The Complex Relationship of Eating Disorders and Mood Disorders

Group of People discussing cultural differences in mental health treatment

Eating Disorders and Mood Disorders

What are Moods?

Many of us have not given much thought to the question, “what is a mood?” even though we talk about them quite frequently.

“I woke up in a great mood.”
“She has a moody personality.”
“The author created a dark mood in that book.”

Canadian Philosopher and cognitive scientist, Dr. Paul Thagard suggests three helpful distinctions regarding moods:

  • They last longer than emotions, going on for hours or days
  • They are more general in nature, while emotions are connected to something more specific
  • They are not as intense as emotions
Reasons Banner used with relationship in eating disorder recovery


Call Reasons Eating Disorder Center for Help 855-997-6505

However, he continues, moods make us more likely to have certain emotions. For example, having a bad mood will make you more disposed to have negative emotions. Long-lasting moods can have a tremendous impact on our lives. [1]

What are Mood Disorders?

So what is a mood disorder? The website for the Mayo Clinic states, “If you have a mood disorder, your general emotional state or mood is distorted or inconsistent with your circumstances and interferes with your ability to function.”[2]

In other words, a mood disorder is ongoing, overwhelming, and makes living life more difficult. According to Johns Hopkins Hospital, the most common types of mood disorders are Major Depression, Dysthymia, Bipolar Disorder, Mood Disorder Related to Another Health Condition, and a Substance-induced Mood Disorder. [3]

How Mood Disorders Complicate Eating Disorders

Having a mood disorder makes recovery from an eating disorder even more challenging. Because mood influences energy level, motivation, and willingness to accept challenges, mood directly affects an individual’s progress toward recovery.

Lady Dancing because she has overcome Eating Disorders and Mood DisordersJust consider how a depressed mood might make the following aspects of treatment more difficult:

  • showing up for appointments
  • asking for help
  • attending groups
  • sharing thoughts in therapy
  • following professional recommendations
  • challenging fear foods
  • completing meals

Eating Disorders and Bipolar Disorder

Australian researchers Claire McAulay, Phillipa Hay, Jonathan Mond, and Stephen Touyz are particularly interested in the relationship between eating disorders and bipolar disorder.

In a September 2019 article for the Journal of Eating Disorders [4], the authors call for more research on the complicated relationship on the topic because:

  • one in three people with bipolar disorder also meet criteria for binge eating disorder, bulimia nervosa, or variants of these disorders
  • Mood disorders appear significantly more frequently in patients seeking care for ED than in controls.
  • The majority of the mood disorders comorbid with ED were depressive disorders (MDD and dysthymia)
  • depressed patients can lack motivation and energy to complete any treatment

The authors hope that by “sparking interest in the area, novel treatments can be more widely considered” for individuals with eating disorders and bipolar disorder.

To further conversation in this critical area, the Journal of Eating Disorders is planning a special issue on mood disorders and eating disorders. It is calling for submissions on the topic.


[1] Thagard, P. (2018, May 23). What Are Moods? Retrieved October 15, 2019, from

[2] Mood disorders. (2018, December 20). Retrieved October 15, 2019, from

[3] Mood Disorders. (n.d.). Retrieved October 15, 2019, from

[4] McAulay, C., Hay, P., Touyz, S., & Mond, J. (2019, September 12). Eating disorders, bipolar disorders and other mood disorders: complex and under-researched relationships. Retrieved October 15, 2019, from

About Our Sponsor:

Reasons BannerReasons Eating Disorder Center is an innovative program founded on the belief that healing is a fundamental aspect of eating disorder treatment. We believe that eating disorders are rooted in and driven by anxiety and profound disruptions to the sufferers’ sense of self. We offer our patients hope rooted in the belief that they are capable of living an authentic life of meaning and connectedness. Our goal is to create a culture that nurtures the integration of body and mind through the daily practice and continual reinforcing of the balancing ideas of Doing and Being.

About the Author:

Travis Stewart Headshot PhotoTravis Stewart, LPC has been mentoring others since 1992 and became a Licensed Professional Counselor in 2005. His counseling approach is relational and creative, helping people understand their story while also building hope for the future. Travis has experience with a wide variety of issues which might lead people to seek out professional counseling help.

This includes special interest in helping those with compulsive and addictive behaviors such as internet and screen addiction, eating disorders, anxiety, and perfectionism. Specifically, he has worked with eating disorders since 2003 and has learned from many of the field’s leading experts. He has worked with hundreds of individuals facing life-threatening eating disorders in all levels of treatment. His website is

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective on 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.

Published October 16, 2019, on
Reviewed & Approved on October 16, 2019, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC

About Baxter Ekern

Baxter is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He is responsible for the operations of Eating Disorder Hope and ensuring that the website is functioning smoothly.