Contributor: Staff at McCallum Place
Eating disorders can cause individuals to experience a range of symptoms that can interfere with their ability to function. While many eating disorder symptoms are the result of disordered eating behaviors, there are many associated emotions that can lead to low self-esteem and difficulty participating socially. But, is there a connection between eating disorders and mental health issues?
There is a common link between eating disorders and mental health concerns, and individuals who suffer from both conditions can experience an increase in symptoms when one condition worsens. To effectively recover from these symptoms, individuals must receive well-rounded treatment that addresses all concerns.
Psychiatry Research completed a study with participants who had a history of anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or symptoms of both conditions. Results showed that a significant number of participants also had a history of a major affective disorder.
Findings also showed that some participants had histories of anxiety disorders, substance use disorders, and kleptomania. This data emphasizes the importance of in-depth patient evaluations and medical histories while also informing clinically comprehensive treatment.
Additional studies demonstrate the presence of other mental health concerns in individuals who have eating disorders. Research in the Journal of American College Health analyzed the overall health of college-age women who were struggling with eating disorders.
Results showed that 21.7% of participants also experienced moderate to severe insomnia, depression, and anxiety. These mental health concerns were reported as more significant in women who suffered from more severe eating disorder symptoms.
Eating Disorders & Anxiety
Often, people who have eating disorders demonstrate high levels of anxiety, emotional sensitivity, and self-restraint. Symptoms of anxiety may cause these individuals to exhibit worry or concern over future events, criticism from others, or the inability to relax in social situations.
Research shows that anxiety disorders are present in 48%-51% of individuals who have anorexia nervosa, 54%-81% of those who have bulimia nervosa, and 55%-65% of those who have binge-eating disorder. These statistics depict the significance of anxiety in the lives of those who are suffering from eating disorders, as this condition can be a complicating factor in the recovery process if left untreated.
Eating Disorders & Depression
Literature has also shown the prevalence of co-occurring depression in individuals who have eating disorders. A study with more than 2,400 participants found that 94% of individuals who received inpatient treatment for an eating disorder also had symptoms of depression.
Depression and eating disorders can share similar symptoms, which sometimes makes it difficult for professionals to distinguish the presence of both conditions. Both mental health concerns cause individuals to experience mood changes such as irritability, anxiety, guilt, shame, and low self-esteem. Individuals who suffer from an eating disorder and depression may also display appetite changes, disordered eating behaviors, and physical symptoms such as digestive issues, muscle aches, and bloating.
There is a clear overlap between some of these symptoms, demonstrating the need for careful evaluation and well-rounded, condition-specific behavioral health treatment.
Comprehensive Treatment for Eating Disorders and Mental Health
Personalized mental health and eating disorder treatment is the key to fully addressing all concerns an individual is struggling with. Because of the co-occurring nature of eating disorders and other mental health concerns, it is vital that individuals who are suffering from both types of conditions receive comprehensive care that is tailored to meet their unique needs.
1. Goel, N.J.; Sadeh-Sharvit, S.; Trockel, M.; Flatt, R.E.; Fitzsimmons-Craft, E.E.; Balantekin, K.N., … Taylor, C.B. (2020). Depression and anxiety mediate the relationship between insomnia and eating disorders in college women. J Am Coll Health, 23, 1-6. doi:10.1080/07448481.2019.1710152
2. Hudson, J.I.; Pope, H.G.; Jonas, J.M.; and Yurgelun-Todd, D. (1983). Phenomenologic relationship of eating disorders to major affective disorder. Psychiatry Research, 9(4), 345-354. https://doi.org/10.1016/0165-1781(83)90008-2
3. National Eating Disorders Association. (2018). Anxiety, Depression, & Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Retrieved from https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/anxiety-depression-obsessive-compulsive-disorder.
4. National Eating Disorders Association. (2018). Trauma & PTSD. Retrieved from https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/general-information/trauma.
About The Sponsor
McCallum Place is an eating disorder treatment center with locations in St. Louis, Missouri, and Kansas City, Kansas. We provide comprehensive treatment for adolescents and adults. We also offer a specialty treatment program for athletes who are living with eating disorders. Our experienced treatment team works closely with each patient to ensure that they play a central role in their recovery process. We offer a full range of services to meet the unique needs of each patient and address all issues related to the treatment of eating disorders.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Reviewed & Approved on April 21, 2020, by Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC
Published April 21, 2020, on EatingDisorderHope.com