Studies show that a high percentage of people with an eating disorder will experience increased levels of anxiety and depression. It isn’t clear if depression and anxiety are the result of an eating disorder or a risk factor in the development of one — the truth could be a mixture of the two.
Eating disorders, anxiety and depression have common risk factors. Thankfully, they are all conditions that can be treated effectively with the help of health professionals.
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 with an estimated one in five people experiencing it at some stage of their lives. However, it can be treated effectively.
Signs and symptoms
Common behaviour associated with depression includes some or all of the following symptoms for more than two weeks:
- 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 mental 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, and one in four people will experience it throughout their lives. Women are more likely than men to report anxiety disorders (12% compared with 7.1%) and affective disorders (7.4% compared with 4.2%).
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.