Eating Disorders Information (EDI)

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Eating Disorders and Anxiety: Are They Correlated?

Posted by a.marlow on May 1, 2013 at 7:15 PM

Below is an article penned by guest contributor Ryan Rivera. He runs calm clinic dot com and has written several articles on the subject of anxiety that have been published on various websites. 

Eating disorders and anxiety often go hand in hand. People who are suffering from a specific eating disorder are also plagued with negative thoughts and mental imbalance, the same symptoms for depression. There have been claims that these two conditions are related; however, no hard evidence has been presented to support this until recently.  Mental health practitioners who have been intensively studying the underlying causes of these two disorders have found an absolute connection.  

The development of an eating disorder, such as anorexia or bulimia, does not stem from the hate or disgust for food or weight but rather on specific emotional issues where food becomes an indirect participant. The person turns to food or away from it as a defense mechanism against emotional stress. This emotional stress is directly related to the things that can cause anxiety. Studies have been conducted and have shown that most people who have an eating disorder are also suffering from an anxiety disorder. 

It is still debatable which of them occurred first and caused the other. The widely accepted theory is that anxiety precedes eating disorder. A good analogy is a person who is suffering from anorexia.  This person is obsessed with the fear of becoming overweight. The fear can be so extreme that food becomes an enemy.  Food is avoided as much as possible, which is both unhealthy and harmful to one’s health.  

The person’s fear can be rooted from the society that sees obesity as an ugly physical aspect. This mentality will cause anxiety. This can push the individual to develop anorexia. But different types of eating disorders are not similar to each other. That is why this conjecture will not hold true for all situations.   

The truth is that most people who are suffering from an eating disorder are also likely suffering from anxiety or depression. 

There are usual anxiety disorders that are often found in people with eating disorders. 

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) occurs when people have a strong obsession in following certain rules or rituals. If they are not able to follow this set of rules, they undergo a state of great stress and restlessness. 

Panic Disorder is an intense flood of negative thoughts and emotions that can literally paralyze a person in fear. These attacks are uncontrollable and can come without warning. 

General Anxiety Disorder is a prolonged state of restlessness and worry that lasts far longer than normal. Some of these worries maybe irrational but causes excessive distress to the person. 

Social Anxiety Disorder is characterized by intense fear of social interactions or of the public. A person with social anxiety disorder is very self-conscious and uncomfortable being in public for fear that they will be ridiculed or embarrassed.  


OCD and social anxiety are particularly common for people with eating disorders. In cases of bulimia or binge-purge type anorexia, where a person eats a large amount of food then immediately purges it out through vomit or laxatives, they are hounded by a fear of gaining weight that promptly induces them to purge. As the disorder progresses, the ritual becomes habitual and turns into a cycle. Because of these revelations, several treatments for eating disorders are also combined with therapies that are considered help for anxiety.  



Categories: anxiety, psychoanalysis, culture

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