Every day, she feels bombarded by images of skinny females everywhere: smiling from magazine covers, mocking her from television ads. They are perfect; she is not.

She is profoundly depressed and just plain exhausted.

No matter how hard she tries, she will never be “good enough.”

Deciding that life is simply not worth living is not that much of a stretch.

This is what life feels like to many women who struggle with eating disorders.

Eating disorders are physically devastating diseases. The medical consequences of anorexia and bulimia include everything from anemia and bone loss to intestinal issues and infertility.

The good news is that if caught early and treated, most of these medical problems can be reversed and health restored to the individual. However, what can not be reversed is mortality—a full 10 percent of those struggling with an eating disorder will die from it.

These deaths often occur as a result of cardiac damage or other extreme medical complications, but a lesser known cause of death is suicide. The risk of suicide is multiplied many times over for those who suffer from co-occurring eating disorders and depression.

Eating Disorders and Depression

Some studies indicate that as many as 90 percent of women with an eating disorder are also clinically depressed. For some, depression leads to an eating disorder. For others, the eating disorder results in depression. No matter which comes first, together, they are a deadly combination. The rate of suicide among those struggling with both depression and an eating disorder is markedly higher than in those who struggle exclusively with depression.

Being very underweight and malnourished can cause real, physical changes to the brain and body that are known to lead to the negative moods that are often associated with depression. These mood states can intensify feelings of not being good enough, that are so common among people with eating disorders. The focus on perfectionism that is often associated with eating disorders, can also contribute to depression as it sets one up for failure by setting completely unrealistic expectations.

The symptoms of depression and the symptoms of the eating disorder are often so deeply intertwined that it can be difficult for a treatment professional to find ways to help their clients who struggle with both to untangle and free themselves from them. And, since the eating disorder behaviors are often used as ways to cope with extreme feelings of shame, self-hatred, and hopelessness, once people who do manage to let go of their eating disorder behaviors may find themselves facing an overwhelming and painful depression.

As complicated as the combination of these two disorders can be, there is hope. Treatment programs that provide a combination of different approaches—physical, psychological, and spiritual—tend to have the best chance of helping a person with a dual diagnosis of depression and an eating disorder get into recovery.

Treatment for Eating Disorders and Depression

Recovery from any behavioral health disorder is a process. It takes time and commitment on the part of the patient and her loved ones and compassion and expertise from doctors and health professionals.

One key to effective treatment is helping people change the way they think both about themselves and their relationship with food by treating the depression and the eating disorder at the same time. Tailoring treatment to the individual is also essential. Some need more of an emphasis on emotional and trauma work. Some need more of an emphasis on the way they think about food and their body image.

The experts at The Meadows Ranch take a careful assessment of each client at the beginning of their treatment process to recommend the best course of action based their personal history and diagnoses. We help clients work through the issues that are contributing to their disorders in all aspects of their lives: self-perception, relationships with friends and family, relationships with food and nutrition, and spirituality. We offer everything thing from individual counseling to equine therapy in our efforts to help our clients find hope again and build happier healthier lives.

If you have any questions about eating disorders and depression or our programs, please call 866-390-5100, or send us an email.