Stress and Eating Disorders- How are They Related?

Stress and Eating disorders are one of the most common problems of 21st-century society. Stress is the precursor of binge-eating food or binge-watching a program from Netflix. We have different tendencies when we are dealing with stress and Stress Eating is one of them.

You probably experience frequently the urges to just snatch that tub of ice cream, a packet of Cheetos, and those good all chocolate rolls/cakes.

One of the ways we deal with stress in the common world is to bunch our mouths with food and disregard everything else after a long day full of work and homework that is needed to be finished even in the comforts of your home.

Today we will talk about the different types of Eating Disorders, how to manage/prevent them and how Stress is a major factor.

Stress and Eating Disorders

Stress and Eating Disorders

Stress has always been connected with the onset of different mental disorders that pop off and rears its ugly head to every individual that had problems with their stress coping mechanisms.

According to Psychology Today stress is the result of production of the chemical Cortisol which is also known as the “stress hormone”, what it usually does is to regulate levels of heightened breathing and faster high rate useful in situations that needs the fight or flight response when we encounter things of importance.

Although the body and the mind might always secrete this amounts in high level depending on the individual’s temperament, personality and reaction.

As such it is no surprise that chronic levels of stress are mainly attributed to sleep, hormonal, digestive, cardiovascular and immune problems. Prolonged levels of stress can also increase the likelihood of getting heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

Things that usually elicit stress especially to people that have eating disorders are the negative environmental and social factors. Includes socialization, peer judgment and peer perception. Our brains tend to focus on the negative of things base the researches of our scientists, because of the long history of hunter gathering by our ancestors; the Hominids.

Stress may be always magnified as something bad in nature but if anything it is something that we could use in order for us to grow into a better person in other words, we could learn different coping mechanisms to reduce our anxiety when faced by exhausting and intense situations.

It does not have to overwhelming and daunting to deal with, the good news is that we could manage, reduce, and ‘control’ our stress levels by using various relaxation techniques.

Uncomfortable situations are part of life after all, so in order to survive and thrive it throws rocks directly to our faces which invariably, in the long run, build up our characters and strength. Something we will need and is useful to become your best self in the future.

But like anything else, we all have our own problems and this includes being overwhelmed by the stresses and happenings in our life. So some of us will inevitably encounter and experience different afflictions including eating disorders.

Another factor that adds up to the problem are societal standards of the ‘perfect body shape’, which in turn leaves people with feelings of inadequacy, guilt, and shame. In the downturn escalates to a more serious matter winding down into a disease.

Most Common Eating Disorders

Most Common Stress Eating Disorders

There are 6 most common eating disorder which around 2 percent and 0.8 percent of men are affected.

Time and time again that our industrialized, affluent, and booming societies have played a part in the growth of psychological diseases in history.

They are characterized by a persistent disturbance of eating patterns that leads to poor physical and/or psychological health.

The major eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge-eating disorder, avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder, pica, and rumination disorder.

1. Anorexia Nervosa– characterized by abnormally low intakes of food due to intense fear of gaining weight.

In addition to there is a distortion with the way the person sees his/her body image such as the denial of seriousness of the body’s condition. Arguably the most well-known eating disorder thanks to social media.

2. Bulimia Nervosa this is characterized by a serious cycle of bienging and compensatory eating habits. It is mostly found out that there are definite fluctuations with the person’s body weight (up or down).

To prevent gaining weight one of the diagnosis is the compensatory use of laxatives, inducing vomiting, fasting, or excessive exercise.

3. Binge-eating disorder symptoms include eating large quantities of food often very quickly it is a feeling of a loss of control during binge and recurring feelings of guilt, shame, or distress after doing so. The most common eating disorder in the United States.

4. Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder– also known as the Selective Food Disorder which is similar to anorexia which involves restriction of food intake but does not involve body distress about body size, shape, and fear.

A lot of children might have gone through a phase of picky eating but the difference is that someone who has ARFID is that they are not developing properly because of the lack of nutrients they are getting to maintain normal body function.

