Is Depression a side effect, or a cause, of eating disorders? It is a widely disputed question that no one has the answer to.. There is no firm evidence for either side, and so the conclusion we formulate is determined by our opinion, rather than by fact.
In my opinion, depression is a side effect of eating disorders, at least, that has been the case based on my personal experience with my mental health. Whilst I undoubtedly had anxiety in some form prior to my Anorexia diagnosis, I did not have depression. Yes, I felt sad from time to time, but who doesn’t? But I didn’t feel how I feel now- I didn’t have the sinking feeling in my chest most days, and I didn’t feel so lost. Now though, now I do get that feeling, and I get it all too often.
My depression is worse on ‘bad body image days.’ The loosening of my belt results in the loosening of my happiness. It makes me quiet, irritable, and not very pleasant company. In contrast, on ‘good body image days’, when my self-esteem isn’t at rock bottom, or even just days that aren’t consumed by thoughts around my body, I feel a lot happier, content, and ‘at peace’ with myself. This is why, for me, depression can be considered as being a symptom of Anorexia, as opposed to a cause. Food, exercise and my body- the three major components of my eating disorder- are the triggers to my depression, the triggers that stir up emotional discomfort for me.
To look at the opposing argument, the view that depression in fact causes Anorexia, one must consider; ‘if depression was present before anorexia, where did it come from?’ There is a root cause to everything, including mental illnesses of any type, and therefore if Anorexia hasn’t caused the onset of depression, what has?
Let me know what you think in the comments. Why do depression and anorexia so frequently co-exist, and, what came first? I’m really interested to hear different opinions on this topic!