Is Weight Loss A Sign Of Depression: Discover The Thin Line To Avoid Emotional Loss

Do you ever wonder how weight loss could be a sign of depression? It sounds like an oxymoron – it’s generally associated with healthy lifestyle choices and success. But the truth is, abrupt or unexpected weight loss can be a major warning sign in terms of diagnosing someone for depression.

As many as 60% of individuals who suffer from eating disorders also suffer from clinical depression, making it too important to ignore when identifying mental health issues. In this post, we’ll dive into “Is weight loss a sign of depression”, what causes sudden unintentional weight loss, what effect it has on people’s lives and how to start recognizing the signs in yourself and others around you.

6 Physiological Processes Associated with Weight Loss as a Result of Depression

Depression is a mental health disorder that can manifest in many ways, including changes to one’s physical well-being. Weight loss is a common symptom of depression and can be caused by several physiological processes. In this article, we detail 6 physiological processes associated with weight loss as a result of depression.

  1. Neurochemical imbalances: Depression is associated with an imbalance of neurotransmitters, affecting appetite and metabolism.
  2. Psychological conditions: Certain psychological disorders such as anxiety can cause changes in eating habits, leading to weight loss.
  3. Hormonal imbalance: Hormones responsible for appetite regulation may be affected, leading to decreased appetite and unintentional weight loss.
  4. Impairment of the Gastrointestinal System: Depression can affect the digestive system, leading to weight loss.
  5. Immune system imbalance: People with depression may have an impaired immune system, leading to unintended weight loss.
  6. Altered metabolism: Depression can cause alterations in metabolism, resulting in unintentional weight loss.

Is Weight Loss a sign of Depression – Physical & Emotional Causes

Weight loss caused by depression can be attributed to a variety of factors. The following are some of the most common causes of weight loss associated with depression:

6 Physical Causes of Depression-Related Weight Loss

Physical causes of depression-related weight loss can include a variety of physiological processes. Some of the most common physical causes of depression-related weight loss are listed below:

  1. Stress: Excessive amounts of stress can lead to depression, which in turn can cause weight loss due to changes in eating habits and lack of physical activity.
  2. Hormonal imbalance: Disorders such as hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism can affect hormones responsible for appetite regulation, leading to unintentional weight loss.
  3. Medication: Antidepressants and other medications used to treat depression can cause weight loss due to a decrease in appetite, nausea or vomiting.
  4. Illness: Serious illnesses such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and heart disease can cause both depression and weight loss.
  5.  Poor nutrition: People suffering from depression may not make the best nutritional choices, resulting in weight loss.
  6. Unregulated eating disorders: Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia can cause severe depression and rapid weight loss.
  7. Changes in metabolism: Depression can cause changes in metabolism, which may lead to weight loss
  8. Appetite changes: People with depression may experience changes in appetite, leading to weight loss.

A Girl Lying on Table with the Food in front of Her - Is Weight Loss a Sign of Depression

8 Emotional Causes of Depression-Related Weight Loss

Depression can also result in weight loss due to emotional factors. Some of the most common emotional causes of depression-related weight loss are listed below:

  1. Low self-esteem: People suffering from depression may have poor body image, leading to decreased appetite and weight loss.
  2. Lack of motivation: Those struggling with depression may lack the motivation to eat or exercise, resulting in unintentional weight loss.
  3. Feelings of guilt or worthlessness: People with depression may feel like they don’t deserve to eat, leading to weight loss.
  4. Anxiety: Anxiety can cause individuals to skip meals, which can lead to weight loss.
  5. Grief: The emotional pain of grief can cause people to lose their appetite and unintentionally lose weight.
  6. Poor coping skills: People who struggle with depression may turn to negative coping mechanisms such as restricting food intake to cope, leading to weight loss.
  7. Social isolation: Avoiding social situations can lead to decreased appetite and unintentional weight loss.
  8. Lack of pleasure in activities: Depression can cause people to lose interest in activities, which can lead to decreased appetite and weight loss.