5. Pica– this is characterized by eating items that are not typically considered as food and does not contain any nutritional value such as hair, clothes, dirt and paint chip, etc.

There are multiple complications related to Pica including organ obstruction, digestive infections and toxic side effects.

Typically, Pica is something that occurs along with mental health disorders that causes impairment e.g. schizophrenia, intellectual disability, autism spectrum disorder, etc.

6. Rumination Disorder involves habitual regurgitation of the food which occurs at least once a month. Food that is regurgitated is usually re chewed, re swallowed or spitted out. Usually when someone regurgitates is doesn’t show any obvious effort and is very subtle. Someone who has RD may induced vomiting voluntarily.

Not surprisingly, people who are already suffering from different psychiatric illnesses are more prone to acquire more issues.

This is because eating patterns are disturbed by the environmental, social, biological and cultural factors which added up to the levels of multiplicity that disorders have.

Eating disorders develop around adolescence or early adulthood but onset around childhood are nothing new but there are no explanations for that as well.

Numerous scientific research were made to discover the factors, causes, and underlying measures as to why it happens. Yet we can only observe the in an effort to unravel the biological, psychological and social underpinnings.

Nevertheless, it is good to know that it is treatable, so if you or your loved one is suffering from a suspected disorder reach out to the Psychology Today and get help to the nearest therapist today.

The first step to overcoming this rocks in our lives is acknowledging them and knowing that they have an end no matter how dire the situation may seem.

Preventing and Managing Eating Disorders

Consult your doctor to prevent stress eating disorders

We go back to the old saying, “Prevention is better than cure”. The most we could do about it to help us manage the symptoms of stress and teach ourselves different techniques to recuperate when episodes of attack happens or feelings that you are too high and wired at the moment. You could do the following exercises:

Meditation: This is something I personally do whenever I feel like stress is overwhelming and trying to snatch away the energy remaining for the day. Whenever and wherever you could do this freely and easily just find a comfortable position, like laying down or sitting up in a dignified position.

For starters just do a 5-minute breathing exercise, close your eyes, take notice of your breath and have a deep inhale and exhale. You could also do the 4-7-8 method, wherein you will inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds, and exhale for 8 seconds. Do this for 5-10 repetitions and you will see the great results and you might also find yourself a bit dizzy.

Journaling: If you are a frequent reader in this site, you know how much I love sharing about Journaling as a stress reliever. Writing is something that will always help you release all the pent-up emotions you might be having at the moment.

Letting yourself write all the emotions away and then afterwards burning it is going to be a nice sense of release. I made a comprehensive guide to 4 techniques of relaxation here in case if you are interested.

Muscle Relaxation: This is the active flexing of your limbs either by doing stretches or deliberately adding tension to one part of the body and releasing it. You can this with any muscles or part of body you might want, if you want to focus on your toes go do that and flex those toes. Stress is going to melt away faster than you would even know, check this video out about muscle relaxation.

Consult your Doctor: Most importantly if you think nothing is working and everything is a mess the last draw is consulting your doctor or therapist for help. We have to admit and acknowledge that at times we need to reach out to other people so that we may live life to the fullest and face our fears.

The worst part in letting us overthink whether to go a doctor or not is that you will never know until you actually go and let yourself be blinded by this fogginess. But when you attended that appointment and heard what the doctor has to say that is when you know you just conquered your anxiety.


Stress and Eating Disorders- Prevent it

As always if you have any questions, things you wanted to share remember that we are an open community in here. So leave us a comment and let us know what do you think.

Most importantly take care of yourself and know that there are people waiting for you and hoping all the best for you, so I hope you start with you. Take the step and contact the nearest therapist here.

**Disclaimer I am not affiliated with any of the Institution that mentioned above, it is just my way to help you connect with them**

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    1. Hi Rizza, This is a really helpful article and outlines many of the things we do to cope that are more damaging than we realise. These short term conveniences lead to long term trouble and become habitual and end up causing double trouble. Awareness is key and if we can have the foresight to abstain from these rash decisions and make better choices we all will have a better life. So Thankyou and keep up the great work


        • Thank you so much for the positivity, Paul! I really felt that slowly through this site, I am reaching out to different people who are experiencing different issues with coping up to stress.
          It is something very helpful to know that the people reading found what I am doing insightful.

