Stress, Panic Disorder and Loss of Appetite: An Esoteric Ordeal

How do you deal with stress? Are you feeling you aren’t eating as much?

Panic disorder, when paired with an eating disorder, can wreak havoc. Imagine being hungry at the end of your tether but also not having the will or strength to take a bite. This situation is bearable if it occurs for once or twice, even thrice.[1]

Nevertheless, when the dread keeps following you for days, weeks or even months; the situation gets out of your hands and things start to take a devastating turn. Not having eaten anything for days might leave you extremely sick and weight loss might be at its apogee.

Such a nerve-racking situation to even imagine, let alone go through. Yet still, people with panic disorder are faced with remarks similar to them being lucky to not feel like eating anything rather than being a hobgoblin of gluttony, or how easy must weight loss be for them.

One can only imagine living in this hell, all while dealing with people who are sheer ignorant to the ordeal they are facing. 

Not just your appetite and mind these disorders can take a massive toll on your relationships, love life and sex drive too.[2]

[3]Either you are the one who is facing this situation or your partner- you must be aware of the problem and how to tackle it. It is important to be someone who understands and has the patience to deal with the situation. One can’t let things like eating disorders to come in the way of a content and pleasing relationship, one must learn how to conquer and win above it.

Understanding the Disorder

If you ask someone who is the sufferer of this torment, eating disorders are so much more than just food. This also explains why they are often accompanied by an ever unasked for panic disorder. It is an intricate mental health condition that portrays itself as a fixation on food, ideal body weight or shape. If the severity of the situation goes over-board, eating disorders are capable of causing terminable diseases or may even result in death.[4]


People with these disorders go through a variety of troubles such as binge-eating or loss of appetite, over-exercising or not doing anything at all, gobbling to over-dieting and a constant urge to purge.

There have been common cases of binge-purge i.e., self-induced vomiting among people who have eating disorders. On the other hand, people with a panic or anxiety disorder occurring with an eating disorder face a greater deal of trouble. From sudden shudders of nervousness, fear, palpitations, sweating palms to regular panic attacks causing you to go out of breath.[6]

As panic disorder co-occurs with an eating disorder, an individual face a number of food-related issues which may merely be effortless daily tasks, the disorder can make it really hard and scary do perform them. A person loses their ability to think clearly and uses all sorts of destructive coping mechanisms, which seldom do more harm than good. These coping mechanisms may consist of an unhealthy mindset, unhealthy eating habits, starving themselves because of anxiety or even self-induced puking after binge-eating.  

Stress:  The Major Cause of the Disorder

Stress can make you want to eat more and more, or not at all. It’s what it does to a person.  You must have noticed that on days when you have a lot of pending work or a really long to-do list or have had a fight with your partner or your boss beat you up regarding a project: you lose your appetite. This is a usual human trait to refrain from eating because there is something apparently important to take care of, but if this petty trait starts to become a habit and then turns itself into a disorder- that is where you need to tale serious action.[7]

On the other end, stress makes people mindlessly gobble enormous amounts of foods, aka stress eating, to avoid the miseries of life. This mechanism also later proves to be as harmful as the former.  

At times people stop eating because they are so fixed on the stressful situation that they completely ignore hunger cues. This is especially sabotaging as, after a specific time, the brain becomes too conditioned to this and thus stops reporting as to when the body needs food or is hungry. 

To combat stress, know what stresses you out. Spend some quality time with your family on a daily basis and try the practice of leaving your stress behind at the place that is concerned with it. To put it rather simply, leave work stress at work, family stress at home and introspect personal stress through activities like journaling and meditation. Whatever you do, make sure you don’t let stress get to your eating habits and try to maintain a healthy relationship with food at all times.

Treatment of the Disorder

As per popular opinion, the treatment of an eating disorder comes before than that of the anxiety disorder. Experts suggest that since both the disorders are seldom co-occurring, they must be treated on multiple fronts rather than simultaneously. To look at it this way, while you treat and focus on the eating disorder prior to the panic disorder, chances are that the latter heals itself or may start fading away gradually as the treatment for the former proceeds.[8]

For starters, the patient must seek out professional help. The person must be treated with one or the other of the therapies that are effectual in treating eating and panic disorders simultaneously. While Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)[9] focuses on the thinking patterns of the person, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) helps in changing the behaviour.[10]

Another option might be nutritional counselling and management. The treatment deals with nutrition, as in the vital hydration of the person and stable blood sugar level. When going through the nutrition process, one must pay major attention to a diet of fibre and protein and must avoid carbs. 

On a personal level, you must be aware of the magic of physical activities. Make sure you are partaking in some sort of physical stimulation that helps your heart to pump blood and the blood flow through your veins, helping you feel alive. You must get involved in activities like swimming, cardio, yoga or just walking helps a lot in the long run. The best way to strike your heart rate up is to get involved in sexual activities with your partner at regular healthy intervals.

 On the other hand, while you focus on your physical fitness, don’t forget to cleanse your mindset. Anxiety is solely a disorder in your head, once you get all the toxicity out of there, things will start to fall in place gradually and automatically. Try talking yourself out of stressful positions, as you do this as a short-term solution, it will start getting inculcated in your conscious with time and you will be conditioned to a positive response from your brain. Thus, it’ll save you in both the short and the long run. 

Finally, the best thing to do to treat the disorders is to be patient with yourself (or whoever it is who’s dealing with it in the other scenario). Know what the problem and deal with it with persistence. Don’t blame yourself or anyone else for your situation; it only invites more tension and stress.[11]

Talk to the people you trust and are certain that they will understand your situation and help, one mustn’t take the power of friendships and their family’s love too lightly in such cases. A little aid from them can bring massive positive changes in your condition. 

Don’t overlook or ignore it for too long and take the needed actions and steps as soon as possible. The sooner you deal with the situation the better it will be for your well-being and wouldn’t have a lasting effect on you. Be brave enough to accept it, fight with it and let it go. Don’t let stress get the best of you!

[1] Harvard Medical School, 2007. National Comorbidity Survey (NCS). (2017, August 21). Retrieved from Data Table 2: 12-month prevalence DSM-IV/WMH-CIDI disorders by sex and cohort.

[2] Kessler RC, Chiu WT, Demler O, Merikangas KR, Walters EE. Prevalence, severity, and comorbidity of 12-month DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2005 Jun;62(6):617-27. PMID: 15939839




[6] Bisaga A, Katz JL, Antonini A, Wright CE, Margouleff C, Gorman JM, Eidelberg D. Cerebral glucose metabolism in women with panic disorder. Am J Psychiatry. 1998 Sep;155(9):1178-83.

[7] Schmidt ME, Oshinsky RJ, Kim HG, Schouten JL, Folley BS, Potter WZ. Cerebral glucose metabolic and plasma catecholamine responses to the alpha(2) adrenoceptor antagonist ethoxyidazoxan given to healthy volunteers. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 1999 Sep;146(2):119-27.

[8] Biased approach-avoidance tendencies in psychopathology: A systematic review of their assessment and modification. Loijen A, Vrijsen JN, Egger JIM, Becker ES, Rinck M.


[10] Noyes, R Jr, Kathol, RG, Fisher, MM, Phillips, BM, Suelzer, MT, Holt, CS. The validity of DSM-III-R hypochondriasis. Arch Gen Psychiatry 1993; 50: 961–70. CrossRef | Google Scholar | PubMed