Loss or lack of appetite can be a symptom of anxiety. Symptoms may also be described as having no desire to eat, never feeling hungry or that the thought of food or eating is unappealing and/or makes you feel nauseous.
Why Can Anxiety Cause Loss Of Appetite?
As with a lot of physical symptoms of anxiety, the triggers lie within our caveman brain. This is the survival-driven part of our brain that our newer, rational cortex grew on top of. Its primary concern is keeping us alive, so when our brain perceives a threat, it releases the stress chemicals cortisol and adrenaline and activates the stress response called the fight, flight or freeze response.
The stress response can trigger physical changes which impact your appetite. For example, it can cause your stomach to stop breaking down food and also can suppress the digestive system. These factors can trigger a loss of appetite and/or the other related symptoms mentioned.
Also, if you experience stress and anxiety frequently, you can develop chronic stress, also known as hyperstimulation, which is when your stress response is on high alert for a prolonged period of time, long after the perceived threat has passed. Hyperstimulation can cause prolonged digestive system disruptions, including a loss of appetite.
How Can I Stop This Symptom?
As this symptom stems from our fight, flight or freeze response, the main thing that we can do to combat it is to focus on our breathing, adopting anxiety-reducing breathing techniques, such as controlled diaphragmatic breathing or box breathing. This should calm our central nervous system, distract our mind from the perceived threat, and deactivate our fight, flight or freeze response allowing our rational brain to kick back in and regain a semblance of control and feel the black cloud lift.
Though this will help short-term, in order to prevent the symptoms of anxiety and stress occurring in the first place, you need to manage or build strategies to tackle your anxiety and stress. There are several options available including CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), mindfulness, medication and group therapy. If you’re unsure, please contact your GP for more information.
Loss of appetite and related symptoms can also be caused by other factors, so talk to your doctor to find the root cause and therefore the best course of action.