How Anxiety Can Cause Weight Gain And What To Do About It

  Reviewed
 by Dr. Steve Hruby, D.C.
Reviewed by Dr. Steve Hruby, D.C.

SuperHumans are the toughest, fittest, healthiest and happiest human beings on this planet. My mission is to help you realize your superhuman potential and learn how to live a long, happy and healthy life.

  Fact Checked
 by Rhealyn Tropia, RMT
Reviewed by Rhealyn Tropia, RMT

I’m a content organizer, fact-checker and super mom who ensures content is medically-reviewed, highly accurate, and engaging. My passion is organizing information and ensuring the facts are presented in a manner that is interesting and easy to understand.

can anxiety cause weight gain

Can anxiety cause weight gain?

Anxiety is a natural instinct, but that doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Everything in the natural world has its purpose. it’s the role of science to find what works for what, and what doesn’t.

What we know is that anxiety has consequences on our mental health, like depression or insomnia. It also can affect physical health; anxiety can cause weight gain through increased production of cortisol. Anxiety can make life miserable. It can make your whole life feel like a sinking ship.

19.1% of Americans suffer from an anxiety disorder. You are not alone. Let’s break down anxiety so you can stop its effects on your mental and physical wellbeing.     

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is triggered by our GABA receptors; the neurobiology behind the instinct that saves you from a dangerous situation. Anxiety can also linger for years without a clear cause.

It can also be linked with depression or other mental health ailments. This article will explain the science behind anxiety, related weight gain, and its treatment.

Stress vs. Anxiety:

Anxiety and stress are two terms that are often used interchangeably, but they actually refer to two different things.

Stress is a response to a specific event or situation, whereas anxiety is a more general feeling of worry or unease. Anxiety is often linked to a long-term situation which contributes to these terms being hard to distinguish.

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Anxiety Can Cause Weight Gain

Common Anxiety Symptoms

Anxiety can cause weight gain in a number of ways. The most simple example would be you’re nervous to go to the gym, so you don’t go. Even worse, you may be nervous to go outside. Is this depression, or is it anxiety?

  • Physical Discomfort: Symptoms can include beating heart, sweating, shaky hands, and defensive body language
  • Mental Discomfort: Racing thoughts, self-doubt, anger, sadness, or any and all of the above in tandem with physical symptoms.

Anxiety vs. Depression


It is common to confuse anxiety and depression, as they share some common symptoms and can make each other worse. Mental health ailments such as anxiety and depression can coexist. Psychological and material variables are often the underlying cause. Anxiety and depression can be separated by the symptoms and are more easily distinguished than stress and anxiety.

Symptoms of Depression

Depression is a mental disorder that is characterized by a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyable. Depression can cause a variety of physical and emotional symptoms. These symptoms can interfere with a person’s ability to work, go to school, or take care of their daily responsibilities.

woman cant sleep

Common mental symptoms of depression include fatigue, insomnia, weight loss or gain, irritability, and feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness. If you are experiencing these symptoms, it is important to seek professional help. Depression is a treatable condition, and with the right help, you can start to feel better.

Some of the most common physical symptoms of depression include changes in appetite, weight loss or gain, insomnia or sleeping too much, and physical aches and pains. Depression can also cause or worsen other existing health problems, such as heart disease, migraines, asthma, and obesity.

How Anxiety Increases Weight Gain


Anxiety can cause weight gain by stress-induced unhealthy habits such as over-eating, under-activity, or substance abuse. Each of these common self-medicating responses to anxiety holds negative effects on our mental and physical health. Stress can also increase cortisol, a hormone that slows our metabolism in excess.

The Link Between Stress and Cortisol

A growing body of evidence suggests that stress can lead to weight gain. This is because when we are stressed, our bodies release a hormone called cortisol.

This hormone is responsible for many things, including regulating our metabolism. When cortisol levels are high, our metabolism slows down and we start to store more fat.

How to reduce cortisol levels:

Cortisol is a stress hormone that is released by the adrenal glands in response to stress. Cortisol levels can become elevated in times of stress, and this can have a negative impact on health. However, there are some things that you can do to help reduce your cortisol levels.

Exercise is a great way to reduce cortisol levels. Aerobic exercise, in particular, has been shown to be effective in reducing cortisol levels. You can also reduce cortisol by reducing stress or anxiety directly through herbal treatments.  By reducing your cortisol levels, you can help improve your overall health and well-being.

Stress-Induced Unhealthy Habits

“Eat well and go exercise. Clean your room!” etc. We’ve all heard it before. The fact is, the body and mind are linked. There are external circumstances that can also affect our mental health.

A change in daily routine will not change anything in your life you can’t control. They can help you feel better in the process. The alternative self-medicative treatments like over-eating or substance abuse will make it worse.

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  • Overeating: One of the main reasons people gain weight is due to overeating. Calories become fat when you consume more calories than your body needs. Over time, this can lead to weight gain.
  • Under activity: When we are underactive, our bodies burn fewer calories and we store more fat. This can lead to weight gain over time.
  • Substance abuse: While substance abuse is often associated with weight loss, it can also cause weight gain. This is because substances like alcohol and drugs can change the way the body metabolizes food. 

What Are The Risks of Stress and Weight Gain?

Below are the associated risks with weight gain:

Heart issues: Carrying excess weight also increases the risk of high blood pressure, which can further damage the heart. In addition, fat tissue produces substances that can increase inflammation, which is also linked to heart disease.

Lung issues: excess fat tissue can put pressure on the lungs and make it difficult to breathe. Additionally, obesity is linked to inflammation, and this inflammation can affect the lungs and airways.

