How to Appropriately Address and Treat Co-Occurring Eating Disorders and Mood Disorders

young woman with illusion of Control in the Development of Eating Disorders

Eating disorders often develop alongside other mental illnesses, including mood disorders, such as anxiety disorders, major depression, bipolar disorder, dysthymia and more. Mood disorders alone can be debilitating illnesses that impact a person emotionally, mentally, and physically. Individuals with a mood disorder may be at increased susceptibility to developing an eating disorder and vice versa.

Many similar risk factors exist between eating disorders and mood disorders. Some individuals with mood disorders may develop maladaptive behaviors revolving around food in an attempt to manage symptoms related to the mood disorder itself.

For example, a person who is struggling with major depression may look to food for comfort or distraction. As a result, a distorted and emotional relationship with food can develop, which can lead to more severe consequences.

Appropriate Treatment for Co-Occurring Eating Disorders and Mood Disorders

Because mood disorders and eating disorders are often interrelated, comprehensive treatment that simultaneously addresses both of these conditions are needed for a full recovery. This typically combines various forms of psychotherapy, medication management, and nutritional interventions.

stressed young woman deep in thought about Co-Occurring Eating and Mood DisordersIndividuals who struggle with mood disorders and abnormalities must learn effective coping skills to release the need the eating disorder fulfills for coping purposes.

Learning how to therapeutically manage a mood disorder can help a person who has always relied on abnormal eating behaviors to cope with emotional distress.

Treatment for co-occurring eating disorders and mood disorders can also help address biological influences. For example, a person who is suffering with malnutrition as a result of an eating disorder may find that symptoms related to their mood disorder are exacerbated. Proper nutrition is needed to help address this.

Additionally, hormonal imbalances and neurotransmitter abnormalities may also contribute to the development of these disorders, and medication can be helpful in correcting or decreasing symptoms experienced.

If you or a loved one is dealing with co-occurring mood and eating disorders, know that there is hope for your recovery and resources for effective treatment. Seek out the help of a professional specialized in these areas for treatment.


Crystal Headshot 2About the Author: Crystal is a Masters-level Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a specialty focus in eating disorders, maternal/child health and wellness, and intuitive eating. Combining clinical experience with a love of social media and writing, Crystal serves where her passion to help others find recovery and healing is integrated into each part of her work.

As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Crystal has dedicated her career to helping others establish a healthy relationship with food and body through her nutrition private practice.


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 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.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on June, 2016

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.