          Have a great day,

    1. Hi Rizza,

      This is such an interesting post on eating disorders. It seems to affect women more than men. I wonder if men are able to deal with stress better than women? If so, why do you think that is?

      Perhaps it is the conditioning of our body image that we get from women’s magazines or even from family members and supposed friends.

      When I am stressed I know I tend to crave sweet things but also know not to have them in the house and this is the way of my coping with stress binging.

      The ideas of relaxation exercises and journalling are great.

      Thank you

        • Hi Jill,
          One thing that you pointed out is about women’s magazines and unrealistic beauty standards. The fashion and modelling industry has always been something full of gimmicks and would magnify only the things acceptable to their ‘standards’, it is toxic and controlling.
          Not to mention women really have the tendencies to have more insecurities regarding looks because of these teenagers are easier targets and more prone to idolize this kind of pedestal driven adoration to a particular group of people. Mostly the girls are more depressed and affected by these signs.

    1. I think we are still to discover all the negative effects of stress on our health. And, I agree with you that one of the negative effects of stress is eating disorders. I remember in school, whenever I got really stressed, I will not eat or just take a little quantity if someone is watching, otherwise, I will go without food for days, until whatever is stressing me passes.

      Trying to relieve stress on a regular basis helped me a lot.


    1. Hello Rizza!

      Thank you for this great post, very useful one! Eating disorders are really burning topic last decades. Due to a lot of stress in our lives we sometimes do things, which make the stress worse than better and what even worse – we ruin our health. This leads to obesity, diabetes soon or later so in this matter I find your post very useful, informative and important.

      I was in big stress in ln the last job and after I quit I realised how much it ruined my health – I got problems with my back, with the eating due to irregular eating. So everyone should ask himself whether it worth the health issues or not, for me? Definitely not! I would like to be a mum one day (sooner than later hopefully) and I cannot imagine I will ruin my health by useless stress when there is a lot of another job opportunities (maybe paid less, but the balance between less stress and on top money is definitely on the less stress side).

      Hopefully, more people realise it and do something with that to avoid really bad health issues in the future.

      Anyway, thank you for this great post, which makes me think about the health and I wish you all the best!

      Bye Renata

    1. Very useful information and good for anyone with an eating disorder or a loved one with an eating disorder. Typically, for me I tend to stop eating when I am stressed. I suppose that could be an eating disorder, too? My husband tends to eat sweets and other junk food he shouldn’t when he is stressed. That, of course, stresses me out!
      Thanks for the tips on preventing and managing stress. It is good to know that stress can be managed if we know how and are willing to try. If more people worked on stress management and prevention, there would be less eating disorders.

        • Hello Sharon,
          On a biological basis it is not really a disorder but rather just a way of our body telling us that we are overwhelm. Along with stress hormones out bodies would also regulate our appetite negatively when we are subjected to stressful stimuli which in turn causes us to overeat or the opposite.

          It is advised that before eating in that case, you try to do activities that helps you relax and unwind. Instead of straight up eating and grabbing those sweets and junk food. Check this out it might help you and your husband. 4 How to Stress Relief- Techniques You Can Do Now


    1. Very insightful article, Rizza. Is it considered an eating disorder if life just tends to get in the way of proper nutrition? In other words, I seem to be too busy to eat properly.

        • Hello Joseph,
          In this case it is not considered eating disorder if you skip a meal because of a busy day it is just something arguably we all did at one point in our life. Stress and work loads can and would get in the way of meal times. But it is alright it is not like the body would over react if you do this occasionally, not to mention the body has great adaptability.

          Which means we can change how many times a day we eat, just take for example all those different diet regimens available in the market right now. Keto, Mayo, Paleo and Intermittent Fasting. If you are having a hard time eating because of work, maybe you should try out fasting, it works great and you could also lose some weight if you did that.

          Have a nice day,