Sad but true, stress is a widespread problem among adults and children. For many, it can even impact their body weight. Anxiety can cause weight gain or weight loss and can be different for every person and every situation.

Some people may skip meals due to stress or opt for unhealthy foods. And for others, it can lead to loss of appetite. Most of the time these stress-related eating disorders are temporary, and you may continue with your normal diet once the stressful situation resolves or passes.

Keep reading to learn how stress can disturb the internal functioning of your body, signs of weight loss due to anxiety, and when to see your doctor.

Signs of anxiety related weight loss

Other than losing weight, stress can bring along many other symptoms, including:

  • heartburn
  • body pain
  • headaches
  • stiff muscles
  • mood swings
  • tiredness
  • sleep issues
  • increased heart rate
  • decreased libido

Why weight loss happens

“Fight or flight” response

When you’re anxious, the body triggers an “acute stress response”, which commands your body to respond to the incoming threat.

Hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline are released from your body. Adrenaline pumps up your body for robust actions and also suppresses the appetite. Cortisol sends signals to your body to shut down unnecessary functions during an emergency, including immune, reproductive and digestive functions.

Gastrointestinal discomfort

The digestion process slows down while your body focuses on ways to respond to the stressor. This can cause several gastrointestinal issues, including diarrhea, stomachache, indigestion, and constipation.

Persistent anxiety and stress can worsen these symptoms and cause other issues like irritable bowel syndrome.

Due to these digestive system changes, you may eat less and lose weight.

Lost desire to eat

Stress can drain too much of your energy, feeling you helpless to do other things. Anxiety can also impact your eating pattern, and you may feel less hunger than usual or even forget about eating, causing weight loss.

Nervous movement burns calories

Some individuals engage in physical activities to cope with stress. Though the endorphins released during exercise can lower your stress and anxiety levels, involvement in unusual physical activities can cause unexplained weight loss.

Sleep disruption

Stress can disrupt your sleeping patterns meaning you may find it very hard to sleep or stay asleep. It can also impact your sleep quality, and you may feel tired all day. Sleep disturbances can impact the production of cortisol, causing unwanted metabolism. You may also observe that your eating habits are unstable.

When to see your doctor?

If you’ve lost a few pounds, say one or two, there’s nothing to worry much about, but losing more than 5 percent of your body weight in a short time due to stress and anxiety is not good. See your healthcare professional immediately.

Schedule an appointment with our doctors at EPIC Heart & Vascular Center by calling one of our locations nearest to you.