Last updated on April 12, 2021
In this article: We are going to take a close look at two conditions that are quiet common in the world today, Depression and Emotional Eating.
These two conditions don’t always go hand-in-hand and in both cases, they can be extremely detrimental to a person’s mental and physical health, but when these two are something that a single person suffers from, the effects can be magnified, and this leads to massive amounts of distress, which can literally tear that person’s life apart.
The National Institute Of Mental Health reports that 50% to 75% of emotional eaters suffer from depression.
The aim of this report then will to help us to get a very clear understanding of these two conditions so that we can better understand them, how to identify them and most importantly, the steps that we can take towards recovery.
We will do our best to keep things as simple as possible so that the process remains clear, this way we can ensure that we are able to easily identify whether or not this is something that is affecting us or perhaps a loved one and then get an equally clear understanding of exactly what can be done to help.
Are You Struggling With Depression?
Firstly let’s try to understand something; depression is something that almost everyone experiences at some time in his or her life. It is not always a state that warrants treatment, it can in fact be a normal response to the circumstances of a person life. Many people experience a state of depression when a close friend or family member passes away.
They may also experience depression if they are faced with an illness of some kind and people have even been known to become depressed when there is a natural disaster that has a big impact on their life. This type of depression is very normal and is not something to worry too much about; usually it will subside naturally after a brief period of time.
The state of depression becomes a concern when it lasts for two weeks of longer and has a major impact on a person’s life.
People who are experiencing depression often express states of intense sadness, strong anxiety, feelings of emptiness, hopelessness or and worthlessness, they can also feel overly guilty, be irritable, angry or intensely restless.
They may also lose interest in things that used to cause them to feel excitement, experience a change in appetite such intense loss or gain, have difficulty concentrating, become very indecisive, have problems with relationships and in extreme cases contemplate, or attempt suicide.
Bear in mind that experiencing one or two of these symptoms is not always a sign or depression. It is when a large number of these symptoms are experienced often and consistently in the same two-week period that the likelihood of depression being their cause becomes high.
A doctor, such as a psychiatrist, a general practitioner, or a licensed therapist can diagnose depression by using various screening tools available to them.
Types Of Depression
Though depression is a term that is used to describe a person’s state while they are experiencing some of the symptoms of depression, depression itself falls into many different categories. Let’s take a closer look at these.
1| Major Depression – Also known as Major Depressive Disorder, this is type of depression affects people for almost all of the time in their life. The diagnosis of major depression requires that a person experience most of the symptoms of depression on most of the days in a week for two weeks or more.
Major depression is marked by sadness and/or a loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities along with at least 5 of the following symptoms:
- Unusual weight loss or gain
- Problems getting to sleep or feeling overly tired throughout the day
- Feelings of restlessness and agitation
- Feelings of sluggishness or physical and mental slowness
- Strong feelings of lethargy
- Feelings of worthlessness
- intense feelings of guilt
- Difficulty concentrating
- Thoughts or attempts of suicide.
2| Atypical Depression – In this form of depression, a person is not unreachable. This means that their mood will improve if good things happen to them or if they experience something that would normally bring about an uplifting feeling or emotion. It does not tend to result in a person feeling depressed or actively displaying many of the symptoms associated with typical states of depression though it does still bring with it some symptoms; increased appetite, sleeping more than usual, feelings of heaviness in the extremities and oversensitivity to criticism.
In a study out of the Archives of General Psychiatry now known as JAMA Psychiatry), it was discovered that overeating and gaining weight, are the most common symptoms of atypical depression.
3| Persistent Depressive Disorder – PDD affects more than 3 million US people each year and is signified by a person experiencing low-grade sadness for two or more years. Signs to look for are: change in appetite (not eating or eating too much), over sleeping or not sleeping enough, constant lack of energy and feelings of intense fatigue, constant low self-esteem, difficulty with concentrating and making decisions and intense feelings of hopelessness.
