Finding the relationship between eating disorders, depression, and anxiety

Posted on 08/26/20 03:13:pm why is it important to treat co-occurring mental illness with an eating disorder at the same time


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People with eating disorders are at an increased risk for developing or being diagnosed with other mental illnesses. Depression tops the list with a 70% lifetime prevalence in people with eating disorders. Further, research suggests that eating disorders and anxiety disorders have more than a 60% rate in common.

In addition to people with eating disorders experiencing heightened anxiety around food and weight, studies show they also have increased rates of social anxiety, OCD, panic disorder, and trauma. Plus, research clearly indicates that co-occurring depression or anxiety can act as a barrier to someone receiving the expected amount of benefit from eating disorders treatment.

Treating co-occurring disorders with an eating disorder

It can actually be very difficult to treat certain co-occurring illnesses unless the eating disorder is also being addressed, says Mia Nunez, PhD, clinical supervisor, Eating Disorder Recovery adolescent residential care.

“It can be difficult to recover from a depressive episode if co-occurring eating disorder symptoms are not addressed as well,” Dr. Nunez says. “However, treating an eating disorder can result in a reduction of depressive symptoms even without targeted intervention specifically for depression. Ideally we would of course still want to treat both concurrently.”

Unlike depression, anxiety disorders have been found to often pre-date the onset of eating disorder symptoms, and unless directly addressed, will typically remain post-treatment.

“Treatment that simultaneously addresses both eating disorder and anxiety disorder symptoms is the preferred approach,” Dr. Nunez adds.

Developing a unique treatment plan in eating disorder care that addresses co-occurring disorders is a key component of Rogers’ evidence-based, therapeutic approach. For optimal results, the care is then delivered by a multidisciplinary team of professionals. See eating disorders outcomes here.

Eating disorder treatment at Rogers

Rogers offers inpatient, residential, and outpatient care for children, adolescents, and adults with eating disorders and many co-occurring disorders. Learn more about how we treat eating disorders at Rogers Behavioral Health.

For admission information or a free screening, call 800-767-4411, or submit an online screening request.

If you do not feel you or your loved one needs treatment right away, but may be concerned, we offer online quizzes to possibly provide some relief. While these quizzes do not provide a diagnosis, it could be the first step in finding the treatment you may need. Take our online Eating Disorder Quiz today.

Call 800-767-4411 or go to to request a free screening.