One of the most commonly observed interactions between depression and weight gain is the factor of overeating. For some, eating becomes a way to cope. For others, eating in excess causes unwanted changes in the body, which, can make a person feel bad about themselves. So what is the diagnosis, depression, or an eating disorder? Could it be both? It can.
Another question is, does one illness lead to the development of the other? Or, is it a coincidence that is simply often observed together?
The best way to get to the bottom of depression and overeating is to examine each factor separately. Then after better understanding, determine whether one plays into the other, and what type of treatment can alleviate symptoms.
Taking a Closer Look at Defining Depression
Having a one-size-fits-all way to categorize a depressive disorder would be helpful. Not only can depression affect every individual differently, but it can also be caused by different circumstances. However in general, it is an overwhelming sense of sadness and hopelessness, that persists over time, despite best efforts.
While that may sound slightly hopeless in itself, it doesn’t mean that depression is not treatable. Mental health care programs are increasingly helpful in this area and have many different options to offer. Because there are many medications available, the next step is to find the right fit. Aside from that, holistic and wellness therapy adds to treatment effectiveness, training the brain to redirect efforts positively.
Working with a specialized team and therapist to get on the right course makes all of the difference in wellbeing. Although it is up to the individual to do the work, the hope and outlook of the future are soon restored. The takeaway with depression treatment is knowing that there is something that will work, and there are professionals to help.
What Causes Depression to Develop
As more people are coming forward to get help to treat depression, there is more information on what leads to it. However, this also brought to light how many different factors affect the onset of the illness. Just as each person is different, so is their life experience, and how it contributes to their overall mental health.
Yet overwhelmingly, the predominant finding is that depression is triggered by the experience of trauma or a traumatic event. Often when a major change or upset comes into the picture, it can affect a person on a fundamental level. Within the body, the fight or flight reaction is there to protect us. However, when that natural response settles down, left in its wake are the negative effects.
These effects can range from the overwhelming sensation to cry at the drop of a hat. Or, even using food as a means to cope, linking overeating and depression. Then for some, it is the sensation that lacks emotion, resulting in both a binge eating disorder and depressive disorder. Predominantly suggesting that one may lean into the joys of their favorite food, to feel anything at all.
PTSD is Linked to Depression and Eating Disorders
Getting help to work through a traumatic event can level the psychological playing field when dealing with depression. The most difficult step is uncovering the root source of the trauma, particularly for PTSD sufferers. What may trigger depression for some, may have little effect on the psychological state of another individual. Some may display overeating symptoms, while others are torn away from pleasure altogether. Many might not even realize it to be happening at the time. Utilizing counseling and therapy allows for a private, open, and honest place to categorize experiences, and their side effects.
Recognizing Signs and Symptoms of Depression
Some of the most common ways to identify depression in yourself or another include a further examination. Some of the most common displays of depression include:
- Overall depressed mood
- Lack of interest in doing things previously enjoyed
- Low libido and sexual desire or function
- Changes in sleep, often in excess with constant fatigue
- Mood changes, aggression, hopelessness
- The decrease in motivation or speed of movements or speech
- Feeling hopeless or guilty
- Difficulty concentrating
- Suicidal thoughts, attempts, or tendencies
- Weight changes, usually weight gain due to binge eating disorders
- Changes in appetite that can quickly lead to an eating disorder
For most of us, eating our favorite snack can instantly bring up our morale. These little joys are what can motivate us to keep moving. However, when combined with low mood, dealing with both depression and an eating disorder can be a lot to handle. Especially when occurring in excess, this can hastily turn into uncontrollable urges. Although it can seem like being stuck in a rut, potentially worsening depression requires professional treatment to correct.
A Better Understanding of Binge Eating Disorder
So what’s the difference between occasional overindulging and qualification as an eating disorder, and, when should you worry? Well, when suspecting a binge eating disorder and depression is already diagnosed, this may be an indicator right here. However, overeating and depression can happen in some cases without the other.
Overeating symptoms used to diagnose an eating disorder are as follows. Keep in mind that while often depression and eating disorders do go hand in hand, this is not a mandatory requirement. Determine whether these behaviors apply, and whether or not overeating and depression are working together against your health. Has there been an increase in at least three of the following?
- Overindulging in large amounts of food in a short period of time
- Eating until the point that you become ill or feel discomfort
- Continuing to eat even after satisfied
- Being secretive about foods eaten or hiding the activity from others
- Feelings of guilt, regret, and depression after consuming food
While some of these behaviors and feelings can occur from time to time, regularly, it is problematic. These behaviors can impact psychological wellbeing over time and should be addressed with individual therapy. Low mood and persistent negativity about food, or the act of eating often signify a dual-diagnosis. Both depression and eating disorders co-occurring can be treated, and beneficial behavioral patterns restored.
Who is Affected Most By Overeating and Depression
In the United States, more than 2.8 million people are diagnosed with a binge eating disorder in one year. As for depression, those rates are even higher, estimated to be around 16.1 million. When including the greatest contributor to both depression and eating disorders, PTSD sufferers come in at an additional 7.7 million. Unfortunately, many of the individuals are suffering from more than one at a time.
While gender is not always a predominant indicator to diagnose depression and eating disorders, women are most likely affected. Binge eating disorder and depression sufferers often report the onset to have begun in their 20-30’s. However, the combination of eating disorders and depression is being more commonly observed in senior women as well. Studies show that 13 percent of those 50 years and older, are batting these illnesses more frequently.
Does Depression Lead to Binge Eating, Or Vice Versa?
It is important to remember that depression can adversely cause a person to lose their appetite. Also, a binge eating disorder may not come with the hopelessness that depression eludes to. Yet often, one leads to the other, and in a short amount of time. Other times, depression and eating disorders encourage the development of an obsessive-compulsive disorder, to attempt regaining control.
