Depression and overeating have a reciprocal relationship. Recognizing binge eating symptoms and how they influence depression, and vice versa, can help you find treatment.
Depression is a mental health condition that causes low mood. If you live with depression, you may experience fluctuations in eating and appetite. Some people with depression tend to overeat, while others may forget to eat or lose their appetite.
Overeating can be tied to your emotions. For example, if you’re depressed, eating may become a way to cope with painful or upsetting emotions. If overeating and depression are causing you problems, seeking treatment may help you find new ways to cope.
Increased or decreased appetite is one of the most common symptoms of depression. If you’re depressed, you’re likely to have periods when you eat more than you want, or sometimes you may not eat.
Can depression cause a lack of appetite?
Yes, depression can also cause a lack of appetite. Overeating or lack of appetite both occur in depressed individuals. But it isn’t well understood why some people overeat and others don’t have much appetite.
Since binge eating is linked to depression, it may be helpful to know the signs of binge eating so you can recognize them.
Some common symptoms of binge eating, according to
- consuming more food than usual in a short period of time
- weight gain
- loss of control over eating, which may lead to guilt, shame, and depression
- poor self-esteem
Binge eating is related to several other factors as well. Other factors that are linked to binge eating, according to
- abusing substances
- sexual and physical abuse
- family conflict
- distorted perception of your body image
- conduct issues
- mental health problems
- parental mental illness
- family concerns about weight
- altered intestinal microbiota
Binge eating is highly comorbid with mental health conditions such as:
Depression can cause overeating, and problems with overeating can cause depression due to shameful feelings related to loss of control.
If you’re having difficulty with binge eating and depression, you can learn to manage symptoms of depression and overeating. Some strategies you can try on your own, and some you may need to seek out help from a mental health professional.
If you have difficulty with overeating and also experience depression, finding professional treatment may be necessary. Sometimes, you may be able to make lifestyle changes at home that can help lessen incidences of binge eating.
Try to avoid fasting
Restricting food for any period has been linked to later binge eating. One research study that examined treatments for binge eating found that educating patients about fasting later helped them eat more regularly.
The researchers suggest that the restriction of food does lead to more of a desire for food later.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a therapeutic modality effective for binge eating and depression. CBT-ED is a specialized type of CBT for eating disorders and has been shown in 2021 research to be effective in treating binge eating disorders.
CBT-ED treatment has multiple stages focused on assessing weight and body image concerns. First, in CBT-ED, you learn how to cope with daily events and moods and address food restriction head-on. Then, once you start to make changes, you learn strategies to maintain what you’ve learned.
CBT also helps you reframe faulty thinking patterns, which can be effective for depression. You replace maladaptive behaviors with helpful ones in typical CBT treatment.
Guided self-help treatment
Guided self-help treatment for binge eating is often the first recommended treatment for binge eating disorder. This type of treatment can help you:
- become aware of your eating behavior
- learn triggers
- cope with feelings in a healthy way
- learn what to eat and when
Guided self-help treatment can often be done independently by reading through a manual.
There are a few medications that can help with binge eating disorder. Vyvanse is one medication that’s commonly prescribed to treat binge eating disorder. It can help reduce impulsive behavior that leads to binging.
Many people who binge eat are also prescribed antidepressants if they have comorbid depression. Some weight loss medications are prescribed for those who binge eat.
If you’re seeking medication for binge eating or depression, it’s essential to speak with a medical professional you trust to find the best treatment option for you.
Binge eating and depression can occur together. If you’re depressed, you’ll likely overeat or not eat enough. If you binge eat, the feelings of shame and disgust that can occur with loss of control can potentially lead to depression.
If you need help with binge eating and depression, you can:
- use self-help guided treatments
- avoid fasting
- reach out to a mental health professional
- talk to a medical professional about medications
For more information on finding a mental health professional near you, check out Psych Central’s resource hub for information on choosing a therapist or finding mental health support.
If you’re looking for more support for binge eating, the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) offers help and support for those who need it. You don’t have to go through depression or binge eating alone.