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It has been demonstrated that in many cases, eating disorders, depression and anxiety  occur together.  Eating disorders seldom occur in isolation of these other health risking behavior.  The fact that eating disorders, depression and anxiety occur frequently together they may be referred to co-occurring disorders or dual diagnosis disorders.

Anxiety disorders are found to go with eating disorders more than depression.  80.6% of people suffering from bulimia also suffered from an anxiety disorder.  Depression is also commonly seen with those suffering from bulimia.  Both depression and anxiety are found in those suffering from anorexia as well.  One theory of why the relation between these eating disorders and emotional disorders are so strong is that eating disorders, depression and anxiety occur on the same spectrum.  This spectrum would be considered the “emotional disorders”.  Eating disorders are often a result of a coping method of negative feelings, ideas and thoughts.  However, anxiety and depression can also result from eating disorders.

Obsessive-compulsive (OCD) disorder is the most prevalent anxiety related disorder that occurs with any eating disorder.  The OCD usually consists of compulsive habits related to food for instance.  This includes weighing food, cutting it all into small easy to eat pieces and binge eating as well.

The people most likely to have Bulimia are women who have had or have posttraumatic stress disorder a.k.a. PTSD.  These two disorders can go hand and hand just as easily as other anxiety disorders.

Because of this the best treatments for eating disorders include components that focus on eating disorders, depression and anxiety.  This is referred to as integrated treatment for eating disorders.  One thing that is still uncertain is whether or not depression or anxiety predate the eating disorder or is a result of the eating disorder.  This makes creating the right treatment plan more challenging because integrated treatment requires developing the treatment to address the eating disorders, depression and anxiety simultaneously.  It is reasonably safe to assume that most people who have an eating disorder will also have a symptoms of depression and/or anxiety at some point while being influenced by the eating disorder.  One study showed that two-thirds of people with eating disorders suffer from an anxiety disorder.  About 42 percent of those had developed the anxiety during their childhoods which is well before their eating disorder was formed.  However, panic disorders often follow an eating disorder.

A study done among fourteen pairs of twins where one of the twins had an eating disorder showed that the risk of anxiety disorders increased for both twins when only one had the eating disorder.  This shows how this disorder can affect loved ones and have them develop anxiety over what is going on.  Also with 52 identical twin pairs, where one of them had an anxiety disorder, those without it had an increased risk for eating disorders.  There are a number of studies that show a relationship between eating disorders and emotional distress.  Additionally, problems arising in childhood, family and other significant relationships may also contribute to the development of eating disorders.  An individual’s self image, body image, pre-occupation with body image in the family, feeling over-controlled and having difficulty soothing feelings of distressed may also be associated with eating disorders.  These feelings typically result in depression and anxiety that further contribute to the eating disorder.  Eating disorders, depression and anxiety can become a vicious cycle.

There is some evidence that suggests the quicker a disorder is recognized and treated, the better the chances for a positive outcome.  Fortunately, there is now an Intensive Outpatient Program in Memphis, TN that has been proven to be effective in the treatment of these disorders in six peer reviewed treatment outcome studies.   Our programs provide services to those who need more treatment than one hour a week, but less than 24 hour care, by providing three hours of treatment per day, three to five days per week, in an intensive outpatient setting.  If you or a loved one is showing signs of depression or anxiety, they should be assessed by a trained mental health professional who can help design a treatment plan that can result in recovery.  Treatment for depression and anxiety can be highly successful.  Call us at 901-682-6136 to schedule an appointment.