Negative emotions and low moods associated with overeating is often caused by anxiety and depression. Also known as binge eating, it is largely psychological. The hunger here is emotional, where you eat not because your stomach is empty, but as an effort to soothe your emotions. This is how anxiety and depression lead to overeating.  

Since you’re trying to counter negative feelings, you’ll reach out for ‘pleasant’ food, mostly fast foods. Since you’re not addressing the real problem, you keep eating. You crave for more even when you’re physically full.  

Overeating leads to weight gain which leads to more anxiety and depression.

With so much stress eating, you’re likely to end up even more depressed about the weight gain. If you’re not overweight already, you know it’s just a matter of time before the pounds pile. Such anxiety makes you feel even worse, and again, you reach for your ‘drug’ of choice; food. If you do not get help, you remain a victim of this vicious cycle.  

When anxiety and depression to lead to overeating as well as future health problems.

Anxiety is characterized by worry, fear, and tension. Sometimes the anxiety has a particular cause, and as soon as that is sorted, the anxiety is over. In other instances, the anxiety has no particular cause, and it lingers constantly. This is more of an anxiety disorder. Depression distorts the mind to give feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, and even guilt, which can result in self-harm.  

With such conditions that affect emotions extensively, overeating becomes a coping mechanism. You seek to ease your pain by eating something pleasurable. But the pain is too deep. Coffee, soft drinks, pizza, cake, french fries, or bags of chips don’t really work long term. The food only offers temporary distraction from the disturbing feelings, and this distracting can get addictive.  

Anxiety and depression create a downward spiral.

With overeating, particularly unhealthy food comes excess weight gain. This increases the chances of related ailments such as obesity, hypertension, joint pains, and even heart problems. The onset or even possibility of such diseases only heightens the anxiety or depression, and the eating continues. This downward spiral persists if unchecked.  

Sometimes overeating, followed by a wave of shame and guilt, leads you to expunge by inducing vomiting. This sadly, leads to even more shame. The weight gain also brings about poor self-image. Therefore, you try to diet and become obsessive about losing weight. This does not last though, it only induces more strain, and the stress eating steps right back.  

Professional help to manage anxiety and depression and stop overeating.

Binge eating is offering a short-term solution to a long-term problem. The solution: seek professional help and face the anxiety and depression. The remedies here can come in the form of counseling, behavioral therapy, or even medication.  

Behavioral therapy encourages a shift in how you deal with negative emotions. Instead of reaching for food, reach out for something else that you find equally pleasant. Read this blog that lists several behavioral and mindful techniques that can help divert your attention from the negative to the positive.  

Medication can also be prescribed for severe cases to stimulate the brain. Professional help is the ultimate solution in dealing with anxiety and depression. You can get support and not be alone in this negative cycle. Overeating only compounds the problem.  

For more help and support if you notice anxiety and depression lead to overeating, reach out to Lesley Goth, PsyD. Lesley has created resources and an online program for women to help get out of this cycle and have both a healthy relationship with food and body.