The Connection Between Anxiety and Eating Disorders

In the United States, over 30 million people will have an eating disorder during their lifetime. Many people who have eating disorders have mental health conditions like generalized anxiety at the same time.

If you’re struggling with an eating disorder, learning more about it can help open the doors to different treatments. Since anxiety and eating disorders go hand in hand, you could have an anxiety disorder and not realize it.

Keep reading this guide to learn what you need to know about the connection between eating disorders and anxiety.

Overview of Anxiety

Anxiety can be a normal reaction to stressful events. In some cases, it’s beneficial since it alerts us to dangerous situations. 

However, an anxiety disorder is much different than having normal anxious feelings. Anxiety disorders interfere with your daily life and affect work and personal relationships.

There are different types of anxiety disorders, like panic disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

The most common type of anxiety disorder is generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). With GAD, people avoid situations that cause anxiety symptoms like:

  • Upset stomach
  • Chest tightness
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Lightheadedness
  • Muscle tension
  • Sweating
  • Intense fear

Anxiety can present itself in small ways. For example, you could panic and experience anxiety over something as simple as burning toast.

Overview of Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are complex behavioral conditions that cause specific eating behaviors and distressing emotions. 

People with eating disorders tend to worry about their body size and shape. They also experience symptoms of depression. There are intense fears about gaining weight and looking fat. 

The different types of eating disorders include:

  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Bulimia nervosa
  • Binge eating disorder

Anorexia is a restrictive type of eating disorder. People with anorexia diet and exercise excessively.

Bulimia typically alternates with eating low-calorie foods and then binging on high-calorie foods. After eating high-calorie foods, it’s common to induce vomiting or use laxatives.

Binge eating disorders center around eating large amounts of food. After eating, you’ll feel embarrassed, ashamed, and anxious.

Connection Between Anxiety and Eating Disorders

So, can anxiety cause eating disorders? The answer to this question is yes. Many people with anxiety disorders have eating disorders. Anxiety with eating disorders focuses on food which causes compulsive rituals with meals.

This can include behaviors like:

  • Weighing food
  • Cutting food into tiny pieces
  • Only using certain plates or silverware
  • Binge eating
  • Exercising for many hours after a meal

With anxiety and an eating disorder, there is an irrational fear of becoming fat. This fear causes intense anxiety that continues to be present even when underweight.

There is a need to control this fear by taking control of weight, exercise, and food. This false sense of control temporarily relieves anxiety symptoms. 

Anxiety is typically higher before binge eating and reduced while eating. This is because binge eating can increase positive emotions from dopamine release in the brain. After eating, people experience guilt, anxiety, and depression.

Treating anxiety with eating disorders involves therapy to regulate emotions and gain control over what you’re focusing on. Techniques like applied neuroscience help you reach a positive state. These treatments include personality, cognitive, and medical assessments.

Treating Anxiety and Eating Disorders

The more you learn about anxiety and eating disorders, the more you’ll understand how they both work together to affect your health.

Remember, there is help available, and you’re not alone. Getting treatment for both eating disorders and anxiety is the best way to achieve long-term recovery.

For more informative health tips, be sure to visit the rest of our blog!

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