Home Eating Disorders Eating Disorders & Other Health Problems Eating Disorders, Anxiety & Depression

Eating disorders often go hand in hand with one or more other mental illnesses, such as depression or anxiety, due to the associated negative feelings and low self esteem which are present with both conditions.

The topic of co-morbidity of eating disorders and depression, anxiety, and/or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) has attracted a high level of interest, with recent research presenting varying opinions on the topic.

The debate as to whether a mental illness such as depression precedes the onset of an eating disorder, and  thus is a determining factor, or occurs as a result of the eating disorder, and thus is a symptom, is ongoing. Because of the complicated nature of eating disorders, and the fact no two eating disorders are the same, both arguments may present an element of truth in different cases. As with many other aspects of eating disorders (such as risk factors, causes and even the most effective treatment), there is no conclusive evidence one way or another.

The reality is that most people who experience an eating disorder will also encounter a level of depression and/or anxiety at some point.

Below is a brief description of the conditions that can co-exist with an eating disorder.

Please note the information provides a general outline of these conditions; for a full description it is important to visit a doctor.


People with depression find it hard to function every day and may be reluctant to participate in activities they once enjoyed. It is very common for people with an eating disorder to experience a level of depression at some time or another.

Depression is one of the most common of all mental health problems. One in five people experience depression at some stage of their lives.

Click here to download a fact sheet on depression and eating disorders.

Fact sheet prepared in collaboration with Beyondblue.

Signs and Symptoms

Common behaviour associated with depression includes some or all of the following symptoms for a minimum 2 week period:

  • Moodiness that is out of character

  • Increased irritability and frustration

  • Finding it hard to take minor personal criticisms

  • Spending less time with friends and family

  • Loss of interest in food, sex, exercise or other pleasurable activities

  • Being awake throughout the night

  • Increased alcohol and drug use

  • Staying home from work or school

  • Increased physical health complaints like fatigue or pain

  • Being reckless or taking unnecessary risks (e.g. driving fast or dangerously) 

  • Slowing down of thoughts and actions.


An anxiety disorder involves more than just feeling stressed – it’s a serious illness. People with anxiety disorders find it hard to function every day. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorders in Australia. Nearly one in 10 people will experience some type of anxiety disorder in any one year. Women are more likely than men to report anxiety disorders (12% compared with 7.1%) and affective disorders (7.4% compared with 4.2%). One in four people will experience an anxiety disorder at some stage of their lives.

What Causes Anxiety Disorders?

Combinations of factors are believed to trigger anxiety disorders and may include:

  • A family history of mental health problems

  • Stressful life events

  • Ongoing physical illness

  • Personality factors

Types of Anxiety Disorders

There are many types of anxiety disorders with a range of signs and symptoms.

Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) involves feeling anxious, restless and/or worried on most days over a long period of time.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) occurs when a person has ongoing unwanted and intrusive thoughts and fears that cause anxiety – often called obsessions. These obsessions make them feel they need to carry out certain rituals in order to feel less anxious, and these are known as compulsions.

Phobias can cause a person to feel very fearful about particular objects or situations.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) involves experiencing bursts of anxiety that occur after a person has a major emotional shock following a stressful event i.e. a trauma, such as experiencing or witnessing a scenario involving death, injury, torture or abuse.

Panic Disorder involves having panic attacks frequently. Panic attacks are intense feelings of anxiety that seem like they cannot be brought under control.

Telephone-based services for people with anxiety and/or depression

A number of telephone helplines are available to assist you and provide information regarding anxiety and depression:

- Anxiety Recovery Centre  Victoria (ArcVIC): OCD & Anxiety HelpLine - 03 9886 9377 or 1300 ANXIETY  (1300 269 438)
- Mental Health Foundation of Australia (Victoria) 03 9427 0406
- Women’s Information and Referral Exchange (WIRE) 1300 134 130
- Reconnexion (treating panic, anxiety, depression and tranquiliser dependency) 1300 273 266
- SANE Australia 1800 18 SANE (7263)
- Beyondblue Info Line 1300 22 4636
- Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800 (up to the age of 18, free call 24 hours)
- Lifeline 13 11 14
- Lifeline’s Information Line 1300 13 11 14 (Monday - Friday, 9am to 5pm EST)
- SANE Helpline 1800 187 263 (Monday - Friday, 9am to 5pm EST)
-Carers Australia 02 6122 9900
- Mensline Australia 1300 78 99 78 (7 days, 24 hours)
- Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467

Web-based services

- Depressionet: http://depressionet.com.au
- Beyondblue: the national depression initiative: www.beyondblue.org.au
- Lifeline: http://www.lifeline.org.au
- Mental Health Council of Australia: http://www.mhca.org.au/
- MoodGYM: https://moodgym.anu.edu.au

What to do in an emergency

If you or someone you care about is in crisis and you feel immediate action is needed, you can contact the services listed below for assistance:

- Ambulance 000
- Lifeline 13 11 14
-The Accident and Emergency department of your local hospital
- Emergency appointment with your local general practitioner

This information was compiled with the assistance of beyondblue .

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