How depression can affect eating (5 coping tips)

This article will discuss how depression can affect people’s eating patterns, and what can cause people to refuse to eat. For that, the article will give a brief explanation of what major depression is, and how it can cause significant impairment in a person’s life.

Aside from that, the article will discuss how people can cope and treat major depression, and how to handle the refusal of eating.

Why does depression cause people to refuse to eat?

Depression can cause people to refuse to eat. Not only that, it has a big impact on a person’s life. It brings out the negative aspects of things and can take the color out of their life.

As for a person’s eating habits, it also changes when a person is depressed. It can be that some people start to overeat, and others can refuse to eat. This can happen for multiple reasons. Let’s discuss what can cause people to refuse to eat when they are depressed.

Lack of energy and interest

When a person is depressed it might be that the lack of energy causes them to have difficulty in doing the most simple of things, such as grocery shopping. This can be a reason why they stop eating.

The same goes for the lack of interest. Eating is usually a social moment, or a nurturing one. When a person is depressed, those feelings are shut off, and they might not be interested in eating anymore.

Problem socializing

Eating is related to being in a social environment, especially when they are not able to cook for themselves. But people with depression can have a hard time being around people and communicating. This can make it harder for them to go out to a place and eat.


It can also happen that people who are being treated for depression need medication. And sometimes those can impact a person’s appetite. It can make them not feel hungry. And it can turn eating into an obligation.

Feeling like they don’t deserve to eat

Depression usually has a strong negative impact on a person’s self-esteem and self-worth. When those are hit hard, the person might feel like they don’t even deserve to eat.

This can be a result of previous experiences of abuse, which can cause the person to not allow themselves to experience even the smallest pleasures in life such as eating.

When a person refuses to eat in every way possible, and through a prolonged period, it can cause them to get undernourished,  which can even worsen their mental health.

If that is going on, it might be a sign they are going through major depression, this is a type of depression in which the person intensely experiences its symptoms. Let’s learn a little more about it.

What is major depression?

Major depression, or severe depression, is a form of depression in which the person experiences the symptoms of depression intensely. People will usually feel the symptoms every day for most of their day.

Aside from the regular symptoms of depression, such as sadness, loss of hope, ability to focus, and lack of energy. People with major depression go through a huge impairment of their life. Sometimes even getting out of bed can be hard for them.

They can also develop psychotic episodes, hallucinations, and delusions. To treat major depression it is usually necessary medication and therapy. The medication can help with the intensity of their symptoms, and therapy can be a great way to have someone that will listen to them without any judgment and will build, with them, a strategy to cope with the situation.

How to manage the refusal to eat

When a person with depression is having trouble eating, or they are refusing to eat altogether, it might be important for them, and for their loved ones, to find ways to cope with this situation.

Let’s discuss what each of them can do.

What the person with depression can do for themselves

If you are depressed and are having trouble eating, there are some things you can do to help yourself. The first thing is to set a meal routine for yourself. Cook as much as you can at once, and leave it for you to eat at your mealtimes. You also need to eat healthy, in that you will get all the nutrition you will need.

Don’t drink caffeine or alcohol, they can alter your mood and your sleeping pattern. But try to put some exercise in your routine, this will make you feel hungry, because you spend some energy, and can also improve your sense of well-being.

If you feel it is becoming hard to grocery shop or cook, you can order online, or ask your support network to bring you things to eat and ask them to eat with you. This will help you set a time for your meals, and create a commitment to eat.

And when you do, remember to ask for things you love. It can help bring eating to be a positive experience again, and it can improve your mood.

What their support network can do

If you are part of a support network of someone that is depressed, there are ways you can help them go back to eating. The first thing you can do, if you notice they are not eating, gives them a nutritional drink. This will make for some of the nutrients and calories they won’t eat during the day.

But when you give this to them, don’t just give it and walk away. Stay with them while they are having it. This is an important rule to help people that are not eating. When you are giving them any food, stay with them, sometimes they can need help feeding, but mostly it is a way to be close and support them to eat.

Don’t ask them if they want to eat or drink something. Just bring them things you think they might need or enjoy. This will make it harder for them to refuse, and they might eat or drink at least a little bit of it. 

Remember this is not necessarily being aggressive, it is a way of taking care of them, when they are having trouble taking care of themselves. It might make it easier if you have your meals with them. This will create not only the possibility to talk and connect, but will also set a schedule for them to eat.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ): Why do people with depression refuse to eat?

When do I lose my appetite when I am anxious? 

When a person is anxious, their fight and flight response is activated. This stressful situation can cause people to not think of anything else. And this includes food, causing you to lose your appetite. 

When people are stressed, they receive a huge amount of cortisol in their body, this can also cause their alleviate to be diminished. Anxiety can also cause people to feel nauseated, which can make it hard for them to even consider eating. 

Another matter that can cause anxious people to not eat well is the fact that during a stressful situation they get a rush of stomach acid, this can lead, over time, to stomach ulcers, which can also make it hard for people to have a regular eating pattern. 

What can I eat when I don’t have an appetite? 

When you don’t have an appetite, it might be extremely important that each meal you have is nutritious, so you can keep your energy and feel satisfied. For that, try to include carbohydrates and proteins in your meals.

You can make yourself a smoothie, have some fruit with peanut butter. Some toast and eggs are a good way to go, and if you can, add some avocado to it. Aside from that, you can have some yogurt and granola, or maybe a cheese and salsa quesadilla.

If you have these snacks during your day, you can guarantee that you will be nourished, without having a huge amount of food.

What is anorexia? 

Anorexia is the name of a condition that causes people to lose their appetite, or lose interest in food completely. But it is different from anorexia nervosa, which causes people to avoid food so as not to gain weight. 

Anorexia is the simple loss of appetite that can be related to many health conditions such as depression, cancer, hepatitis C, kidney failure, heart failure, HIV/AIDS, and Alzheimer’s.

How can I get my appetite back? 

If you are having problems with your appetite, there are some things you can do to improve it. The first thing to do is to get plenty of rest. It can also help if you do some exercise before eating. 

Choosing food you like is also important to increase your appetite, staying hydrated is something that can also help you. Try to set a schedule for your meals, and eat them, even if you don’t feel hungry. And if you find it hard to eat, you can use supplement drinks to get your nutrition.

Have nutritional snacks around the house, so you can eat healthy during the day. And if you feel like it is causing you to lose your appetite, maybe you can take some medication for it.

And remember to make your food appealing to you. Organizer your plate in a colorful way, with tastes that appeal to you, and food you love. This can make your meals a more pleasurable moment, and make them easier to eat.

What vitamin can make me hungry?

When a person loses their appetite, it can be that they are going through something. It can be a physical matter, or emotional matter at times, like anxiety or depression. It has been discovered in studies that the lack of zinc can cause alterations in a  person’s sense of smell and taste. 

This can cause them to not want to eat or have the desire for food. In the long run, zinc deficiency can impact the person’s weight, in their immune system, and the healing of wounds. 


The article explained how depression can change a person’s eating pattern, and how they can refuse to eat. Aside from that, the article showed what major depression is, and how it has a huge impact on a person’s life.

Not only that, the article showed how the person with depression and their loved ones can deal with the refusal to eat.

If you have any questions or comments about this article, feel free to write it in the section below.


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