4| Bipolar Disorder – formerly known as ‘Manic Depression’, bipolar disorder causes people to experience extreme highs and extreme lows that leave them feeling often confused about what they really want from life. The low phase of bipolar disorder comes with many of the symptoms of major depression.
5| Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – This is a kind of depression that is based heavily around the changes of the seasons. People usually experience strong symptoms of depression in the colder and darker months of the year when the days are shorter and there is typically less sunlight. At the opposite end of the scale, in the warmer months when there is more sunlight, greater heat and longer days, people with SAD tend to live very normal lives, unaffected by depression in most cases.
6| Psychotic Depression – This form of depression is associated with ‘psychotic’ symptoms such as paranoia, delusional beliefs, and hallucinations. People can sometimes see or hear things that are not real, have false beliefs about themselves or their life in general or wrongly perceive other people to be following or watching them.
7| Postpartum Depression – Many women who experience depression in the early weeks and months after childbirth are regularly diagnosed with postpartum depression. Contrary to popular belief, this is a condition that can also affect men though it is much more common in women.
8| Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder – This type of depression is common to women in the days at the onset of their menstrual cycle. It is associated with feelings of general depression, but also can come with mood swings, irritability, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, change in appetite, change in sleep patterns and feelings of overwhelm.
9| Situational Depression – Situational depression is one of the types of depression that does not necessarily require medical attention. This is the kind of depression that is naturally experienced due to life circumstances such as the loss of a loved one or as a result of a major stressor, such as the loss of work or a relationship breakup.
What Is Emotional Eating?
Emotional Eating is also more commonly known as Comfort Eating. It is the act of responding to stressful situations by indulging in the consumption of food. Most people who suffer from an Emotional Eating Disorder tend to eat high-carbohydrate, high-calorie foods that have very low nutritional value.
Emotional Eating differs from binge eating because people who ‘Emotionally Eat’ don’t always eat large quantities of food like binge eaters do, the key to emotional eating is that some form of stressful or emotional situation sets off a trigger which causes the person to want to eat at that particular time.
If left untreated, emotional eating can lead a person to obesity, detrimental self-esteem issues, guilt, shame, and other serious complications, including food addiction.
When a person who suffers from this condition experiences a stressful situation, they use food to attempt to mask or balance the negative emotions that they feel.
Imagine the good feeling that you get when you bite into something that you think is delicious, it seems to take over your whole brain, for just a few moments all you feel is this wonderful feeling of goodness as you bite into those first few mouthfuls of food.
That same chemical reaction is what a person who suffers from an emotional eating disorder is using to attempt to either overcome or completely ignore the stressful situation that has presented itself.
Rather than deal with the emotions or face the challenging situation head-on, an emotional eater will quite simply just turn to food to bring back some feelings of goodness and satisfaction in that moment.
This has the effect of never allowing the person to really deal with the emotions themselves because they are just covered over with a temporary satisfaction.
At the same time, the person will develop a reliance on the food because it becomes similar to a form of medication that they need to use every time they are faced with a stressful situation.
Emotional Eating And Depression
A Vicious Cycle
When people become depressed their bodies naturally look to try to experience certain kinds of comfort and for some people the number one means of finding this comfort is through food. If this is the case for a person, it often leads into a downward spiral of negative behaviors that only lead further and further into those negative states.
A person who eats often to find comfort quickly gains weight, which leads to lower self-image, which leads to greater depression, which leads to a need to find greater comfort, which means greater food intake, which leads to further gaining weight, etc.
This kind of cycle is extremely detrimental to a person physical and mental health and if left unchecked will result in a physically and emotionally unhealthy individual. This is something that must be avoided at all costs and can be if a person realizes soon enough that they are headed down a dangerous road.
Symptoms And Characteristics
There are some signs to look out for that can help us to become aware of the onset of depression and emotional eating disorder. These work both the same for males and females and have been found in people of all ages from early childhood into late adulthood.
A Tendency To Feel Hunger All Of A Sudden, Rather Than Gradually – This is something that occurs mostly in people who tend to eat emotionally, rather than naturally. People will decide to eat at the drop-of-a-hat rather than eating at frequent stages that can be set to a regular schedule. People who eat normally will have set times throughout the day when they tend to eat their meals but people who eat emotionally will consume foods at varying times throughout the say depending on how they feel.
