Understanding the Complex Relationship Between Depression and Eating Disorders

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Depression or major depressive disorder is a common but serious mental health condition. We all sometimes feel sad, annoyed, or irritated, which is quite normal, and there is nothing much to contemplate, considering we all go through a lot of things in our daily lives. These emotions are our body’s natural reaction to certain situations.  

But when these emotions become frequent visitors in your brain, they become a real problem. One other mental condition that often comes with depression or vice-versa is an eating disorder. These are two separate mental conditions but often share a complex relationship. In this article, let’s learn about depression and eating disorder and their complex relationship. 

Defining Depression and Its Impact 

In simple words, Major Depression Disorder, or just depression is a mental illness that has the ability to influence how you think, feel, and behave. It is usually characterized by unending sadness, discomfort, hopelessness, emptiness, and loss of interest in activities that you once enjoyed to the fullest.  

Unlike temporary blues, depression can severely impact your daily life, from sleep to personal and professional life. These gloomy thoughts and feelings directly or indirectly dictate every aspect of your life.  

Overview of Eating Disorders 

Food is undeniably the center of our existence. We all love to go out occasionally and satisfy our taste buds. However, eating disorders are different. This isn’t just about eating but more about the behavioral condition characterized by eating large amounts of food in a short time and feeling a loss of control over it.  

There are other aspects of eating disorders that we will be discussing shortly in detail. So, continue reading! 

The Link Between Depression and Eating Disorders 

When we look at these two different forms of mental illness, we may not see a connection between them. However, when we look at them a little closer, we see not just one but many direct and indirect connections. For example, when we eat without any control it shows up in our body, which many a time results in negative body image, leading to low self-esteem, consequently resulting in anxiety and depression.  

On the other hand, undernourishment due to anorexia can drive changes in the brain which leads to mood swings, ultimately leading to depression. 

Types of Eating Disorders 

Did you know that there are different types of eating disorders?  

Generally, when we talk about eating disorders, the general perception is eating more food than we require, isn’t it? However, there are types of eating disorders characterized by different behaviors. So, let’s understand these disorders in detail. 

Anorexia Nervosa 

Unlike eating more than we need to, anorexia nervosa is a complex mental disorder wherein people have a distorted body image and see themselves as overweight, even when they are extremely thin or malnourished. The condition is characterized by extreme weight loss caused by severe diet and exercise, which sometimes leads to starvation. Some of the symptoms of this condition include altered body image, low body weight, fear of becoming fat, unusual eating behavior, excessive physical activity, denial of hunger, etc. 

Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) 

Relatively a new disorder, ARFID is a condition that restricts the amount of food you eat or makes you avoid certain types of food. Though the exact cause is not known, but scientists believe many reasons such as genetics, personality traits, and fear of food or consequences of eating food, such as choking may play a part in developing this condition. The condition usually starts at a young age, unlike other eating disorders. 

Bulimia Nervosa 

Bulimia is characterized by eating more food than you actually require, followed by a behavior of purging to compensate for overeating. When you have this condition, you usually feel that you can’t control or stop episodes of bingeing. People with Bulimia usually maintain normal to above-normal body weight, which can cover the condition for years.  

There are two ways people with Bulimia control their calories (often a distorted view), one, as mentioned above, by purging, and another is a non-purging way, where they engage in excessive fasting and exercise. 

Binge Eating Disorder 

Binge eating is another serious condition wherein you feel like you can’t stop eating, resulting in eating a large and unusual amount of food. Individuals who are struggling with binge eating disorder often feel embarrassed about their eating habits and try to restrict their food intake. Unfortunately, their attempt to restrict their food increases the urge to eat more. Some of the symptoms related to binge eating disorder are overweight or obese, uncontrolled eating, eating alone or in secret, eating fast, feeling depressed, etc. 

Unspecified Feeding or Eating Disorder (UFED) 

UFED is different in the sense that if someone has an eating disorder but the condition doesn’t fall or align with the symptoms of eating disorders like anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, it may considered as UFED. Symptoms of UFED include eating disorder behavior, emotional distress, physical problems, rigid food rules, changes in mood or behavior, preoccupation with food and weight, etc. 

