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The Connection Between Mental Health and Eating Disorders 

Victory Bay

Eating disorders and mental health have a strong connection, as eating disorders are mental health conditions that can also be the direct result of a separate mental health disorder. This is just one reason why addressing mental health problems as soon as possible is so crucial. 

Some people are more at risk of developing an eating disorder depending on their triggers and if they have any existing mental health conditions. In this article, we will be discussing how mental health and eating disorders are connected and things that can contribute to an eating disorder. 

Understanding Mental Health 

Mental health is an incredibly broad term that includes emotional, psychological, and social well-being factors. It is often used to describe how we think, act, and feel in our day-to-day lives. It also determines how we handle stress, triggers, and make decisions. 

It’s important to understand that mental health isn’t always something that is a negative thing. Everyone should address their mental health as it can help them better understand how their brain processes things, how they can manage stress, and why they may have certain behaviors. 

Understanding Eating Disorders 

Eating disorders are categorized as mental conditions that cause a disturbance regarding eating behaviors. It is a serious condition that impacts both the physical and mental and can lead to significant problems in everyday life and the long term. 

Eating disorders are usually categorized as anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder. They often result in people severely cutting back on how much they eat and obsessively focusing on what they eat and how often they eat. They can also result in self-harm behaviors, including throwing up, self-starving, and eating large amounts at one time. 

How Mental Health and Eating Disorders Overlap 

There is a term used to describe when mental health and eating disorders overlap, which is co-occurring disorders. This is when an individual has two or more mental health conditions or disorders that often play off of one another. The problem with having co-occurring disorders is that oftentimes, one disorder will be addressed while the other is ignored or not yet diagnosed. 

Many people who have an eating disorder fall into the category of having a co-occurring disorder, as eating disorders are often triggered by something else. Here are some of the mental health conditions that are often associated with eating disorders. 


Anxiety disorders are diagnosed when somebody is in an excessive and constant state of worry that does not simply go away once the stressor is gone. This results in a significant amount of anxiety and stress on a daily basis that has no real cause. 

Eating disorders can be the result of an anxiety disorder as individuals try to control or cope with the symptoms of anxiety. 


Depression is a common co-occurring disorder with other mental health conditions and is categorized by an intense state of sadness. It also includes other characteristics, such as decreased energy, lack of interest, changes in appetite, changes in sleep, feelings of guilt, and poor concentration. 

Those battling depression may also develop an eating disorder as they are trying to cope with the symptoms of depression. Eating disorders can also co-occur with depression if you lose interest in food or use it as a way of punishing yourself. 


Obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, is categorized as an anxiety disorder that results in intrusive and unwanted thoughts and obsessions. The symptoms of OCD often result in compulsions and obsessions that the individual knows are abnormal but is unable to stop. Usually, OCD is rooted in fear, distress, anxiety, or trauma in one’s personal, social, or professional life. 

OCD often originates as people are looking for a way to have some control in their lives but it can spiral into a disorder that starts to control them. 

Because OCD causes obsessive and compulsive behaviors, it can often lead to eating disorders, which also fall into that category. You may become overly obsessed with how much you eat or what you eat and have to have certain behaviors or rituals around food.  


Trauma disorders encompass many different types of situations, including PTSD and self-harm disorders. Trauma can be long-term or short-term, being connected to a single incident or more long-term situations from childhood or relationships. 

Those with trauma may develop eating disorder behaviors as they are trying to cope with the side effects of trauma. Those who have experienced trauma often feel like they don’t have any control, and obsessively focusing on food gives them a sense of control in their life. 

Substance Abuse 

Substance abuse is a very prevalent mental health condition that often results in the abuse of alcohol, pills, or drugs, and it results in addictive, compulsive, and obsessive behaviors. 

Eating disorders and substance abuse are common co-occurring disorders as the root behaviors are very similar. Abusing certain substances can also disrupt your normal eating patterns, leading to eating disorder behaviors. 

Things That Can Contribute to Eating Disorders 

Aside from mental health conditions, there are many things that could possibly contribute to eating disorders. These are things that could make an existing eating disorder worse or promote eating disorder behaviors. 

Societal Pressure 

Society has always had certain standards set for people, which are always changing. These standards often include beauty standards around hair, skin, weight, and body type. If you do not fit into the standard mold of what society finds attractive, you may be tempted to change this by developing unhealthy behaviors around food. 

For instance, during the summer, many people with eating disorders struggle more as there is more attention on body types and achieving a beach body. People are expected to show more skin, which can trigger self-analyzing and obsessive behaviors. 

Social Media and Marketing 

With so many people online, it can be harder than ever for people to be happy with how they look. People may present a certain image online, while businesses market in a way that is meant to make people feel bad about themselves to increase sales. Much of what we see online is also highly unrealistic and false, giving people unrealistic expectations about how they should appear. 

All of these things can lead to self-hatred and negativity, which can result in eating disorder behaviors. 

Low Self-Esteem  

Those who already have low self-esteem are more susceptible to mental health conditions like eating disorders. You may obsessively focus on food as a way of boosting your self-esteem and trying to control how you look. Food can also become a weapon to punish yourself if you do not believe you are living up to your own expectations. 

There is also a strong connection between low self-esteem and other mental health disorders, such as trauma and anxiety. 

Temperamental Traits 

There are some things that can put you more at risk of developing an eating disorder that is not entirely in your own control. For instance, temperamental traits have a big impact on mental health disorders as some people are more inclined towards obsessive thinking, perfectionism, and negative self-talk. 

Traits like perfectionism and the need to always be a high achiever could drive someone to develop an eating disorder if they want to look a specific way. Or those who are obsessive may obsess over food without realizing that it is becoming a disorder. 

Recovery with Victory Bay

At Victory Bay we’re here to help you achieve a new life with a new start in recovery. To learn more about the variety of treatment programs we offer, including mental health, eating disorders, and substance use, contact us today by calling 855.239.5099.