Craving Junk Food – Emotional eaters tend to eat much more junk food than healthy food. This can consist of chips, cakes, sweets, ice cream, fatty foods, and heavy foods. This kind of food brings greater temporary satisfaction because it tastes good, and stimulates pleasure centers in the brain, just as cocaine and heroin does, which causes a greater feeling of satisfaction. However, it also brings with it greater feelings of lowness and lethargy afterwards, which can often further inspire the desire to eat more to feel good.
Eating Is Usually Preceded By Negative Emotions – This is one the strongest telltale signs of emotional eating. If a person eats immediately after they feel some form of stress or negative emotion then they are very highly likely to be suffering from an emotional eating disorder. These emotions can include sadness, guilt, anger, frustration, and even simple boredom.
Feels A Lack Of Control Over Eating Habits – Most emotional eaters claim they have no choice in how they feel regarding their levels of food intake. Many think that their body is in control and simply needs food because ‘that is just how they feel’, not understanding the underlying issues and processes that are occurring that make them feel like they want to eat.
Feelings Of Guilt After Having Eaten – Very commonly, people who are suffering from an emotional eating disorder will feel guilty about eating, after they have eaten. This is a sign that the person knows that something is wrong but they feel a lack of self-control and an inability to handle what is happening. This feeling of guilt often leaves a person in a declining state of depression because they feel bad about eating, but then continue to eat because they feel bad.
Common Signs Of Depression Include
Not Getting Out Of The House Often – A person will spend most of their time indoors, usually with a lack of social interaction. They will often make excuses for why they can’t go outside or why they simply don’t want to. At the same time, they will be very socially withdrawn even in situations where they are forced to be around people.
Lack Of Interest – Many people who suffer from depression find themselves with a strong lack of interest in things, especially things that they previously would have found exciting.
Withdrawal From Friends And Family – An early sign to detect the onset of depression is if a person is withdrawing from interaction with close friends and family. Bear in mind that they may just need or want to spend some time alone, but if they are continually choosing to stay alone rather than interact with close friends and family, this could be a sign of depression.
Low Self Esteem – People who suffer strongly from low self-esteem are much more likely to suffer from depression. A Lack of confidence in oneself can quickly lead to feelings of worthlessness, uselessness, or pointlessness, leaving a person in a very closed-off and limited mindset, which can quickly lead a person into feelings of depression.
Significant Loss Or Increase In Appetite – Noticing a significant change in eating habits is another symptom that health professionals look for when diagnosing depression. A lack of interest in food is very common during states of depression, and at the same time if a person begins to eat more this can be a sign of the early stages of an emotional eating disorder, which can also be a sign of depression.
Carbohydrates and Depression
An article from the publication, Obesity Research, cites commentary from Doctors, R. J. Wurtman and J.J. Wurtman that the carvings for carbohydrate rich foods, which is so common in emotional eaters and those suffering from depression may reflect low levels of the mood regulating neurotransmitter, serotonin, which is also seen in low levels in those are depressed.
Drs. Wurtman conclude that carbohydrates increase serotonin production in the brain, making depression symptoms better and therefore promoting thus cycle in those who feel the effect. They also note that antidepressant medications help correct serotonin levels, which in turns helps to manage the depression driven eating.
The Loss Of Interest Connection
Depression results in the loss of interest of daily activities, hobbies, and social interaction, and certainly in exercise and making healthy dietary lifestyle choices. Since exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, along with healthy eating, those who are depressed can lose interest in such things, leading to higher risks of weight gain.
Recovery Is Possible
There are many different forms of treatment for the various symptoms of depression and emotional eating. It should be first stated that it is always wise to visit your chosen health practitioner to discuss what you are going through and consider all of the various forms of treatment that are on offer.
However, there are alternative methods of treatment that could be more suitable to your outlook and lifestyle. The following are treatments options often used to get on the road to recovery and improve health and quality of life.
