Anorexia and depression are often intertwined. In fact, these conditions occur together so frequently that clinical experts are still exploring the features that they have in common. Both are serious psychiatric disorders that can take a toll on your physical and emotional health. Both conditions reflect abnormalities in brain chemistry, and both seem to have genetic factors. The nutritional deficiencies caused by self-starvation may lead to a depressed emotional state, which increases the risk of social withdrawal, self-injury and suicide. If you’ve been diagnosed with anorexia and depression, you need a recovery program that can help you build a healthy body image while treating the causes of your depression.
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At Futures of Palm Beach we specialize in treating co-occurring disorders such as Anorexia, OCD, Depression, and Addiction. Call for Help (866) 351-7588
Roots of Anorexia and Depression
Why do so many people who struggle with anorexia also have the signs and symptoms of depression? According to the American Journal of Psychiatry, depression occurs in approximately half of women who meet the criteria for anorexia. The journal adds that the rate of depression is higher in close relatives of women with anorexia, indicating that both conditions may run in families. The National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) adds that anorexia and depression also share certain neurological factors:
- High levels of cortisol, a hormone that the body produces in stressful situations
- Low levels of serotonin, a hormone that’s responsible for mood regulation
- Low levels of norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in emotions and moods
- High levels of vasopressin, which has also been linked with obsessive-compulsive disorder
Life stressors, like the demands of puberty, the death of a loved one, a divorce and physical or sexual abuse, can lead to depression. For many teens, anorexia is a way to exercise control over a life that’s become unmanageable. Ritualistic eating patterns and extreme weight loss become a way to reclaim a body that is changing too rapidly or to suppress overwhelming pain. Anorexia may also be a way for girls who feel depressed, suicidal and overlooked to cry out for help. Cutting, drug use and alcohol abuse are also common in girls and young women with eating disorders.
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Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders
Treating depression and anorexia at the same time is a delicate process. While the first priority is to stabilize the patient’s physical health and correct nutritional deficiencies, addressing the emotional dimension of depression is equally important. A comprehensive recovery plan includes treatment strategies like the following:
- Nutritional therapy and dietary counseling at the individual, group and family levels
- Dialectical behavior therapy or cognitive therapy to change the attitudes and behaviors of the individual client
- Family counseling for parents, siblings and other household members
- Participation in support groups like Eating Disorders Anonymous or ANAD (Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders)
- Adjunct therapies like hypnosis, massage or movement therapy
- Therapeutic creative activities like art, dance or music therapy
Antidepressant medications have been used successfully to manage anorexia and depression. Antidepressants can restore healthy levels of neurotransmitters like serotonin, relieving feelings of hopelessness and despair. Not every rehab facility is equipped to treat the complexities of anorexia nervosa with depression. Look for a program that offers combined treatment for both of these serious psychiatric disorders. The staff of psychiatrists, psychologists and therapists at Futures is trained to address the mental health issues that often accompany eating disorders like anorexia. We encourage you to contact us to talk about a specialized plan that treats both depression and anorexia.