Early Warning Signs of Eating Disorders 

Eating disorders are serious health conditions and can cause a lot of problems in one’s life. Thus, it is very important to recognize it at an early stage. So, how can you identify if someone is grappling with eating disorders? Here are a few signs:- 

Youth and Vulnerability 

Though eating disorders can happen at any age, however, it typically tends to happen or develop at a very young age. One of the most noticeable things about eating disorders is that young girls and women are more vulnerable, but it can happen to anyone at any age. 

Seeking Control Through Food 

Many people with eating disorders may also experience psychological conditions, such as difficulty in controlling emotions, anxiety, low esteem, or depression. Obsession with food helps them believe that they have some sort of control over some aspects of life, which slowly starts to control their life and become a disorder. 

Hidden Behaviors 

Sometimes, it is difficult for others to find out if someone is struggling with eating disorders. The reason is the habit of eating secretly which makes it difficult to recognize the signs of eating disorders not only for individuals but also for their loved ones.  

Recognizing the Signs 

When you recognize the signs of eating disorders, it encourages early intervention, which in turn helps faster recovery, helps you understand its negative effects on physical and mental health, and helps you improve the quality of your life as it makes you more aware of its good and bad.  

Underlying Causes of Depression-Induced Eating Disorders 

As you know, depression is a mental health condition that affects your mood, makes you sad, and hopeless, impacts your energy level, and makes you stay away from things that you enjoyed once. It can also influence your eating habits, and if not addressed on time can lead to eating disorders. Here are some underlying causes of depression-induced eating disorders. 

Emotional Eating as a Coping Mechanism 

Emotional eating has nothing to do with your hunger, but it is more a way of coping with difficult situations that are causing you emotional distress. It normally involves eating way more than what your body needs. When you eat food, high in fat, sugar, or salt, they temporarily give a soothing effect from all the emotional distress you are going through, but often becomes a habit. 

Low Self-Esteem and Negative Body Image 

When someone is struggling with depression, they usually feel very low in self-esteem and it makes them believe that they are unworthy, irrespective of their achievements. This low self-esteem can contribute to distorting views about their body image leading to eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. 

Social Withdrawal and Isolation 

Social withdrawal and isolation are some of the most noticeable symptoms of depression. When you isolate yourself from social life, you spend more time alone with negative thoughts, leading to too much focus on body image. For some people, this situation may spiral into the development of eating disorders. 

Chemical Imbalances and Brain Function 

Chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine regulate our moods and emotions. Certain imbalances in these chemical messengers are said to influence depression and anxiety, though more research and studies are needed to fully understand these complex connections. Many people with this mental condition are more likely to develop other conditions, such as eating disorders. 

Stress and Trauma Triggers 

Depression is a complex condition that could be caused by multiple factors. One of the many reasons could be due to past or present traumas and individuals with the condition try to find different ways to cope or deal with the situation. Some indulge in intoxication, while others find their peace in food, which sometimes leads to eating disorders. 

Treatment for Eating Disorders & Depression 

Like many other mental health illnesses, eating disorders and depression can’t be cured in the sense that you can’t fully eliminate them. However, these conditions are treatable to a great extent, with a great chance of recovery.  Here are some effective treatments for eating disorders and depression. 


Psychotherapy is an umbrella term for a set of evidence-based therapeutic approaches that work wonders in treating numerous mental health illnesses, including eating disorders and depression.  

So, what exactly happens in psychotherapy? The therapy uses psychological methods, especially personal interaction to help the patient identify the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that are causing the problem. Then, the patient will be taught how to change these behaviors, thoughts, and emotions to positive ones. Some of the techniques under psychotherapy are:- 


Medication is another important part of the treatment. Mental health professionals prescribe medications based on the type of eating disorders one is experiencing. It helps with other conditions that co-exist with eating disorders, such as depression. It mainly targets the symptoms of depression and eating disorders and is usually used in conjunction with other treatments, such as psychotherapy. 

Nutritional Counseling and Support 

Along with therapy and medication, nutrition is another aspect that helps individuals recover faster. Getting the right support from a nutritional expert can help them address many factors caused by the conditions. For example, a nutritional expert can help you develop healthy eating patterns and recommend diets that will address the deficiencies caused by purging behavior. Similarly, they can also help you with meal planning and create a balanced relationship with food. 


As far as hospitalization is concerned, their primary goal is to stabilize the acute symptoms. As you know, a person with these mental health conditions often tries to harm themself, and hospitalization ensures their safety. They also provide intensive medication and therapy management to address severe symptoms of eating disorders and depression. Some of the benefits of hospitalization are faster reduction of symptoms, nutritional support, tailored treatment plans, and better safety.  

