Sunday, January 26, 2014

Depression and Loss of Appetite

The anxiety that accompanies depression can be so over powering that we may lose our appetite. In Psalm 102 we can see that the Psalmist is so depressed by the terrible trial he is enduring, that he feels like withered grass, he forgets to eat, and is so given to lamenting that he has become little more than skin and bones.

Psalm 102:1-7
Hear my prayer, O LORD;
let my cry for help come to you.
Do not hide your face from me
when I am in distress.
Turn your ear to me;
when I call, answer me quickly.
For my days vanish like smoke;
my bones burn like glowing embers.
My heart is blighted and withered like grass;
I forget to eat my food.
Because of my loud groaning
I am reduced to skin and bones.
I am like a desert owl,
like an owl among the ruins.
I lie awake; I have become
like a bird alone on a roof.

The words the Psalmist shares here could have been lifted from my diary. During the blackest phase of depression, I too skipped meals and when I did eat, I ate poorly. Although I am 178cm tall, my weight plummeted to 50kg, ie, 8 stone.

I should have gone to see a doctor and a counsellor/professional therapist, and sought practical advice to help me through that phase, even if it included taking medication. Unfortunately, I did not do so and made the mistake of soldiering on.

Eating poorly did not cause my depression, but it certainly made it worse by further weakening my exhausted nervous system, mind and body.

Due to a number of factors, including support from my family, engaging in constructive activities such as going back to work, and exercise, I was able to move on from that phase. The next phase, which lasted several months, was still very difficult, and characterized by lack of hope, constant panic attacks, and dozens of other disturbing symptoms.

Eating during this phase was still difficult. I had little motivation to eat, food seemed almost tasteless, and I often retched while I ate. The anti-depressants I was taking also tended to give me a dry mouth, making it harder to swallow.

However, a few practical things helped me to eat.

I found sipping fluids such as water or soup while eating removed the dry-mouth problem, made it easier to swallow, and even reduced the retching.

I also found that if I distracted myself while I ate, I did not notice my lack of appetite. Things that proved effective in distracting me at mealtimes were eating with my family as opposed to eating alone, eating while watching TV or eating while reading a gripping novel. I have read that health food shops may even be able to recommend natural appetite stimulants.

An important part of recovering from depression is changing our mental attitude towards the illness. Instead of making excuses why not to eat, we need to remind ourselves that as our goal is to recover, a healthy, balanced nutritious diet is crucial. A healthy diet cannot cure depression, but it does play a part in helping our exhausted nervous system, mind and body to recover.

(All verses from the NIV.)


  1. This is so true, but for me I've either lost my appetitie or have eaten everything in Right now, unfortunately, I am having a bout of my own depression that accompanies me during most holidays family gatherings, the financial burden of 'feeling like we have to buy a gift for all members of the family', even though this isn't what Christmas is about.

    The season however I've lost weight, which actually has helped in my depression to feel better about fitting into clothes easier and look nicer. I used to be a size 12 (ask your wife if you aren't sure the womans size of clothing) but now am in a size 6/8.

    Funny, how I'd never say before that depression can have it's benefits but for me I can say this time around it has, yet overcoming the faucet of still having the depression hasn't been overcome yet. Thanks for your words of wisdom, yet once again!

    Happy Thanksgiving Peter, Hannah, Tim (sorry, or is it Tom) and Shoko (?), my bad for fogetting the names, but I was trying to remember them without going back to an old previous email we shared.

    Lots of love and I'm definitely Thankful today for you Peter!!

    BLessing and may God shed his blessings on your entire family of happiness and love.

    Your friend,

  2. I just want to comment and say that this blog will be extremely helpful to anyone suffering from stress or depression. I've found everything you've said to be true to my experience.

  3. Hey Sarah,
    Thanks so much for sharing what you've been going through. This type of 'seasonal' depression afflicts a lot of people, and from what you have told me about your particular situation, very understandable. I've been praying for you, that Jesus will sustain you through this time and be your Refuge. Please take eat to eat well my friend :) Thanks for blessings and prayers as well!

    Hi Neil,
    Thank you for dropping by, and for your encouraging words. God bless.

  4. I'm glad you write this blog. Your insight into depression is amazing.

  5. "Amen" to Madison's comment. I learn so much here.

  6. I know what it is, the things you'd said about not eating, and even struggling to eat.. and how difficult it all must be for you especially that you were also working.

    The weight problem is certainly a concern, i know that one too. (i have successfully gained a few kilos since i spoke of losing them last ;)

    i like that you work hard in remaining postitive admist it all.


