How Are Depression And Overeating Related?

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Nearly everybody overeats on occasion. That delicious meal that you just need seconds or thirds of? It happens! Normally, if this doesn’t become a habit nothing negative comes from the occasional indulgence. Researchers have found, however, that depression and overeating are very much linked, as some individuals use food as a coping mechanism for symptoms of depression. These individuals find that food can elevate their mood, even if it is just temporary.

Regardless of whether overeating leads to depression or vice versa, we do know that they certainly go hand in hand, with one directly affecting the other. Sometimes, overeating leads to depression, and sometimes, depression leads to overeating. There are a variety of factors involved.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that individuals that are classified as obese typically struggle with issues like depression or anxiety more than individuals who are not. So why does depression make you gain weight, and why do we overeat?

Overeating Causes

There are a variety of reasons as to why people tend to overeat. Most experts agree that overeating stems from a combination of factors, such as emotions, genetics, society, culture, or mental health issues. What makes one person feel the need to overeat may not cause another to do the same. Regardless, there are effective treatments available no matter the cause.

Common Reasons People Overeat

Some people may overeat due to lack of self-control, while for others it may be habitual or the way they were raised. Others may overeat due to high anxiety, stress, or depression, using food as a coping mechanism.

Anxiety & Stress Research indicates that stress is a leading reason people reach for more food than they know is good for them. Physiologically, the body is releasing cortisol when stressed, which actually causes people to crave fats, sugar, and salt. That’s why it’s so easy to reach for ice cream, doughnuts, chips, and sodas when stressed.

Boredom – Many people can relate to heading to the kitchen when bored. Even when they know they aren’t hungry, they automatically reach for food hoping it will dull that feeling of boredom.

Bad Habit – Sometimes overeating is simply a bad habit that could have been picked up in childhood or as an adult. As a habit, people may reach for food and/or overeat simply because that’s what they’re used to doing.

Signs Of Overeating

The following are some of the most common depressive overeating symptoms:

  • Continuing to eat even if you’re full
  • Finding it difficult to stop eating
  • Binging on food repeatedly
  • Eating and never really feeling like you’re satisfied
  • Becoming obsessed with food, cooking and baking all sorts of it, and eating more than you know you should

What To Do If You Overeat

The good news is that both overeating and depression are treatable conditions. Recognizing that you’re struggling with one or both issues, is the first step towards recovery. The second step is moving forward with a plan for treatment. Far too many people recognize that they have a problem, and are overeating out of boredom, habit, stress, or underlying causes such as depression.

Treating Depression And Overeating

There are various methods of treating depression eating. Some attend professional therapy with a therapist, perhaps digging for the underlying cause of the emotional eating. Others may begin attending a support group or educate themselves on the matter, using willpower to try to get a grip on the situation.

Some people who engage in overeating and are depressed find it challenging to resolve both issues. It’s common to feel depressed and overeat in an attempt to feel better. It can be a vicious cycle, but again, know that there is indeed effective treatment available. There are a variety of treatment options, from traditional therapy with a counselor, to alternative therapies such as acupuncture and transcranial magnetic stimulation.

How To Deal With Binging

Maybe you overeat, but not all the time. Maybe you binge on and off throughout the week or month. Surely, this is not healthy and over time, this kind of behavior can produce challenges to both your emotional and physical health.

You can deal with binging behavior just as you would with any other behavioral issue. Choose from a variety of treatment options that focus on getting to the underlying causes. This could be seeing a counselor, attending a support group, or trying alternative healing modalities.

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) Treats Depression 

Research has found that transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS therapy) can be extremely helpful in treating depression, especially when other treatments haven’t been successful. TMS is a non-invasive, pain and side effect free procedure that uses electromagnetic stimulation to rewire those circuits in the brain that may be causing depressive symptoms. If you’ve been struggling with depression due to overeating, consider learning more about the value of TMS for treatment. 

This blog post is meant to be educational in nature and does not replace the advice of a medical professional. See full disclaimer.

Works Cited

American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Stress and Eating. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2013/eating

Anxiety and Depression Association of America. (n.d.). Eating Disorders. Retrieved from https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/eating-disorders

Singh, M. (2014, September 1). Mood, food, and obesity. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4150387/

Stern, A. P. (2018, February 23). Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS): Hope for stubborn depression. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/transcranial-magnetic-stimulation-for-depression-2018022313335

Yale University. (2015, December 21). Overeating and depressed? There’s a connection, and maybe a solution. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/12/151221111352.htm

 

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