15 Psychological reasons for not eating (eating disorder causes, consequences and tips to deal)

By: Sarah Grace

Psychological reasons for not eating are depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and body image struggles. 

Have you ever felt like you have lost interest in your favorite food? The appetite for a meal has been absent for days, weeks, or even months. But have you ever wondered about the causes behind loss of appetite?

What is a loss of appetite?

A loss of appetite means not having the need to eat food. People feel full all the time. They can’t enjoy their favourite dishes. And if they bother to eat, they can’t enjoy the meal.  Medically, this condition is referred to as anorexia. 

Differences between anorexia and anorexia nervosa

However, anorexia is completely different from the eating disorder anorexia nervosa. In anorexia nervosa, people feel hungry, but they restrict their food intake.

They don’t eat food, because of the fear of gaining weight. However, in anorexia, people don’t feel hungry at all, thus leading them to avoid eating. Both of the scenes are completely different from each other.

Causes for loss of appetite

As we have discussed in our previous article about the psychological reasons for overeating. There are various causes for not eating some may be emotional, medicinal, or physicall causes. 

1. Physical causes for not eating

A person doesn’t eat because of different physical reasons. Disturbances in body functions can lead people towards not eating. 

a. Gastrointestinal Issues

Disorders affecting the digestive system, such as gastritis, peptic ulcers, celiac disease, or inflammatory bowel disease, can cause abdominal discomfort and reduce appetite.

b. Infections

Acute infections, such as bacterial and viral illnesses, can cause a loss of appetite. The immune system of the body responds during infections. This results in the release of chemicals such as hormones, which can suppress appetite.

c. Chronic illnesses

Long-term or chronic medical conditions, such as cancer, kidney disease, liver disease, and heart failure, can impact appetite. The body’s energy needs may change, and symptoms associated with these conditions can contribute to reduced food intake.

d. Dental issues 

Pain or discomfort related to dental problems, such as toothaches or gum disease, can make chewing and eating unpleasant, leading to not eating.

2. Psychological reasons for not eating

There are a lot of psychological factors that can affect our eating habits. In some cases, people refuse to eat, while in others, they overeat. The psychological reasons for not eating are listed below. 

2.1. Depression

Depression is a common mental health disorder characterized by constant feelings of sadness and hopelessness. In this way, people lose interest and pleasure in their daily life activities. 

It can affect various aspects of life, including emotions, physical well-being, thoughts, and eating habits. Depression is associated with imbalances in neurotransmitters such as serotonin and norepinephrine. 

These chemical changes can impact the brain’s appetite regulation and may lead to a reduced interest in eating. Depression can affect the endocrine system, leading to disruptions in hormone levels. 

Cortisol, known as the stress hormone, may increase during depression, influencing appetite and contributing to a decrease in food intake. Fatigue and low energy levels are common in depression.

Moreover, it can also cause disturbances in sleep patterns. Which directly affects eating habits and results in irregular eating. Some antidepressant medicines lead individuals to eating disorders.

2.2. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) 

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) means having distressing thoughts and doing repetitive actions to ease anxiety. While OCD itself doesn’t always affect appetite, some with OCD may change eating habits.

High anxiety linked to OCD can alter appetite, causing less interest in food or more feelings of nausea. OCD can bring fears about germs to the point of avoiding certain foods or not wanting to eat in specific situations.

OCD might lead to strict eating rituals, like specific orders, portions, or conditions, making regular eating challenging. Some people with OCD may fear choking or swallowing problems, avoid certain textures or types of food, or limit their diet.

2.3. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

People with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) often face challenges with eating. PTSD can cause intense anxiety, which affects the desire to eat.

Distressing memories and flashbacks from the traumatic experience can make the act of eating overwhelming. The state of hyperarousal associated with PTSD, where the body remains on high alert, can suppress appetite. 

Additionally, individuals with PTSD may avoid places or situations that remind them of the trauma, extending to mealtimes or specific foods. This avoidance, combined with the coexistence of depression symptoms, can further contribute to difficulties with appetite and eating. 

