Eating Disorders and Anxiety Disorders

Reviewed by Amy Baker Dennis, PhD, FAED

There are several different types of anxiety disorders that are common in individuals with eating disorders including generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety, and panic disorder. According to research findings, anxiety disorders have high rates of comorbidity with eating disorders. Approximately 48% of adults with anorexia nervosa, 81% of adults with bulimia nervosa, and 65% of adults with binge-eating disorder have at least one co-occurring anxiety disorder.1,2 Anxiety disorders most frequently precede the onset of an eating disorder and often persist after recovery.3

Anxiety Disorders Warning Signs and Symptoms4


  • Feeling nervous, irritable or on edge
  • Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom
  • Having an increased heart rate
  • Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation), sweating, and/or trembling
  • Feeling weak or tired
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems

Treatment Considerations


Eating disorders and anxiety disorders may be treated at the same time and in some cases can be treated in the same manner. However, recovery from one disorder does not ensure recovery from another. Therefore, it is important to seek help for both issues and find a professional or treatment facility that specializes in both eating disorders and anxiety disorders. Educate yourself, be proactive, and know that both these disorders are treatable.

Learn more about treatment here.
Learn more about finding treatment providers in your area here.

Sources


[1]Hudson, J. I., Hiripi, E., Pope, H. G., Jr, & Kessler, R. C. (2007). The prevalence and correlates of eating disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Biological psychiatry, 61(3), 348–358. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2006.03.040

[2]  Swanson, S. A., Crow, S. J., Le Grange, D., Swendsen, J., & Merikangas, K. R. (2011). Prevalence and correlates of eating disorders in adolescents. Results from the national comorbidity survey replication adolescent supplement. Archives of general psychiatry, 68(7), 714–723. https://doi.org/10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2011.22

[3] Kaye, W. H., Bulik, C. M., Thornton, L., Barbarich, N., & Masters, K. (2004). Comorbidity of anxiety disorders with anorexia and bulimia nervosa. The American journal of psychiatry, 161(12), 2215–2221. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ajp.161.12.2215 

[4]American Psychiatric Association. (2022). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-5-TR. American Psychiatric Association Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425787