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Symbeline's avatar

Can stress and anxiety cause a loss of appetite?

Asked by Symbeline (29576 points ) July 13th, 2012

Well, just what this asks. Pretty straight forward. Can stress and anxiety (two different things, but that go well together) cause a loss of appetite? If so, to what degrees does the stress/anxiety have to be to cause this? Does it have to be a long term, or short term period of stress and/or anxiety? What else can this do to one’s physical health?

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21 Answers

Sunny2's avatar

Of course. It can be a positive result of stress if you want to lose a few pounds. Be sure to eat healthily when you do eat and don’t give in to eating junk.
Stress and anxiety can also cause lack of energy and sleeplessness. How much does it take? That varies from person to person.
I hope whatever is causing the stress is over soon.

jordym84's avatar

Speaking from (current) personal experience: yes, they can!

Adagio's avatar

Yes, absolutely!

Symbeline's avatar

So if you really worry about something all day and just think about that, this can kill your appetite? And how come that happens?

zenvelo's avatar

It happens because your body reacts to stress by dumping cortisol into your blood stream, which affects your overall metabolism. In some people this acts as an appetite suppressant.

My sister lost 60 pounds when getting divorced, she just didn’t feel like eating.

By the way, this is not at all a healthy way to lose weight. It can be very harmful to the body.

Judi's avatar

I have heard that it can. Unfortunately I eat when I’m stressed, happy, sad, lonely, angry…. You get the idea. It’s a constant struggle.

Symbeline's avatar

@Judi Yeah, I’ve heard that a lot of people do eat a lot when too stressed out. Guess it really depends on the person and their body?

fundevogel's avatar

I had a problem with that after a painful break up. I was going to the gym a lot because it made me feel better, but food was unappetizing. It was like when you’re sick and the prospect of putting something in your mouth and chewing is the last thing you want to do. I could feel hungry while being physically repulsed at the thought of eating. It sucked.

bookish1's avatar

Oh yes. In times of severe stress/anxiety I have lived on chocolate soy milk for weeks. Really bad for a type 1 diabetic I might add. Don’t try this at home.

But if I’m just moderately stressed, I tend to overeat. Fun fun :-/

I do hope that your period of stress and anxiety ends soon. Be as kind to yourself as you can. And eating junk food for a short period is better than not eating anything at all.

augustlan's avatar

In my experience, anxiety can cause all sorts of physical symptoms (some of which are very unpleasant!), including loss of appetite. Hope you’re doing ok, @Symbeline. PM me if you need a shoulder to cry on.

tups's avatar

I’ve recently experienced that myself, so I would say yes. I just don’t feel like eating, it’s seems like a struggle. Best of luck to you.

Earthgirl's avatar

Yes, I agree with what everyone else has said. I am one of those people who has no appetite when I’m upset or heartbroken. I eat more when I’m happy!

My Mom has a lot of problems with nausea from medications that she’s on. She has to force herself to eat even though she’s nauseous a lot of time. It’s terrible, I really feel awful for her and helpless to do anything for her. It’s a pain medication that’s doing it and the nausea is bad, but not as bad as the pain is so she really doesn’t have a choice. She has tried so many things over the years this is going on. One good thing I noticed last weekend is that when she’s around people she manages to eat pretty well. I think being with people distracts her from it enough so she can enjoy eating more. Also, it’s funny, there are certain things that she loves that will appeal to her when nothing else does. She can always seem to work up a decent appetite for cheesecake, lol.

So try to make mealtime pleasant and not just a chore either by being with people or having a favorite food. Sometimes taking the first bite helps to stimulate your appetite too.

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zenvelo's avatar

@Earthgirl That’s why medical marijuana is valuable: it provides an appetite stimulator for people who find themselves unable to eat because of illness. And it reduces the stress that is causing it.

hearkat's avatar

Stress and anxiety do impact body chemistry, and many who deal with either or both of them chronically develop digestive disorders. Short-term reactions to stress vary from one person to another. I do seek comfort in food, and once was a compulsive overeater. Only after a couple especially heartbreaking experiences has my appetite diminished.

flutherother's avatar

I haven’t experience this often in my life thank goodness as I have to be quite badly stressed before my appetite is affected but it has happened. I came down in a worried state for breakfast once to find I couldn’t eat my toast. I took the smallest bite, chewed it and then found I couldn’t swallow so I gave up. It passed quickly with no long term effects whatever. Long term stress would be something different.

Earthgirl's avatar

@zenvelo Holy shit! The idea of my Mom on medical marijuana is something I think might only happen in an alternate universe, lol. She has serious back pain that is inoperable but is otherwise in good health. That’s a great idea though, that I myself am all for. Thank you. Sometimes having the munchies is a very good thing.

strawberry000's avatar

Absolutely! I’ve been there myself… But some people actually devour huge amounts of food when they’re stressed and anxious.

Leanne1986's avatar

It certainly does for me!

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

Actually, either/or could do it for me. Some people “stress-eat”, but I lose my appetite. When my husband died suddenly, I lost 20 pounds in a week and a half.

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