If you or someone you know is experiencing any such situation, don’t delay. Take appropriate action immediately so that they can have a better tomorrow.  

Strategies for Preventing Depression and Eating Disorders 

So, now the question is what you can do to prevent depression and eating disorders and what are the strategies you can implement to achieve a positive result. Let’s understand! 

Learning Healthy Ways to Deal with Problems 

There is nothing in this world that we can’t deal with then be it life’s struggle or mental health. The only thing is you need to learn healthy ways to deal with it. You can achieve this by bringing a few positive changes into your life. For example, incorporating a healthy lifestyle, strictly following a medication plan, engaging in social activity, learning effective coping skills, etc. 

Feeling Good About Your Body and Yourself 

It is understandable that the condition distorts your view about your body and yourself, however, once you learn skills to tackle these negative thoughts, it will offer not one but many benefits. Such as reduced negative self-talk, increased confidence with a greater sense of control, increased calmness, reduced relapse risk, greater resilience, and it will allow you accept who you are. 

Making and Keeping Good Friends 

Friends and loved ones play a greater role in life. They become more important when one is recovering or experiencing mental health conditions. By expanding your social group and talking to your family members, you create a network of support that can provide comfort, understanding, and encouragement during challenging times. The connection also helps in alleviating feelings of loneliness. 

Using Mindfulness to Relax 

Practicing mindfulness is a great way to relax, reduce stress, and broaden your awareness. When you practice mindfulness, you learn an important skill of being in the present without judgment. It helps you become more aware of your thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations without getting caught up in the worries of the past or future. 

Getting Help from a Doctor or Therapist Soon 

Mental health illnesses are complex conditions surrounded by stigmas. At the same time, these are also conditions that need proper care and treatment for fast recovery and healing. Doctors and therapists can make a world of difference in your well-being.  

If you or anyone you know grappling with mental health conditions, don’t hesitate and talk to your primary mental health expert because they can provide you with the support and guidance you need to get back to your life. 

Stepping Towards a Hopeful Tomorrow with Cadabams 

Mental health is as important as our physical health, hence it is important for us to take care of our mental health same as our physical health. But, sometimes, due to many reasons, our mental health can take a backseat or be neglected, leading to severe mental conditions. However, with the right treatment and care, one can heal and get back to normal life. 

Cadabam’s can be your partner in your journey towards a hopeful tomorrow. With over 30 years of experience and over 100 mental health professionals, we are helping 1000s of individuals each year get back to society. From autism spectrum disorder to schizophrenia, our state-of-the-art facility offers holistic treatment approaches tailored to meet every unique need. So, let us be your guiding light towards a better tomorrow.

Get in touch with us today. You can call us at +91 97414 76476. You can even email us at


1. What's the connection between depression and eating disorders? 

Depression and eating disorders often coexist, with one influencing the other. Depression can lead to changes in appetite and eating behaviors, while eating disorders may stem from emotional distress associated with depression. 

2. How does depression affect eating habits? 

Depression can significantly impact eating habits, leading to changes such as overeating or loss of appetite. Some individuals may turn to food for comfort, resulting in weight gain, while others may experience a decrease in appetite, leading to weight loss and nutritional deficiencies. 

3. What steps should be taken if someone is experiencing both depression and an eating disorder? 

If someone is experiencing both depression and an eating disorder, it's crucial to seek professional help promptly. A comprehensive treatment plan may involve therapy, medication, nutritional counseling, and support groups. 

4. Can depression cause an eating disorder? 

Yes, depression can contribute to the development of eating disorders. Individuals with depression may turn to disordered eating patterns as a coping mechanism. Additionally, the negative self-image associated with depression can exacerbate concerns about body image, leading to unhealthy relationships with food and eating behaviors. 

5. Can stress cause eating disorders and depression? 

Yes, stress can contribute to the development or exacerbation of eating disorders and depression. Chronic stress can disrupt eating patterns and neurotransmitter function, increasing susceptibility to these conditions. 

6. Are there specific treatment centers that specialize in both depression and eating disorders? 

Yes, there are treatment centers specializing in depression and eating disorders. These centers offer integrated care addressing both conditions concurrently, providing therapies tailored to individual needs. If you or someone you know struggling with both depression and an eating disorder, consider contacting Cadabam’s to discuss your options and take control of your mental and physical health. 

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