Why Loss of Appetite is a Common Symptom of Depression
Today, one of the most common mental health issues is depression. This condition manifests in a variety of forms, and with an equal variety of symptoms, but its most well-known symptom is a persistent state of sadness and/or “low” mood. One cause of concern with depression is how a patient’s appetite can be affected; namely, how those who suffer from depression can lose their appetite. Over the course of this article, we will explore why this can occur, and touch on how to address it.
Loss of Appetite and Depression
One feature of depression is that it often ebbs and flows: it appears for a time, then vanishes, only to reappear later. In cases like these, people should be wary of signs that their depression may be returning. One of these can be a sudden decrease in appetite. People should keep in mind the context of why their appetite might be affected. For example, if someone finds they are not as hungry for one or two meals, or if they simply do not want a snack that they usually have, that is likely no cause for concern. If, however, over the course of several days, or more, they find themselves eating less, then they should be wary, and mindful of any other symptoms that may be present.
Too Tired to Cook or Eat
Another facet in the grey prism of depression is that its sufferers face persistent tiredness, and/or a general lack of energy. Through this mechanism, people can find their appetite dulled in a second-hand manner. When suffering from depression, people find themselves too tired to perform even simple tasks, so tasks as involved as preparing meals—even simple ones—can seem as insurmountable as climbing Mt. Everest. In this manner, people could potentially convince themselves that they are not hungry, since the effort of preparing food would be too much.
No Pleasure in Eating
Perhaps the most insidious and heartbreaking symptom of depression is the way that it robs people of the pleasure they receive from everyday life. When their depression flares up, people find little to no joy in the small things that used to bring them pleasure—sports, family, hobbies, and food, just to name a few. In this way, the explanation for a loss of appetite is painfully clear. Since eating can be as much a source of pleasure as it is a method of nourishment, when depression strikes, it strips partaking of a meal down to its essentials. In other words, people experiencing depression no longer live to eat; they only eat to live.
As mentioned, the above symptoms are only a few of the ways that depression can manifest. People who suffer from it should be on the lookout for others, including the following:
- Difficulty focusing or concentrating on tasks
- Increased anxiety or worry
- Feelings of isolation, withdrawal, or rejection
- Digestive troubles
- Muscle pains
- Suicidal thoughts
What You Can Do About Your Appetite
While this article is not meant to replace medical or psychiatric advice, it is important for those who currently suffer from a depression-related loss of appetite to try their best to maintain their eating habits. Although there is no known meal plan or nutritional guide designed to counteract depression, there are a number of foods that have been linked to decreased risks of depression. Foods such as diets rich in fruits, nuts, and legumes; diets low in saturated fats; foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids, such as certain types of fish; and even vitamin supplementation can help, if only to offset any deficiencies that could arise from a decrease in appetite.
Get Professional Advice
When people are suffering from dietary concerns, whether they are related to depression, the best course of action would be to consult with a nutritionist or a dietician. The previous diet tips can help, but they are only basic guidelines. By consulting with a trained professional, people can get a better idea of their nutritional needs, as well as ideas on the best kinds of meals to prepare when depression-related tiredness rears its head.
Watch for Danger
You will note that, in the above list of symptoms, the last four have been highlighted. This is because these symptoms are of particular concern. The first three are overt physical signs; where symptoms such as anxiety, worry, sadness, and lack of focus can be subjective. Physical manifestations such as headaches are much less so, and are far more telling that depression has manifested. Finally, if a patient experiences any suicidal thoughts, they should seek help immediately. This cannot be overstressed.
In closing, those who suffer from depression should be aware that they can experience a loss of appetite when their condition manifests, but there are ways to mitigate this loss when it occurs. If patients include nutritional and dietary factors in the treatment plan they develop with their physicians and/or psychiatrists, their chance of successful treatment can only improve.