8 Main Risk Factors for Depression-Related Weight Loss

Weight loss due to depression can have severe physical and psychological consequences. It is important to be aware of the risk factors for depression-related weight loss in order to take action if needed. The following are some common risk factors for depression-related weight loss:

  1. Age: People of all ages can experience depression, but it is more common in older adults, who are at an increased risk for weight loss due to changes in metabolism and decreased appetite.
  2. Genetics: Depression can be inherited genetically, so those who have a family history of the illness may be more likely to experience unintentional weight loss.
  3. Chronic medical conditions: Having one or more chronic medical conditions can increase the risk of depression, which can lead to unintended weight loss.
  4. Substance abuse: The effects of substance use disorder can cause depression, resulting in unintentional weight loss.
  5. Traumatic events: Experiencing traumatic events such as physical or emotional abuse can lead to depression and weight loss.
  6. Social isolation: People who lack social support may be more likely to experience depression, resulting in unintentional weight loss.
  7. Poor sleep: Lack of adequate sleep has been linked to depression and can lead to unintentional weight loss.
  8. Side effects of certain medications: Medications used to treat certain medical conditions or mental health disorders can cause depression and weight loss as a side effect.  ​

5 Best Diagnosis and Treatment Options for Depression-Related Weight Loss

If you think you may be experiencing depression-related weight loss, it is important to seek professional help. Here are some common diagnoses and treatment options for depression-related weight loss:

  1. Mental health assessment: A mental health professional can assess for depression and discuss treatment options such as psychotherapy or medication.
  2. Blood tests: Blood tests can identify any underlying medical conditions causing weight loss, such as anaemia or thyroid disease.
  3. Psychological evaluation: A psychological evaluation can uncover any emotional or cognitive issues that could be causing depression and weight loss.
  4. Nutrition counselling: Working with a nutritionist or dietician can help individuals identify which foods they should be eating to maintain a healthy weight.
  5. Medication: In severe cases of depression, certain medications can be prescribed to help manage symptoms and prevent weight loss.
  6. Cognitive behavioral therapy: CBT is a type of psychotherapy that can help individuals identify and change negative thought patterns, which can lead to improved mental health and weight management.
  7. Exercise: Regular physical activity can help reduce symptoms of depression and increase appetite, leading to increased weight.
  8. Healthy coping skills: Developing healthy coping skills such as yoga, mindfulness, or art therapy can help individuals manage depression-related weight loss. ​​ ​

A Man Doing Yoga in a Serene and Splendid place


The takeaway from all of this is that it’s important to be aware of the potential warning signs for both depression and unhealthy and potentially dangerous dieting habits. If you or someone you know has lost a significant amount of weight without purposeful dieting, seek help immediately.

And if you’re someone who notices these changes in yourself or a loved one, encourage them to seek assistance from a medical professional to assess their mental health and ensure they are properly cared for. It can be hard to discuss these topics with family and friends, so know there are a variety of outlets for support – whether it’s speaking to a professional or confiding in someone who understands.

Ultimately, weight loss due to depression should not go unnoticed or unaddressed as it can lead to severe health problems down the line. By knowing the signs, staying informed, and providing the support we can move towards destigmatizing mental health issues while offering necessary care when needed.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is losing weight a mental thing?

Yes, losing weight can be a mental thing. Our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors all impact our relationship with food and our ability to maintain a healthy weight. Mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and stress can lead to unhealthy eating patterns and intentional or unintentional weight loss.

Developing healthy coping skills and receiving support from a mental health professional can help individuals manage their weight in a healthy way. Additionally, engaging in regular physical activity and eating a nutritious diet can also be beneficial for controlling weight in the long term.

What is emotional weight loss?

Emotional weight loss is a type of unintentional weight loss that can occur in response to emotional distress. It is typically characterized by an intense feeling of sadness or desperation, which leads to the consumption of fewer calories than normal and a resulting decrease in body weight.

