Eating disorders often co-occur with a range of other problematic and harmful mental health disorders. This co-occurrence is referred to as dual diagnosis.
Eating Disorders and Depression
- Why do people suffering from an eating disorder have a tendency towards depression? Individuals struggling with an eating disorder frequently go through a range of experiences and emotions that contribute to feelings of depression. Isolation, guilt, fear, shame, regret, anxiety, hopelessness, frustration, despair, anger, and substance abuse, are common, among others. Physiological changes in the body that can result from eating disordered behaviour may contribute to mood changes. Additionally, many individuals with eating disorders may have struggled with depression prior to developing the disordered eating behaviours.
- How can this be helped? Psycho-social interventions including talking therapies, art groups, family and individual therapy, as well as anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications, are frequently utilised by healthcare professionals in the treatment of depression and eating disorders. The non-judgmental support of family and friends also plays a significant factor in recovery.
Self-Harm and Anorexia
- Do individuals with anorexia have a tendency to self-harm? Individuals with an eating disorder such as anorexia frequently experience significant emotional suffering, and may engage in self-injurious behaviour as an attempt to regulate/cope with their emotional experience. People with Anorexia do not always engage in self-harming behaviours, and not all people who engage in self-harming behaviours suffer from disordered eating.
- How can it be helped? Self-harming or self-injurious behaviours should always be taken seriously as they can result in serious health consequences including accidental death. Even when self-injurious behaviour does not have significant medical consequences, it is most often a sign of serious emotional distress that may be life-threatening. Individuals engaging in self-harming behaviours should be evaluated immediately by a compassionate and qualified mental health or medical professional.
The Emotional Impact of Eating Disorders
- How do eating disorders impact an individual’s wellbeing? Eating disorders have serious consequences on every aspect of an individual’s medical and mental health. In addition to causing severe emotional distress for the individual, chronic eating disordered behaviours can have life-threatening and irreversible physical health consequences that may contribute to future mental health difficulties.
- What are the consequences of an individual’s eating disorder on the people around them? The people close to an individual who is struggling with an eating disorder often experience a myriad of emotional and logistical difficulties that represent the most challenging aspects of having a loved one who is suffering from a serious condition that is both a medical and a psychological one. Qualified medical and mental health professionals will be able to direct family and friends to appropriate local support resources.
Page published: August 7, 2019. Page last reviewed and clinically fact-checked January 14, 2022