There are various prescription medications that your chosen health practitioner can discuss with you. Some of them will work better for some than others, and each carries their own side effects and list of specific actions within the body.
Counseling And Talk Therapy
Sometimes just talking through your issues with a qualified practitioner or perhaps even just another person who has had similar experiences as you can really help you to understand what you are going through.
Many people have faced the problems of depression and emotional eating in the past and many of them will have discovered effective means to transforming their lives for the better. Sometimes all it takes is a good honest conversation between two people to uncover the subtle underlying cause of any problems to figure out where they have been going wrong.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT has repeatedly proven its effectiveness at combating both depression and emotional eating disorders. This is a form of treatment that is best done with a qualified practitioner and usually takes place over the course of a few months of dedicated treatment. Your chosen health practitioner can discuss your options regarding CBT.
Self-Hypnosis is another very effective tool at bringing about personal transformation and it is popular among people who prefer to take an alternative route to traditional medicine or want to compliment conventional medical care.
You can learn self-hypnosis by visiting a qualified hypnotherapist who will be able to teach you some very powerful techniques that you can use by yourself at home.
One of the most important techniques used in bringing about almost all forms of long-lasting positive change, physical exercise has the ability to cause radical transformation in a person’s outlook on life, not to mention their levels of willpower, concentration, and self-esteem.
This is the kind of discipline that once practiced enough can be incorporated into a regular routine to ensure that a person’s physical and mental state is constantly maintained and improved. Visit a qualified personal trainer to get instruction regarding the right kind of physical exercise for you. For depression, low impact moderate level activity is best, as high intensity training causes stress that the mind and body do not need when trying to recover from depression.
It may seem impossible to get up and workout, but you have to make every effort, a simple walk around the neighborhood will do, or at a park where being around nature and breathing in fresh air is also supportive to the health of the mind and body.
Effective Diet Management
This is a method that requires a great deal of willpower from a person that is suffering with an emotional eating disorder, but it can be done with a high level of awareness and discipline. If you person can set himself or herself up with a tailored diet that is, nutritionally balanced and simple to work with they can effectively re-train their eating habits and conquer their bad habits when it comes to eating food.
You can also talk with a qualified dietician to discuss developing a holistically balanced diet and even combine this with other forms of treatment outlined above. This is also very effective at fighting depression because a balanced diet has the ability to help the brain to function more effectively and therefore increase the levels of activity in areas of the brain that are responsible for feelings of happiness, motivation and inspiration.
Of course, emotional eaters will find this difficult, as many have lost control over food, but a qualified therapist can address these issues, help guide the sufferer towards recovery from depression driven eating, and lead the patient to learn to make healthier choices.
Find Your Own Way
This is most certainly not a fully comprehensive list of forms of treatment and recovery from depression and emotional eating but it will definitely serve to put you on the right track. Any one of the qualified experts mentioned above can give you a full list of the various types of treatment that you can pursue through their particular field of expertise.
The most important thing is that you decide that you really do want the change and then book yourself in for a visit to one or more of them.
Hopefully, at this point you have gained better insight into the conditions of depression and emotional eating.
Thousands upon thousands of people struggle with these conditions and it is important to know that if you are struggling, you are not alone.
There are many different forms of treatment that can aid in bringing great positive changes to your life.
The first step is simply to decide that you want that change and then to pursue it.
Speak with your chosen health practitioner about all of the different options available to you and do your absolute best to bring your body and mind back into balance.
Imagine a space where every single one of your current issues has been faced and your life is on track in exactly the way that you want. Well, that space is only as far away as you want it to be, if you can make the decision to reach for help and then have the self-discipline needed to keep yourself moving forward by remaining strong you will absolutely guarantee your own success.
Positive life-transformation is just around the corner, all you have to do is take the first step in the right direction.
There are hundreds of people waiting to give you their support, so please reach out to them, and use them for what they are there for.
Just remember, there is no time like the present so get out there and ‘best wishes for recovery!’