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Does Anxiety Make You Lose Weight?

By Julie Boehlke ; Updated July 18, 2017

Everyone has experienced feelings of anxiety at one time or another. When anxiety begins to take over your everyday life, symptoms can become unbearable; you may have what is called an anxiety disorder. In some cases, the stress caused from anxiety can make you lose weight. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that 40 million adults in the U.S. suffer from anxiety disorders. If you suspect that you may have an anxiety disorder, you should seek medical help for affirmative diagnosis.


Weight loss can be attributed to several different health conditions, including anxiety. If your worries overwhelm you, it can disrupt your daily living skills -- including getting proper diet and exercise. There are five main types of anxiety disorder: generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, social phobia and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Some of the causes of anxiety disorders are traumatic life experiences, hereditary, brain chemistry and poor coping skills.


The symptoms of anxiety are both physical and emotional. Physical symptoms are triggered by the body's fight-or-flight response and can mimic an actual medical emergency. Symptoms include headaches, fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, pounding heart, tremors and nausea. Emotional symptoms may include irritability, an intense fear of dread or doom, looking for signs of danger and inability to concentrate. These symptoms alone can make you so anxious that you may lose your appetite and avoid eating on a regular basis. This can contribute to significant weight loss until you seek treatment.


It is important to seek professional help in order to get the right treatment for your anxiety. Treatment may include exercise and a diet plan to help you maintain your weight. Cognitive behavioral therapy helps you focus on thoughts and behaviors that you may be experiencing during an anxiety attack. A therapist will help you work through irrational beliefs that may be controlling your life. Exposure therapy allows you to go through actual exposure to triggers that result in your anxiety attacks. Over time, exposure therapy and prescribed anti-anxiety medication may help curb anxiety symptoms.


Anxiety can take a hold on your life and make it seem like it's out of balance. Times of extreme stress and anxiety can affect your personal, social and financial life. These stresses can have a huge impact on your body. Raised blood pressure, making poor food choices and avoiding everyday life situations can lead to further medical complications such as hypertension, heart disease and eating disorders. Learning coping mechanisms and relaxation techniques can help reduce anxiety, improve your appetite and help you feel normal again.


Symptoms of an anxiety attack such as pounding heart, sweating, chest pain, diarrhea and fatigue are not dangerous and usually subside within minutes, but these symptoms could also be the sign of an underlying medical emergency such as a heart attack, stroke or hypoglycemia. Seek the advice of your physician to make sure you do not have a life-threatening illness. A drastic and unintentional weight loss of more than 10 pounds could also be an indication of a serious medical problem other than anxiety.

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