Can not eating cause depression?

In this blog we will answer the question “Can not eating cause depression?”

We will also briefly touch upon what depression is and what you can do if you have been experiencing depression due to fasting or due to not eating.

Can not eating cause depression?

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It is possible that not eating or eating a very poor diet can negatively impact your mental health and cause depression. 

Not eating can lead to higher levels of cortisol in the body to increase ;reading to a higher state of stress and changes in brain chemistry that can lead to symptoms of depression and anxiety. 

Diet is an important aspect of overall health and is an important component of maintaining a positive state of mental health. 

Diet is so important and crucial that it has spawned a new field of medicine known as nutritional psychiatry that focuses on how diet impact’s our mental well being. 

According to a 2015 study, researchers sought to understand the impact of calorie restrictions on the body and subsequently the effect it has had on the risks of developing depression. 

Researchers found that their study backed the understanding that even short term calorie restriction due to a poor diet or lighter diet had negative impacts on interindividual mental health as well as the impact on pharmacological treatments for depression. 

There has been plenty of research studies that have been linked to what we eat and higher risks of depression. Research finds that well balanced meals with adequate intake of vegetables, fruits, grain, and healthy fats are related to lower risks of depression.

So, if you are not eating, it is very likely that you could be at a higher risk for depression. 

What is Depression?

Depression or clinically known as major depressive disorder, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental disorders, is a serious mood disorder where people affected by it experience persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness. 

Apart from these symptoms of emotional distress, people with depression can also experience physical symptoms such as chronic pain, or changes in their behaviour such as social withdrawal or slowed movements.

For someone to be diagnosed with clinical depression, symptoms must be present for at least two weeks. Let us look at the various symptoms that must meet the criteria for a diagnosis of depression. 

The Diagnostic and statistical manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed) DSM-V outlines the following criterion to make a diagnosis of depression. 

The individual must be experiencing five or more symptoms during the same 2-week period and at least one of the symptoms should be either (1) depressed mood or (2) loss of interest or pleasure. 

These symptoms should indicate change from normal functioning. 

  • Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day- either by their own observation or observation made by others.
  • Diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day.
  • Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day.
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia. 
  • A slowing down of thought and a reduction of physical movement (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down).
  • Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day.
  • Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day.
  • Recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.

To be diagnosed with depression, these symptoms must cause significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. 

These symptoms should also not be the result of substance abuse or another medical condition.

What to do if you have depression due to not eating?

Here are a few things you can do to make cooking with depression easier and more manageable:

Talk to your doctor

The first step you can take for yourself is to book an appointment with your doctor or a general physician to understand what is exactly happening under the hood. 

Tell them of your symptoms and your diet changes including what you do or don’t do to keep up with your daily caloric and nutritional needs. 

They might suggest that you take a few tests or see a dietician, which is a good direction to consider. The tests will show you what you lack and your dietician will help you understand what you can do to get those nutrients your body needs if there is a deficiency.

Your doctor can also recommend that you consider therapy or pharmacological treatments if there are no biological issues related to your diet related to your mental health.

Consider Nutritional counselling

Nutritional counselling is a form of counselling that involves assessment which analyzes health needs related to your diet. 

Seeking a consultation with a dietician will be an act of self-love. While the many blogs and tubes can tell you all about these diets, your doctor can help you understand what your body and mind needs.

There are various needs that our body must meet everyday in terms of nutrition, so your dietician can help you figure out how to get those needs.

Try therapy

We also advise you to seek out professional help immediately since depression is not just low moods, it won’t simply “go away”. 

There needs to be an active effort to work through your condition as well as pharmacological support that you might need in the case there are neurological causes to your condition. 

Talking to a therapist and engaging with them to understand what is happening to you does not mean that you have failed in life. It simply means that you need help like everyone else and that does not make you any less of a person. 

Your therapist will help you understand what is happening to you, might prescribe you medication if needed, and can help you tap into your own strengths that can help you adapt to challenges, changes, and overcome them.

Understanding your condition, diagnosis and Engaging with a therapist, being diligent with your medication, and making the changes you need to make to get better will help you during this difficult time. 

Build on simple foods

If you are unmotivated to cook or eat due to depression, stick to simple diets and simple meals. Take stock of the simple foods you have with you that do not require much prep. 

Cereal and milk is one way to go, however, if you want to take care of your body a little bit more, consider simple potatoes, eggs, and rice. You can even cook in larger batches so that your leftovers can serve you for another meal.

These foods are so simple and they don’t take much time to set and cook- they mostly cook themselves. You just need to stay close to the stove, a timer on your phone, and a few garnishes. 

Think of a couple of foods that you love and can easily build up depending on your energy level. Let these foods be something you can cook in one pot and which gives you maximum national value for the least amount of effort. 

Join a support group

Another thing you can do for yourself is to join a support group of people struggling with depression so that you can experience emotional support first hand within these communities and over time learn how to manage your challenges by learning from each other. 

By joining a group that is open, empathetic, and growing towards healing, you and your experiences can be an excellent sense of support to someone else who is also in their early part of their journey. 

Focus on self-care

While it might be hard to take care of yourself- you might find it hard to eat, wash, wake up, and do other basic things. 

It is okay to allow yourself to let yourself go for a few days but making the effort to stick to routine and structure in your day to day life can help you move forward. 

Taking care of your physical needs is very important as it is a way to care for yourself. Taking care of your emotional needs is also important and you can work towards emotional self care after taking care of your physical needs first. 

Once you feel like you are up for it, take time to seek out support from your friends, family, and loved ones. Positive relationships are also important for wellbeing. 

Talk to them about how you are feeling, allow them to get distracted while doing fun things together. Let them provide you company when you do not want to be alone- take effort to reach out to them. 

Allow yourself to feel loved by people who genuinely care for you and seek out new meaning from these positive and healthy relationships. 

You can choose to make new changes that help you feel better or healthier like going to the gym, changing your diet to a more healthy one, going for wants. Sometimes change in routines can also be your way of caring for yourself. 

Conclusion

In this blog we have answered the question “Can not eating cause depression?”

We have also briefly touched upon what depression is and what you can do if you have been experiencing depression due to fasting or due to not eating.

FAQ related to can not eating cause depression?

Can not eating cause mental illness?

Yes. It is possible that not eating or eating a very poor diet can negatively impact your mental health because malnourishment caused by not eating can lead to changes in our brain chemistry, resulting in increased symptoms of depression and anxiety

Can not eating cause anxiety and depression?

Yes, not eating can lead to higher levels of cortisol in the body to increase ;reading to a higher state of stress and changes in brain chemistry that can lead to symptoms of depression and anxiety. 

What food is good for depression?

A Mediterranean diet is considered one of the best diets when it comes to overall health as well as mental health. Research finds that well balanced meals with adequate intake of vegetables, fruits, grain, and healthy fats are related to lower risks of depression.

References

Monique Tello. Diet and depression. Harvard Health. Retrieved on 17th April 2022. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/diet-and-depression-2018022213309

Meg Burke. Depression and Diet: Is There a Link? GoodRx health. Retrieved on 17th April 2022. https://www.goodrx.com/conditions/depression/depression-and-diet-relationship

Zhang, Y., Liu, C., Zhao, Y., Zhang, X., Li, B., & Cui, R. (2015). The Effects of Calorie Restriction in Depression and Potential Mechanisms. Current neuropharmacology, 13(4), 536–542. https://doi.org/10.2174/1570159×13666150326003852

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