Find a dietitian who works virtually

July 22, 2023

The Link Between Stress and Loss of Appetite

The Link Between Stress and Loss of Appetite

Stress is an inevitable part of life and can significantly affect our health. One way that stress shows itself is through changes in appetite. Some people overeat when they're stressed, while others find they don't want to eat as much. In this article, we'll look at the link between stress and loss of appetite, including how it works and how to deal with stress and get your appetite back.



Stress is a natural response to challenging or threatening situations. It triggers a cascade of physiological and psychological reactions designed to help us cope with the perceived threat. However, chronic or excessive stress can harm our health and appetite.


Understanding Stress

Stress can be defined as the body's response to any demand or pressure that exceeds its coping abilities. It can arise from various sources, such as work-related pressures, financial difficulties, relationship problems, or major life changes. When stress becomes chronic or overwhelming, it can disrupt the body's equilibrium and lead to physical and emotional symptoms.


Common Causes of Stress

Different individuals may experience stress in response to various triggers. Some everyday stress causes include demanding work environments, academic pressures, family conflicts, financial hardships, health issues, and traumatic events. Each person's response to stress can vary, and some individuals may be more prone to experiencing appetite changes.


Effects of Stress on Appetite

How Stress Affects Appetite

Stress has the potential to impact appetite in multiple ways. While some people may experience an increase in appetite and turn to food for comfort, others may lose their desire to eat. In times of stress, the body releases cortisol, commonly called the "stress hormone." Cortisol can suppress appetite temporarily by dampening hunger signals in the brain.

Stress-Induced Hormonal Changes

In addition to cortisol, stress can disrupt the balance of other hormones in appetite regulation. Ghrelin, often called the "hunger hormone," stimulates appetite, while leptin, known as the "satiety hormone," signals fullness. Chronic stress can alter the production and sensitivity of these hormones, leading to imbalances that affect appetite.

Psychological Factors Influencing Appetite

Apart from hormonal changes, psychological factors can also play a role in stress-related appetite changes. Stress can trigger emotional responses such as anxiety, depression, or a sense of overwhelm, impacting appetite. For some individuals, stress may result in a loss of interest in food or difficulties in eating due to preoccupation with stressful thoughts and emotions.


Stress-Related Eating Disorders

While some individuals may experience a temporary loss of appetite during periods of stress, others may develop more severe and long-lasting conditions known as stress-related eating disorders. These conditions may profoundly affect a person's physical and mental health. Here are three common stress-related eating disorders:

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder marked by an intense fear of gaining weight. This fear causes the person to limit their food intake and starve themselves severely. Anxiety and stress may affect the onset and progression of anorexia nervosa. Food restriction may be used by those who have this disease to restore control while under pressure or to deal with challenging emotions.

Bulimia Nervosa

Binge eating episodes followed by compensatory behaviors like self-induced vomiting, excessive exercise, or misusing laxatives are the symptoms of bulimia nervosa. Stress can trigger outbreaks of binge eating, as individuals may turn to food to temporarily relieve stress or distract themselves from distressing emotions.

Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating disorder involves recurrent episodes of consuming large amounts of food quickly, accompanied by feelings of loss of control and distress. Stress can significantly trigger binge eating episodes, as individuals may use food to cope with negative emotions or provide a temporary sense of comfort.


Strategies to Manage Stress and Improve Appetite

It's critical to address the underlying reasons and discover healthy stress-loss techniques if you're losing your appetite due to stress. Here are some strategies that can help:

 Stress Reduction Techniques

Stress reduction techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, or engaging in hobbies and activities that bring joy can help lower stress levels and improve appetite. These techniques promote relaxation and help redirect attention away from stressors, allowing the body to regain its natural balance.

  Healthy Eating Habits

Even while under stress, maintaining a healthy, balanced diet is crucial. Consume fresh produce, entire grains, lean meats, and good fats. Aim to eat regular meals and snacks throughout the day, even if you don't feel hungry. This behavior will provide your body with essential nutrients and support energy stability.

 Exercise and Physical Activity

Regular exercise is a very effective stress management therapy that may enhance mood, decrease anxiety, and stimulate appetite. Endorphins, sometimes called "feel-good" chemicals, are produced during physical activity. Find activities you love, like dancing, swimming, yoga, or walking, and fit them into your routine.

 Seeking Professional Help

If you are experiencing chronic stress and recurrent appetite loss, it may be helpful to seek professional assistance. A healthcare physician or mental health expert may provide individualized advice and assistance. They may assist you in addressing the root causes of stress, developing coping mechanisms, and reestablishing a healthy connection with food.



Stress can significantly affect our appetite, making us want to eat more or less. Stress-related loss of appetite is common, but you shouldn't ignore changes in your appetite that are severe or last for a long time. By understanding the link between stress and loss of appetite and finding good ways to deal with stress, we can work toward restoring a healthy relationship with food and overall well-being.



1. Can stress cause a permanent loss of appetite?

- Stress might make you less hungry for a short time, but it's not likely to make you lose your appetite. Restoring a normal appetite may be accomplished by dealing with the sources of stress and using stress management strategies.

2. What are some natural remedies to reduce stress-related appetite loss?

- Some natural ways to stop stress-related loss of appetite are to practice relaxation techniques like deep breathing or meditation, get regular physical activity, eat a balanced diet, and ask for help from friends, family, or medical professionals.

3. How long does it take for appetite to return after reducing stress?

- The time it takes for an individual's appetite to recover after lowering stress might vary. In most situations, appetite should gradually recover within a few days to weeks as stress levels decline. However, it is crucial to seek medical assistance if loss of appetite persists or worsens.

4. Is stress-related appetite loss reversible?

- Stress-related appetite loss may be reversed in the majority of instances. Appetite should eventually return to normal by adequately managing stress, treating underlying reasons, and adopting healthy lifestyle habits.

5. When should I seek medical help for stress-induced loss of appetite?

- If you're experiencing prolonged and severe appetite loss or other concerning symptoms accompanying it, it is recommended to seek medical help. A healthcare provider can assess your situation, identify potential underlying causes, and provide appropriate guidance and support.

Search for a Nutritionist

If you’re struggling to eat and feel healthy, you’re not failing. The information and guidance you’ve received is failing you. Get the help you deserve!
Virtual Nutrition Experts, 2024
Designed & Developed by Applet.Studio