts partners with clients and families to design an individualized treatment plan that includes evidence-based treatment modalities impacting the physical, emotional, and spiritual,  aspects of recovery from eating disorders. We offer a nutrition approach that is based on intuitive eating and the premise that all foods fit within a nutritionally-sound meal plan including balance, variety, and moderation. Throughout their time at Selah House, clients are given the tools they need to help them feel comfortable identifying and responding to feelings of hunger and fullness, while also learning to portion food for themselves. Our goal at Selah House is to treat the whole person uncovering the purpose and function of the eating disorder, which is critical towards finding lifelong freedom from eating disorders. 


If you or a loved one is suffering from an eating disorder, we are here and ready to help. now is the time to reach out for help. Our Admission Team is available 24/7 to guide you in your journey to freedom.  Call us today or complete our contact form for more information. 

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