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Depression is a common mental health disorder, found in up to 6.7% of the adult US population (8.1% of adult women and 5.1% of adult men). Most people recognize the emotional symptoms of depression, such as: the feeling of hopelessness, a low mood, tearfulness, anxiousness, irritation with your loved ones, lack of pleasure in the things that previously gave you enjoyment, and even suicidal thoughts.
You're probably also familiar with the many social problems caused by depression, including: poor work performance, avoiding friends, and having difficulties in your personal life (such as arguments with friends and family). But did you know that depression also causes physical symptoms? Slow movement, unexplained aches and flu-like symptoms, and a loss of sex-drive are all found in individuals with depression.
Most people, however, fail to realize the profound effect that depression can have on your appetite. When you're experiencing bouts of depression, your eating habits often change significantly and, with them, your weight.
Here we explore why individuals with depression may under- or overeat, and how doing so may impact on the condition, and on your health.
Most common with depression is the tendency to under-eat. When you are first depressed, you may find that you can't be bothered cooking for yourself, let alone eating, and so you eat less and may start losing weight. Loss of appetite is partly caused by the feelings of hopelessness and anxiety that proliferate during depression. These feelings cause stress, and when stressed you may not want to eat.
Because you don't really want food, you begin skipping meals. Rather than eating a full meal, you may eat something simple and convenient (such as a slice of bread and an apple). By not cooking a nutritionally-balanced meal, you may soon find yourself experiencing nutritional deficiencies.
Under-eating is one of the worst things an individual with depression can do. Mood is badly affected when you're not eating a healthy, balanced diet. When you eat a poor diet, you will often lack important, brain-enhancing nutrients that not only enhance health, but also enhance mood by making you less irritable and more content.
Oats, for example, are something you might not want to cook when you feel depressed, but are well-worth taking the time to make, as they contain mood-boosting, agitation-busting tryptophan (an essential amino-acid that aids Serotonin production).
Under-eaters often panic more easily. This is due to the body becoming stressed due to not getting the essential nutrients it needs to be healthy. Thus the body feels starved and goes into a state of hyper-arousal. This could mean that you start reacting more strongly than you would ordinarily do. You could even begin having panic attacks.
Thus, while under-eating could begin as a symptom of your depression, it could very easily end up aggravation your symptoms and worsening your depression.
Next, we'll be covering the less-usual (but no less severe) tendency towards overeating.