The Connection between Depression and Eating Disorders

Most people will experience the feeling of depression at least once in life. Every one of us will have painful and unjust things occur in our lives. Each of us will lose people or things which are important to us and experience unpleasant events that are beyond our control. For some, these are just the natural ups and downs of life and are weathered with an understanding that the future will hold more promise. For others, these events will trigger overwhelming feelings of despair and anxiety, which make it practically impossible to imagine anything being any different or better.

Over 19 million of Americans over age 18 are considered to be clinically depressed. Depression is so common that it is second only to heart disease in causing lost work days. More alarming though, if left untreated, depression is the number one cause of suicide.

There are certain studies that point out that depression always goes hand-in-hand with an eating disorder. Both of them rob a person of their happiness and self-worth. More often than not, therapists tend to treat depression alone with drugs instead of with a more psychological basis and along with the eating disorder.

In turn, the psychological community has expanded it’s scope of research and study by focusing more attention on eating disorders and concentrating on other extended issues related to eating disorders. The desire to distinguish and understand a possible relationship between bulimia nervosa and depression has become a major focus within the field.

Presently, there are two predominant hypotheses on the relationship between eating disorders and depression. The first hypothesis states that bulimia nervosa is an affective variant of depression. This idea came about due to early reports of a high prevalence of clinical depression in bulimics and a high lifetime prevalence of depression in the families of these patients. Recent studies, however, provide evidence that this type of relationship between bulimia and depression is still unconfirmed. The second hypothesis constitutes that bulimia is a “distinctive diagnostic entity with a psychopathological process different from that of other mental disorders.”

Moreover, results of a small study suggests that women with eating disorders who have attempted suicide may have had a depressive disorder long before their problems with food began. Researchers also found that among 27 eating disorder patients with a history of suicide attempts, two thirds had major depression before the onset of the eating disorder. That compares with just one of 27 patients who had never attempted suicide. Women in the suicidal group also developed depression and anxiety disorders at a younger age than the other women did. A substantial number of people with eating disorders purposely injure themselves or attempt to take their lives, according to the study.

The findings suggest that for most people with eating disorders and no history of suicidal behavior, depression may be a consequence of the eating disorder. But for those who are suicidal, the first and perhaps most “central” psychological problem may often be major depression. Therefore, people with eating disorders and a history of depression may be at increased risk for suicide. This, they note, suggests the need to put more emphasis on regulating emotion and mood in treating these patients.

It is amazing to delve into the statistics and discover exactly how many people who suffer from depression and eating disorders, still appears to be a puzzle to understanding. To this day, scientists and researchers are still trying to determine the exact causes of these eating disorders and, specifically, if it was depression that triggered the disorder or the other way around. What’s more important is finding the main trigger to the depression. The helplessness and hopelessness that comes from eating disorders are plenty enough to aggravate someone’s moods. The person with the eating disorder feels helpless and they feel out of control, while desperately searching for control by starvation or purging.