May cause depression anorexia nervosa

The interplay of depression and eating disorders

People who develop or already have an eating disorder never feel well enough. They are obsessed with control and consciously or unconsciously strive for perfectionism at all levels. In addition, those affected feel empty inside and want to "fill" this emptiness. This emptiness is a typical symptom of depression.

Whether it was only the depression or the eating disorder is not necessarily decisive for a successful and sustainable treatment. It is much more important to recognize and look at the invisible interplay, as depression and eating disorders feed one another.

Do you also have an eating disorder? Register for our study on eating disorders in cooperation with Charité Berlin and get free access to the selfapy course for eating disorders. In this way you will help us to further confirm the effectiveness of our courses.

What can depression feel like for people with eating disorders?

The fears that lie behind controlled eating habits - overeating, vomiting, or starving - can indicate depression. For example, research has shown that nearly 50% of people with eating disorders also have depression. Fear, inner emptiness, senselessness, trauma, loss, insecurity, loss of identity and so on are typical characteristics of depression and eating disorders. Thus, the two types of emotional pain are very similar. These can feel like this to those affected:

  • depressed & anxious mood
  • Irritability & severe mood swings
  • Feeling of emptiness
  • no desire for activities
  • sudden weight gain or weight loss without dieting
  • No or very strong appetite for a long period of time
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • always be tired and exhausted
  • feeling unimportant or feeling guilty for no reason
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Think about whether life still has meaning or thoughts of suicide

If any of the above applies to you, you may find it helpful to seek professional help.

The Interplay of Depression and Eating Disorder

Often times, depression and eating disorder are related and are mutually reinforcing. It is important to look at the symptoms in combination as well. You can recognize the invisible interaction by these signs:

  • Your eating disorder makes you feel good for a short time, because overeating calms and fills the inner void. Eating and vomiting, and starving yourself make you feel in control and power.
  • Overeating, vomiting and starvation, and all those thoughts about weight and eating will temporarily distract you from your emotional pain. In the long term, this devaluation of painful emotions leads to an aggravation of the depression. This can make you feel depressed.
  • Depression and eating disorders feed on shame and secrecy. Therefore, it is very difficult for many people to speak openly and honestly about it. As a result, the real and deeper issues often do not come to light.

Depression is often not immediately recognizable. Each depression can look different and express itself differently. Depression can mean isolating themselves or always pretending to be happy. Depression can also cause pressure and stress, or cause physical symptoms such as headaches or abdominal pain. Just as one person just eats and gains weight all day long, other people no longer have an appetite and unintentionally lose weight.

Master the challenges with these tips

Three typical challenges people with depression often experience in their relationship with food are:

No energy

Depression often feels like a strong feeling of exhaustion. The thought of planning, preparing or shopping for food can then be overwhelming. Eating can also mean stress and lead to the fact that you only eat quickly in between meals and then feel guilty, ashamed or, above all, consume unhealthy things that give you energy quickly.

tip: Make a list of dishes that you can prepare easily and without much effort at any time (examples: muesli with fresh fruit, scrambled eggs, nuts or bread with avocado).

Confusing food with relaxation

Precisely because food has such a distracting and cozy effect, many people compensate for pressure, stress and all feelings with food. Unfortunately, we are often taught or told these days that this is a bad quality. There is certainly no general rule in this regard. Often times, even if you are eating for emotional reasons, it is an unconscious act of caring for yourself. This is the path that you know and that briefly satisfies you. It doesn't mean that this is "bad" or that you are a bad person. Is there a permanently healthy way to care for yourself? For example, when you express your needs to important people and stand up for yourself?

tip: Always remind yourself that your behavior is an expression of self-care and that you are doing the best that you currently know and can.

No appetite

Depression can cause you to lose your appetite. It may be that you don't care about food and everything else and you just want to sleep. Not eating enough or eating beyond your physical hunger can make the symptoms of depression worse. If this topic accompanies you or if you have a problem with loss of appetite, then these tips will support you:

  • Eat small, multiple meals a day
  • Only eat things that you love and know
  • Eat in company with others if you can
  • Eat first, then drink so that your stomach is not filled beforehand

Of course, it can also be that your appetite increases rapidly. In any case, talk to your general practitioner, your psychotherapist or other accompanying person about it.

What to do when you find yourself in this article:

  • Perception is the 1st step. If you find yourself having depressed moods and / or an eating disorder, don't feel ashamed.
  • Forms of therapy, hospital stays or coaching are all different types of support that can accompany you on your way out of the tricky interplay of depression and eating disorders.
  • If you are currently undergoing psychotherapeutic treatment, address the topic openly and honestly. Only then can your psychotherapist or you guide you accordingly.

Kira herself suffered from an eating disorder and moderate depression for 10 years. SoulFood Coaching is the name of your personal heart project. Your mission: To create a new awareness of the issues of starvation, overeating and vomiting.