  7. Thank you Peter for another great blog entry. Again, I keep coming back and reading over, then I finally post. Blessings to you dear one....

  8. Hey Peter, you are the best. Thanks for your prayers for me and I'm praying for you too. Take gentle care of yourself, ok. Sarah

  9. Ive been there & it has been a real struggle for me since I am very slender naturally. For sure not eating by myself helped me a lot. Some other things that have helped me: I didnt try to eat big meals but instead smaller portions more often. I ate foods that go down easily such as pasta, soups, shakes, etc. I have also used an appetite stimulant called Periactin(needs to be prescribed by a doctor).
    Thank you Peter for this very practical post!

  10. Thanks Madison and Warren, your encouragement is such a blessing.

    Lovely to hear from you again Silver. Thank you for sharing your journey with this issue. You continue to be such an inspiration to me, as you share your experiences through your blog.

    Hi Sarah,
    Thanks so much. You know, when I visit your blog, I am always blown away by the gentle love you have for your daughters, by the distance you have traveled in your recovery. And I find myself at a loss for words. God bless you heaps.

    Dear Marianne, thanks for dropping by and sharing your struggles as well. And for sharing some great practical tips. Eating smaller meals, and more often, and eating things that go down easily.
    God bless :)

  11. I found your blog through your article in Journezine. Thank you so much for your practical words--this is such a wonderful ministry you have! God bless you!

  12. Your blog is so helpful and relevant to my own struggles with anxiety/depression. Thank you for doing this!

    I initially lost weight when depressed but then gained all of it back (and much more) b/c of the antidepressants. It is now very frustrating for me to be this size which is not my usual size at all and I find it very.hard. to lose weight and keep it off while on the meds. Before meds, I never experienced any weight concerns and now I feel fat and it affects how I feel about myself negatively. If you have any insight into the weight gain that accompanies taking meds. I would appreciate hearing from you. It has gotten so bad that I must lose weight for health reasons.

    When i needed to eat and couldn't I used to drink BOOST shakes for calories. I could also only eat certain foods that went down real easy like cream of wheat.


  13. Hi Rose,
    Thanks for dropping by, and so glad my writings are able to encourage.

    Some anti-depressants cause us to feel lethargic, making it hard to motivate ourselves to be active. For myself, I was already exercising everyday when they placed me on meds, and this exercise increased the speed of my metabolism, making it hard to put on weight. I also ate mostly cereal, meat, vegies, fruit, and drank a lot of water.

    I recommend talking to your doctor. They may be able to recommend a different med that does not affect you like this, and recommend a suitable exercise regime. I understand that going on five 45-minute brisk walks a week is a great start, but this will depend upon your health, ie, you may need to work slowly towards that goal. The doctor can also recommend a good dietician.

    Thanks for sharing about the BOOST shakes.

    God bless

  14. Thanks for point me here, Peter. You are such a blessing. Once again, I thought I was the only one who struggled to KEEP weight on. Everyone I hear say "I was so depressed I couldn't stop eating" I just want to smack. (ok, not literally, but you know what I mean.)

  15. Hi, Peter, just want you to know i'm SO GLAD to have run across your site! I lost my husband to liver & lung cancer this past September and while he was declining, my appetite started dwindling to nothing. I am on antidepressants (Zoloft) and Tranxene for my nerves. I am only 5 feet tall and i'm still somewhat overweight, but i've lost 30+ pounds (sorry, i don't know how to convert that into your weight measurements) since June, and although that SOUNDS okay, i have terribly loose skin & now on my legs in particular, i look like a shar pei. -_-
    That being said, i have to force myself to eat. I don't get sick when i eat, but i find it an incredible hassle and waste of time. I'm semi-suicidal even though i am Christian, and i KNOW i'm saved...i'm waiting for my Disability to be approved (i have many health issues), and if that would just hurry & happen, it would calm my nerves down considerably. Anyway, thank you for being here and i will pray for you, and i hope you'll also pray for me.
    Thanks for all you do on this site, it's amazing! :-)


    1. Dear Kimmi,

      Thank you for your comment, and my condolences for your husband, so sorry to hear that. Thanks for sharing how the site has been of help, and it will be my honor to remember you in your prayers, and I appreciate your prayers as well.

      May I encourage you to press into Jesus, and to meditate on just how much He loves you. He is Jehovah Jireh, the Lord our Provider, our shield and our very great reward. Gen 15:1

      God bless

  16. Hi I think I'm going through the samething lost my appetite taking all kinds of test little depressed i thank you for sharing your story i pray to God to help me get my appetite back thank you.