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Depression frequently co-occurs with eating disorders

Like most mental illnesses, depression occurs on a spectrum, and the “lighter” signs of depression can be harder to detect. It is important to note that while clinical depression is different from just feeling down, the sooner you can address any early signs, the better.

Signs of depression include:

  • Feelings of sadness or unhappiness
  • Loss of interest in activities that were once pleasurable
  • Irritability, restlessness or anger
  • Sleep problems
  • Overeating or loss of appetite
  • Difficulty concentrating, making decisions and remembering details
  • Decreased energy
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness and/or helplessness
  • Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
  • Persistent sad, anxious or “empty” feelings
  • Thoughts of suicide

If your child has an eating disorder, it is a good idea to consistently monitor for signs of depression. Your child’s treatment team is also watching closely, but since you are with your child every day, you may be able to report early signs and help with treatment.

Emotional Regulation Worksheets

Give your child the best tools to grow more confident, calm and resilient so they can feel better, fast!

  • Self-Esteem
  • Self-Regulation
  • Mindfulness
  • Calming strategies

Depression and eating disorders are both conditions that appear simple on the outside. Many people say things like “just snap out of it!” “just eat!” or “cheer up!” These comments, while well meaning, reveal a failure to understand the severity of clinical depression and eating disorders. A disordered mind is not capable of snapping out of things. It is in a terrible cycle from which the person suffering does not see a way out. Professional support is critical in managing both conditions.

Don’t worry about untangling which symptoms are ED and which are depression, just help your child get treatment as soon as possible. Both conditions tend to become stickier with time, so early action may make a world of difference.

Remember that you are doing your best, and you also deserve love and attention. Consider that you might suffer from depression as your child undergoes treatment. Please, take care of yourself, too!

Ginny Jones is on a mission to change the conversation about eating disorders and empower people to recover.  She’s the founder of, an online resource supporting parents who have kids with eating disorders, and a Parent Coach who helps parents supercharge their kid’s eating disorder recovery.

Ginny has been researching and writing about eating disorders since 2016. She incorporates the principles of neurobiology and attachment parenting with a non-diet, Health At Every Size® approach to health and recovery.

Ginny’s most recent project is Recovery, a newsletter for deeply feeling people in recovery from diet culture, negative body image, and eating disorders.

See Our Guide to Emotions And Eating Disorders

2 thoughts on “Depression frequently co-occurs with eating disorders

  1. […] ability to think clearly or make rational decisions about our own self-worth. Those of us who have depression may use starvation, binging, purging and other coping mechanisms in an attempt to self-medicate our […]

  2. […] that something is interfering with his or her ability to maintain healthy relationships. Many times depression, anxiety and eating disorders lead a child to actively isolate from […]

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