How Anxiety Is Linked To Loss Of Appetite

By Stephanie Kirby

Updated September 03, 2019

Reviewer Melinda Santa

You've probably heard of overeating. It's something many people have experienced as well. You have a situation that you just don't know what to do about. The more you play it over and over in your mind, the more anxious you begin to feel. Then, you start eating. It doesn't even matter if you are hungry or not; you just eat. But others experience the opposite. As their anxiety builds, they experience a complete loss of appetite. They can't bring themselves to eat anything.

What Is Anxiety?

The simplest definition of anxiety is feeling worried. People experience anxiety in a variety of different ways. That fear of the unknown and uncertainty about the future is something everyone will experience at some point in his or her life. Some common symptoms of anxiety are dizziness, chest pain, loss of appetite, a nervous stomach, and shortness of breath.

Keep in mind that this is by no means an exhaustive list. According to the Anxiety Centre, there are over 100 possible symptoms a person could experience when feeling anxious. Most times, they experience more than one at a time.

Anxiety Can Make You Feel Like You Aren't Hungry, But This Can Be Unhealthy
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Anxiety and Appetite

Appetite is linked to stress. Calm Clinic states that being anxious affects the way someone eats as well as how someone enjoys their food. While in the short term, this can seem inconsequential, it can have long-term negative effects. For some people, being anxious can cause an increase in appetite. For those that eat more when they feel anxious, this serves to increase levels of positive chemicals in the brain. This can lead to eating becoming a coping mechanism to decrease anxiety.

Anxiety and Loss of Appetite

For others, being anxious results in eating less. While the reasons have not been proven completely, it is thought to be a combination of a variety of factors. When levels of stress and anxiety begin to build the body goes into a fight or flight response. This can cause your stomach and digestive tract to respond in a different way leading to a loss of appetite.

According to Calm Clinic, serotonin is also a key element to loss of appetite. This neurotransmitter affects how full someone feels as well as how anxious they are. If the amount of serotonin is abnormal, anxiety levels and appetite will also be abnormal as your anxiety builds your levels of serotonin decline.


Negative Effects Of Appetite Loss

If someone stops eating, there will be negative consequences simply because the body needs nutrients to function properly. Appetite loss due to anxiety affects a person's general health as well as their energy level and sleep cycle.

Calm Clinic points out that depleting the body of nutrients lowers an individual's energy levels. When energy levels are low, the body seeks sleep. When someone is fatigued and anxious, this does nothing to lower their level of anxiety because the body is now worse equipped to deal with stress.

General health also suffers because of anxiety. A big part of this is that people are becoming nutrient deficient when they stop eating. Not getting enough nutrients can lead to unusual sensations, which in turn increase levels of anxiety. Overall, loss of appetite only serves to increase the levels of anxiety a person feels. The key is to understand what is causing the stress on the individual.

As you continue to think about the things that are causing your anxiety, it makes an impact on your body. Your physical health and mental health are closely related. Once this begins, it becomes a difficult cycle to break. The longer you go without eating, the less you want to eat, and when you do try to eat it feels like the food is wreaking havoc on your digestive system.

Anxiety And Eating Disorders

Anxiety has been linked to the beginning of many eating disorders. As someone feels that areas of their lives are out of control, they struggle to gain control in any way that they can. For some, this includes not allowing food to control them. This behavior then leads to disorders like bulimia nervosa or anorexia nervosa. The person has to combat both their eating disorder and their anxiety to have a lasting recovery.

Tips For Proper Nourishment When Dealing With Anxiety

The only way to truly cure the problem you are dealing with when it comes with your eating is to treat your anxiety. However, while you are in the process of learning how to do that, there are several tips you can try to make better decisions with your eating.

  • Start the day with protein - When you have a breakfast that includes protein, it will help you to feel full longer. While this might not be your problem since you are dealing with the loss of appetite, it also keeps your blood sugar levels higher for longer. This will help you to have more energy for your day.
  • Eat whole grains - Carbohydrates are known to boost your brain's levels of serotonin. Choose whole-grain cereals, oatmeal, and quinoa.
  • Avoid dehydration - Make sure you are drinking lots of water and avoid alcohol consumption. Even begin slightly dehydrated can impact your mood. The same goes for caffeine.
  • Find out if you have food sensitivities - Some people report that when they eat food that they are sensitive to it causes them to feel more anxious and out of control of their emotions. If you have never been tested for food allergies and sensitivities in the past, it might be something you want to look into.
  • Focus on balanced meals - Make sure you are getting fruits and vegetables and having balanced meals.

It's important that overall, you choose to eat foods that are going to provide your body with the nutrients that it needs. However, don't focus on trying to make yourself eat the same size portions that you typically eat if you are experiencing a loss of appetite because of your anxiety, focus on starting with small amounts at a time. This can help you to start eating when you don't feel like it.

Getting The Help You Need

While the tips above can help you eat while you deal with anxiety, it will only get you so far. You need to deal with your anxiety. Things like mindfulness meditation, exercise, and having a close support circle can help with this. However, it might not be enough. If you are not experiencing relief in your anxiety on your own, it's important that you talk to a therapist about your situation.

If you find yourself in need of professional mental health help, there are many resources available for you.

As an example, BetterHelp is a company that offers pain, online counseling, and therapy. This company strives to assist those who want to avoid the stigma associated with seeking help for illnesses that cannot be readily observed. BetterHelp is also professional, affordable, and convenient. Find out more at their website.

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