Others:

Anxiety and Sleep Deprivation:

People with anxiety often have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep due to their racing thoughts and worry. Anxiety can also cause physical symptoms like an increased heart rate, which can make it difficult to relax and fall asleep.

If you’re struggling with anxiety-related insomnia, there are a few things you can do to ease your symptoms and get a better night’s rest.

First, try to stick to a regular sleep schedule as much as possible. This means going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, even on weekends. You should also avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed, as these can make anxiety worse.

Finally, make sure to wind down before bed by reading or taking a bath to help you relax and fall asleep more easily. Lastly, you can try medication or herbal treatment.

How Can I Stop Gaining Weight from Anxiety?

The best way to stop gaining weight from anxiety is to treat the anxiety directly with exercise and therapy. Not everyone has access to these things and sometimes they are still not enough. The medication also comes with its own costs and risks.

There are a number of herbal treatments that have been shown to be effective in treating anxiety. They function the same way as pharmaceutical medication by regulating GABA receptors. They aren’t as sedative and they aren’t addictive.

doing yoga outdoor

Some of the most popular herbs for anxiety include passionflower, chamomile, and valerian root. These herbs can be taken in a variety of forms, including teas, capsules, and tinctures. If you’re looking for an herbal treatment for anxiety, be sure to speak with a qualified healthcare professional to get the most accurate advice.

Home Workout Routines:

There are a variety of ways that you can work out at home without having to go to the gym. You can create your own workout routine by using your body weight and some simple equipment. Some of the most popular routines include yoga, pilates, and aerobic exercise. These exercises can be done at home without any equipment.

Yoga:

Yoga is a great way to relax and de-stress. It’s also a great way to get some exercise. If you’re looking for a quick and easy yoga routine that you can do in just 30 minutes, look no further.

Yoga is an ancient practice with many benefits for both the body and mind. Physically, yoga can improve strength and flexibility. It can also lower the risk of injury and improve your breathing and heart’s health. Mentally, yoga can reduce stress and anxiety.

Pilates:

Pilates can improve your posture, flexibility, and tone your muscles. It can also help to improve your balance and your coordination. In addition, Pilates is a low-impact form of exercise, which means it is gentle on your joints and muscles.

Aerobic Exercise:

Aerobic exercise is an ideal way to lose weight and reduce stress. It is any type of activity that raises your heart rate such as walking, running, biking, swimming, and dancing.

If this seems like too much, please believe in yourself. If you have tried exercise before and it didn’t work, then your mental ailments may be beyond the scope of exercise. Please review both pharmaceutical and herbal options to find what is a suitable treatment for you.

Herbal Treatments:

Valerian Root:

Valerian root is an herbal remedy that has been used for centuries to treat anxiety, insomnia, and other conditions. Valerian root’s active ingredient is valeric acid, which inhibits the breakdown of a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).

valerian root

GABA is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate anxiety and sleep. Several studies have shown that valerian root can effectively treat anxiety and insomnia. One study showed that valerian root was as effective as the prescription medication lorazepam (Ativan) in treating anxiety.

Other studies have shown that valerian root can improve sleep quality and reduce the time it takes to fall asleep. Valerian root is safe with few side effects. The most common side effects are headaches and dizziness.

Chamomile:

(Matricaria chamomilla) is a dried flower. When brewed as tea, chamomile is a relaxant that can assist insomnia. It is less sedative than valerian root but has a high concentration of antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial effects.

Passionflower:

Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) is a climbing vine native to the southeastern United States. The vine has glossy green leaves and flowers that bloom in a variety of colors, including white, purple, and blue. Passionflower has been used for centuries used by indigenous peoples in North and South America for its calming and sedative effects.

Today, passionflower is widely used as a natural remedy for anxiety and insomnia. It is also sometimes used to treat symptoms of menopause. Passionflower is available in dietary supplement form and can be found in many natural and online stores.

St Johns Wort Extract:

Research suggests that St. Johns wort extract can be just as effective as antidepressants in treating anxiety and depression. St johns wort extract has also been shown to be effective in treating other health conditions such as insomnia, PMS, and hot flashes.​​

St. Johns wort extract

Can Anxiety Make It Hard To Lose Weight?


For one, anxiety can make it hard to sleep, which can lead to weight gain. Anxiety can also cause cravings for unhealthy foods, which can make it harder to lose weight. 

How Much Weight Can Anxiety Cause?


There is no definitive answer to this question as everyone experiences anxiety and weight gain differently. However, some studies have shown that there is a correlation between the two. For example, one study found that people who are overweight are more likely to experience anxiety than those who are not.

Can Stress Cause Weight Gain Without Overeating?


There is growing evidence to suggest that stress can lead to weight gain, even without overeating. Our bodies release cortisol when we are stressed.

Conclusion


Cortisol is enhanced by stress or anxiety. Cortisol increases appetite and cravings for high-calorie foods. It can also lead to higher levels of fat storage in the body. Exercise can help with anxiety and stress and its related weight gain. 

Weight gain and weight loss are most simply broken down into calories taken in and calories burnt. The amount of burnt calories is influenced by more factors than just activity. Mental health and its effects on metabolism are also a large factor. 

Diet is also an important factor, especially for weight loss. You can also consider herbal treatments for anxiety such as valerian root, chamomile, or passion flower. The serenity treatment includes all 3 along with vitamin C, St johns wort extract, and GABA itself. Taking GABA as a supplement can also directly treat anxiety.

Serenity (n.): The state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled.

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