2.4. Mood disorder 

People with mood disorders may experience challenges with eating for various reasons. Changes in mood, such as depression, can lead to a decreased appetite, making it difficult for individuals to find interest or pleasure in food.

Feelings of sadness, low energy, and a general lack of motivation associated with mood disorders can contribute to a reduced desire to eat. Additionally, fluctuations in mood may affect the body’s internal regulation of hunger and satiety. 

Some people with mood disorders may also use food as a way to cope, leading to changes in eating patterns, such as emotional eating or, conversely, a loss of appetite.

2.5. Body image struggles and social pressure

Body image struggles and societal pressure can lead to a loss of appetite. The pressure to conform to societal beauty standards often causes heightened anxiety and stress, negatively impacting eating habits. 

People may consciously or unconsciously restrict their food intake in an attempt to meet these expectations. This results in a diminished appetite. Body image concerns and the fear of not meeting societal ideals can lead to emotional distress, causing feelings of guilt. This may also contribute to a sense of worthlessness.

This further contributes to a reduced motivation to eat. People who are dissatisfied with their lives can have a loss of appetite. Their unacceptance, when fueled by societal expectations, creates a cycle of negative emotions, and a strained sense of self-perception. 

3. Medicinal causes of loss of appetite

Some3 medications can cause eating disorders as a side effect. Here are some common medicinal causes:

3.1. Antibiotics

Some antibiotics may cause gastrointestinal discomfort and a temporary loss of appetite.

3.2. Pain killers

Opioid pain medications, such as morphine or codeine, may cause a decrease in appetite.

3.3. Chemotherapy drugs

Medications used in cancer treatment, especially chemotherapy drugs, can lead to nausea and appetite suppression.

3.4. Blood Pressure Medications

Some medications for high blood pressure, particularly beta-blockers, can affect appetite.

How do people with a loss of appetite survive?

Now the question arises will people with anorexia or anorexia nervosa survive? People with a loss of appetite survive by adapting to changes in their eating habits:

Metabolic Adjustments: When food intake decreases, the body lowers its metabolic rate to function on fewer calories.

Nutrient Reserves: Stored nutrients, like glycogen and fat, become crucial energy sources during periods of reduced food consumption.

Prioritizing Essentials:  The body prioritizes essential nutrients to maintain organ function, conserving proteins and vital substances.

Psychological Coping: Individuals may develop psychological strategies, such as adjusting meal sizes or relying on supplements, to cope with appetite loss.

Consequences of loss of appetite 

Food serves as the fundamental energy source for both humans and various species. For survival on this earth, we need to consume food. If we don’t eat enough food needed for maintenance it will create a lot of issues for our body and life.

  • Fatigue, low energy 
  • Nutrient deficiency 
  • Muscle Weakness 
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Weight loss

Eating disorder symptoms

Signs of an eating disorder, particularly when not eating, include extreme sudden weight loss, fatigue, dizziness, and avoiding meals. Other indicators may involve obsession with food, distorted body image, and anxiety about eating in public..

How to deal with an eating disorder?

In order to deal with the loss of appetite you must be aware of the causes behind not eating. If loss of appetite is caused by physical illness it will be diminished once you cure. However in case of a longer timespan you should consult a professional. 

You can also try these simple tips in order to deal with loss of appetite at home. 

  • Try different tasty foods to pique interest.
  • Go for smaller, more frequent meals instead of big ones.
  • Stay hydrated with water or other drinks.
  • Exercise can kickstart your appetite, and help you find what you like.
  • Nourish your body and find joy in eating. 

These tips are only for short-term treatment. In case of significant hunger-related issues, it is advisable to seek guidance from a healthcare provider.

Conclusion

As you know, the major difference between living and non living organisms is energy. So if one doesn’t take the proper amount of food it will create many imbalances in his physical system. In this article we have provided you with information about the psychological, physical and medicinal causes of not eating.

I hope this article helped you. However if you have any questions then you can ask in the comment section. 

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I'm a researcher with a deep passion for understanding the complexities of the mind. My background in psychology and years spent analyzing research have equipped me with the knowledge to translate complex concepts into practical tools for self-help and mental well-being. I'm driven by a desire to empower individuals to navigate life's challenges and cultivate emotional health.

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