Common underlying causes for emotional weight loss include depression, anxiety, trauma, and social isolation. It is important to seek professional help if you are experiencing any type of emotional weight loss, as it can have a negative impact on both physical and mental health.

Why stress makes you lose weight?

Stress can cause weight loss in a few different ways. Firstly, it can lead to unhealthy eating habits due to emotional eating or an increased desire for comfort foods. Secondly, stress can increase the production of hormones such as cortisol which are associated with decreased appetite and metabolism.

Additionally, stress-related insomnia can lead to fatigue and poor nutrition, both of which can contribute to weight loss. It is important to manage stress in a healthy manner, as it can have serious consequences on physical and mental health.  ​

When should you worry about weight loss?

It is important to pay attention to any sudden or significant weight loss, as it can be an indication of an underlying health condition. If you have lost 5% or more of your body weight in a short period of time without making any changes to your diet or exercise routine, it is recommended that you seek medical attention.

A doctor will be able to determine the cause of your weight loss and provide advice on how to address it. Additionally, if you are experiencing any other symptoms such as fatigue, nausea, or changes in appetite or mood, it is important to consult with a medical professional right away.  ​​​

What are the first signs of weight loss?

1. Decrease in appetite: Eating smaller amounts of food than usual or skipping meals altogether can be one of the first signs of weight loss.

2. Changes in clothing size: Clothes that once fit well may begin to feel loose or bigger, indicating a decrease in body weight.

3. Increased fatigue: Weight loss can lead to a decrease in energy levels, making activities of daily living more difficult.

4. Lowered immunity: Unintentional weight loss can weaken the immune system and make it harder to fight off illnesses and infections.

5. Mood changes: Sudden or significant weight loss can cause feelings of sadness, apathy, or low motivation.

6. Hair loss: A decrease in body weight can cause hair to become brittle and may lead to thinning or balding.

Why am I losing weight but eating more?

If you are losing weight despite eating more, it is likely due to an underlying health issue such as a thyroid disorder or diabetes. Additionally, certain medications can cause weight loss even when consuming a normal diet. It is important to talk to your doctor if you are experiencing sudden or significant weight loss in order to determine the cause and develop a treatment plan.

In some cases, this may include making changes to your diet and exercise routine or taking medication to manage the underlying condition. Exercise, regular sleep, and eating a nutritious diet can also be beneficial for managing weight in the long term.  ​

What blood tests for unexplained weight loss?

A complete blood count, thyroid-stimulating hormone test, and serum glucose test can help to diagnose any underlying medical issues that may be causing unexplained weight loss. Additionally, a lipid profile and C-reactive protein test might be ordered in order to check for signs of inflammation or irregularities in cholesterol levels.

A doctor may also order tests such as urine analysis or a stool examination to check for signs of infection. It is important to receive medical attention in order to identify and treat any underlying causes of weight loss.  ​

What is the biggest predictor of weight loss?

The most significant predictor of weight loss is a healthy lifestyle. Eating nutritious foods, exercising regularly, and getting adequate sleep can all help to promote weight loss.

Additionally, managing stress in a healthy way can also be beneficial for losing weight as it can decrease the production of hormones associated with increased appetite and metabolism. Engaging in enjoyable activities that reduce stress, such as yoga or meditation, can be an effective way to support weight loss and overall health.  ​ ​​​​

What per cent of weight loss is normal?

The amount of weight loss that is considered normal or healthy can vary from person to person. Generally, a slow and steady rate of weight loss between 1-2 pounds per week is recommended for most people.

This equates to about 4-8 pounds per month or 8-16 pounds over two months. It is important to speak with a doctor to determine an appropriate weight loss goal that takes into account any existing health conditions or medications.  ​ ​​​​


JULIA FELTON (August 3, 2014). The relation of weight change to depressive symptoms in adolescence.

Anthony N. Fabricatore (May 1, 2012). Intentional Weight Loss and Changes in Symptoms of Depression: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.

Eva Graham (June 30, 2021). Depression-related weight change and incident diabetes in a community sample.

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