Can Anxiety Cause Weight Loss?
Sometimes a combination of factors results in an unexpected and continuous loss of weight. Unexplained sudden weight loss or drastic weight loss without first attempting to diet can be an even greater cause for concern. Others will find they suddenly lose the appetite to eat and miss meals. In some severe cases, stress can cause unexpected weight loss and poor eating choices.
For the person who is dealing with anxiety, a sudden and drastic weight loss can be frightening. Dealing with high levels of anxiety and depression can also contribute to weight gain. Unfortunately many of the things that can contribute to weight gain can also be things that can contribute to depression. This can make it very difficult for people to lose the weight they want to lose, especially when they are dealing with high levels of anxiety and depression.
Many people who have an eating disorder will experience one or more of the following symptoms. They may have extreme hunger pangs followed by uncontrollable cravings for foods that they know they should not be eating. Also, they may experience extreme mood swings. If this fits the profile of what you are experiencing, then you may have what is called anorexia or bulimia. Both of these conditions require treatment. However, when dealing with anxiety you need to seek medical attention before self-medication occurs.
The other condition commonly found among those who suffer from anxiety and depression and who are dealing with unexplained weight loss is panic disorder. These individuals may experience sudden attacks of terror and heart palpitations. They may experience breathlessness and chest pain. These attacks are often triggered by stress or worry. Again, medical attention is needed to rule out any underlying physical causes.
Finally, another condition commonly found among those with anxiety and depression and those experiencing weight loss is hyperglycemia. Individuals with hyperglycemia suffer from increased levels of blood sugar due to exaggerated insulin responses. People with this condition often have no other outward symptom than a constant sensation that their body sugar levels are out of control. To determine whether or not the elevated levels of glucose in the bloodstream are caused by anxiety or depression and if so, to what degree, the individual should undergo testing.
Does anxiety cause weight loss? It’s difficult to say without laboratory testing. However, it is clear that stress can greatly affect your body’s natural ability to burn fat. In addition, the symptoms that accompany these feelings of anxiety can lead to unhealthy eating patterns and eventually to weight gain.
The brain’s reaction to stress and changes in the functioning of crucial neurotransmitters play a role in the body’s ability to handle both anxiety and depression. The results of both conditions, altered stress response and abnormal functioning of neurotransmitters, can interfere with appetite suppression and promote weight gain. Those who suffer from anxiety often report feeling uncomfortable or even desperate while trying to lose weight. However, the symptoms and the imbalance caused by the stress response aren’t the only or most important contributing factors to excessive weight gain.
In most cases, you won’t experience an anxiety or depression-induced weight gain. However, those suffering from chronic anxiety will have an abnormal cortisol level. What is abnormal cortisol? Cortisol, which plays an important role in our psychological and physiological health, is produced when the brain recognizes an internal threat. Normal levels of cortisol are normal and are usually responsible for regulating appetite, metabolism and sleep.
When anxiety and depression interfere with the regulation of these two important mechanisms, the result is abnormal cortisol production and abnormal levels of hunger and desire to eat. In other words, people who are suffering from chronic anxiety or depression may be unable to experience satiety. They report feelings of being unable to regulate their bodies’ thermostats and are prone to rapid weight gain. People with abnormal levels of cortisol are typically over-stimulated in both emotional and physical ways.
Can anxiety cause weight loss when coupled with eating disorders such as bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder? Researchers are not yet sure whether these disorders are causing the abnormal levels of cortisol, but they do agree that anxiety does appear to play a role. Interestingly, it has been found that those with higher anxiety levels have lower levels of the hormone leptin. Leptin is essential for controlling the response of the hypothalamus to eating food. In fact, the chemical name of leptin is cravings.
As if the question of can anxiety cause weight loss wasn’t enough, researchers have also discovered that people who suffer from depression also have abnormal levels of the hormone serotonin. The level of serotonin in the amygdala is important in the regulation of food craving and motivation. In addition, high levels of the hormone ghrelin have been associated with an increased risk of obesity. People who are experiencing depression have abnormally low levels of both bdnf and ghrelin.