Lack of appetite, loss of appetite
Lack of appetite:
Sometimes you just don’t feel like eating, or the thought of food is unappealing. This symptom can also be described as not having any desire to eat, not ever being hungry, or the thought of eating makes you nauseous.
Or, even though you are losing weight and should be eating, you have no desire or 'taste' for food.
Lack of appetite can come and go rarely, occur frequently, or persist indefinitely. For example, you may feel like not eating once in a while and not that often, feel it off and on, or feel it all the time.
Lack of appetite may precede, accompany, or follow an escalation of other anxiety sensations and symptoms, or occur by itself.
Lack of appetite can precede, accompany, or follow an episode of nervousness, anxiety, fear, and elevated stress, or occur ‘out of the blue’ and for no apparent reason.
Lack of appetite can range in intensity from slight, to moderate, to severe. It can also come in waves, where it’s strong one moment and eases off the next.
Lack of appetite can change from day to day, and/or from moment to moment.
All of the above combinations and variations are common.
Why does anxiety cause a lack of appetite?
Being anxious causes the body to produce a stress response (commonly referred to as the fight or flight response). The stress response is designed to bring about specific physiological, psychological, and emotional changes that enhance the body's ability to deal with a threat. These changes include how the stomach and digestive system function.
For example, the stress response causes the stomach to stop breaking down food. The stress response also causes the digestive system to become suppressed and the elimination tract to become accelerated. All three of these actions help us when we're in real danger, but can cause problems if the body experiences to frequent stress responses.
This is why when the body is under sustained stress and/or anxiety, many people experience stomach and digestive problems, including having a lack of appetite.
How to get rid of a lack of appetite?
Because this symptom is just a symptom of elevated stress, it needn't be a cause for concern. It will subside when you reduce your stress and give your body ample time to calm down. As your body's stress returns to a normal level, symptoms of stress subside, including the anxiety symptom a lack of appetite. Therefore, an anxiety-caused lack of appetite needn't be a cause for concern.
Chapter 9 in the Recovery Support area of our website is our anxiety symptoms chapter. It contains detailed information about all anxiety symptoms, including what they are, why they occur, what you can do to eliminate them, and how many people experience them (the percentage of people who experience each anxiety symptom). Our anxiety symptoms chapter includes a more detailed description and explanation about why anxiety can cause a lack of appetite and what you can do to remedy this problem.
The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder coach, counselor, or therapist is the most effective way to address anxiety disorder and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed - the underlying factors that motivate apprehensive behavior - a struggle with anxiety disorder can return again and again. Identifying and successfully addressing anxiety's underlying factors is the best way to overcome problematic anxiety.
For more information about our Anxiety Counseling option; our Available Anxiety Therapists; to Book An Appointment with one of our anxiety therapists; common Anxiety Signs and Symptoms; common Anxiety Attack Symptoms; the symptoms of panic attack disorder; anxiety Recovery Support area; information about Anxiety; and our Anxiety 101 section; or click on the appropriate link or graphic below:
Return to our anxiety symptoms page.
Authors: Jim Folk, Marilyn Folk, BScN. Last updated February 24, 2018.