Feeling the sadness of depression prompts an individual to have a treat to uplift mood. When that doesn’t work, does it again. Then, thinking three’s the charm, once more. When that doesn’t help, the cycle begins again. Those suffering from an eating disorder may soon feel depression setting in as one of the overeating symptoms catches up.
The hopelessness and sadness in combination with the unwanted effects of overeating often result in weight gain. Not only does the dissatisfaction of one’s appearance further reinforce ongoing depression, but comes with dangers of its own.
Does The Type of Foods Affect Depression and Eating Disorders?
When a binge eating disorder and depression are steering the ship, the choice of what food to eat is impacted. Because the idea of our favorite food choices brings upon feelings of joy, these are the selections often reached for. Although any type of binge eating will have negative effects, junk food junkies feel the highest impact. Foods high in cholesterol, refined sugar, and saturated fats, are not only likely to pack on the pounds but can also affect brain function.
Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is part of the brain’s process that serves to make and recall memory. Because learning new skills requires the use of memory, decreasing the BDNF should be avoided. However, the most popular binge eating disorder and depression snacks have been found to negatively impact BDNF.
A decrease in BDNF has been studied in those suffering from dementia and correlates with type 2 diabetes. So not only is there a risk of further developing worsening neurological dysfunction, but also encouraging depression to persist. Participating in therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy can help.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is designed to break the associations made with unhealthy choices. Once the cycle between depression and overeating junk food is unlinked, healthy modifications can take place. CBT is performed either individually or in a group and has shown to significantly benefit eating disorder and depression treatment.
Some Foods Trick Your Hunger Senses and Lead to Overeating
Consumption of foods that have a higher amount of sugar may also wreak havoc on “hunger triggers.” This happens by working to slow reception and transmission of signals within the anorexigenic oxytocin process. When activated properly, this is the message that alerts the body to feel full and satisfied. When malfunctioning due to binge eating disorder and depression urges, these transmissions are stunted. Not only does this lead to gross overeating, but a sugar rush can even trigger anxiety.
Risks of Overeating and Depression
Other problematic risks of untreated depression and eating disorders are the chances of developing additional health risks. When working to manage any type of psychological illness, be sure to care for both your mind and body. While some conditions can be easily managed with nutrition and fitness programs, ignoring symptoms can have devastating effects.
Obesity has been increasing in numbers since the 1990s. As of 2018, the obesity rate was a shocking 42.4% of the population. This is likely due to the high amount of saturated fats found in our foods, combined with binge eating habits. The prevalence of mental illness has also been found to worsen overeating symptoms. Regardless, there is a correlation between binge eating disorders and depression that impacts maintaining a healthy weight. Weight and obesity play an enormous role in how our minds and organs function to regulate the body.
One illness that is often found in those that are obese and without proper care is heart disease. When an individual is carrying a significant amount of extra weight, it places strain on all of the organs. Specifically, forcing the heart to have to work harder to circulate the blood.
Heart disease is often diagnosed in individuals who are suffering from depression and eating disorders and causing extreme weight gain. Staying active while exercising to keep the blood pumping can be fun and simple. Many activities that take a holistic approach are lower impact practices that serve to balance the mind and body. This is especially true of yoga, which involves less cardio, but still gets the blood flowing to the heart.
Type 2 Diabetes
Diabetes is another illness that can lead to some unwanted or even deadly consequences. However, it is manageable in the great majority of cases but often requires lifestyle changes. Some of these may include healthier food options, monitoring and reducing sugar intake, or the use of insulin as needed.
Unfortunately, when suffering from eating disorders and depression, it can feel difficult to retain the motivation to make changes. Taking advantage of programs, like family and group therapy, can help boost morale and dedication. Although it may seem lonely and hopeless, you have people in your corner supporting your healthy decisions. And, if you didn’t before, you will, at group therapy.
Even more comforting is the time spent with peers, dealing with much of the same while encouraging each other. Both depression and eating disorders do not mean seclusion or an eternity of suffering. Countless individuals have found hope and support among group therapy peers while receiving professional mental health treatment.
Which Should Be Treated First: An Eating Disorder or Depression?
Because of the effect that depression and eating disorders have on the other, it can be difficult without proper diagnosis. It’s important to note that managing one while ignoring the other can lead to regression in wellness altogether. By participating in inpatient programs designed to treat the individual as a whole, both binge eating disorders and depression can be collectively noted. Then, treatment for either can be conducted within the same location, using various applicable therapies.
The Best Types of Treatment Available for Depression and Eating Disorders
The best way to approach depression and eating disorders that contribute to overeating is to find an outlet for help. In a professional mental health treatment center, an individual can utilize an extensive amount of the programs available. While individual therapy and CBT can work to restructure behaviors, mindful meditation helps to achieve a settled state of mind. In combination with art therapy, music therapy and equine therapy offer alternative means of self-expression while healing.
For those that are working toward mending relationship conflicts, both past, and present, dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) is offered. DBT works to expose the feelings that prompt behavior, and heal from the inside out while learning to cope. Because many individuals resort to overeating, and depression is also co-occurring, alternative and healthy comforting behaviors can be adapted to.
Getting Treatment for Depression and Eating Disorders
While it may be needless to say, the worst course of action would be to wait to get help. Binge eating disorders and depression can progress very rapidly when occurring together. Not to mention, have devastating effects on quality of life and physical health.
If you are suffering, you are not alone. When you feel as though it is an endless cycle, just ask for help to break it. The good news is, reaching out for help is all that it takes to get started on your wellness journey. Getting healthy starts with knowing that enough is enough. Luckily, some professionals know just what to do.