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Weight Gain Anxiety Symptom

Marilyn Folk BScN medical reviewer
Written by Jim Folk.
Medically reviewed by Marilyn Folk, BScN.
Updated March 20, 2019

Weight gain anxiety symptom description:

  • You experience a sudden and unexplainable weight gain for no apparent reason.
  • Your weight gain is several or more pounds in a short amount of time.
  • For no apparent reason, you’ve gained several or more pounds.
  • Due to your struggle with anxiety, you’ve gained a lot of weight.
  • You’ve gained 15 or more pounds due to being anxious.

Sudden weight gain could have happened over a few weeks or months.

You could have experienced weight gain over many months due to a struggle with anxiety.

You may have experienced weight gain of a few pounds, several, or tens of pounds during your struggle with anxiety.

All of the above combinations and variations are common.

Why can anxiety cause weight gain?

While most people lose weight when dealing with problematic anxiety, some people experience a gain in weight. There are a few reasons why:

1. Behaving apprehensively activates the body’s stress response. The stress response causes the body to secrete stress hormones into the bloodstream where they travel to targeted spots in the body to bring about specific physiological, psychological, and emotional changes that enhance the body’s ability to deal with a threat—to either fight with or flee from it—which is the reason this response is often referred to as the fight or flight response or the emergency response.

Stress hormones stimulate the production of blood sugar so that the body has more energy to either fight or flee. For some people, this extra fuel can cause weight gain.

2. Behaving overly apprehensively can cause the body to become stress-response hyperstimulated, and hyperstimulation can cause an increase in demand for food, especially high sugar and carb foods since they more quickly convert to fuel (blood sugar). This higher demand for food, and especially high calorie food, can cause some people to indulge in fast and high carb foods, which can increase weight in spite of a hyperstimulated body. In effect, some people ingest more calories than even hyperstimulation can use. These excess calories are stored in the body as fat, which increases the body’s weight.

3. Inactivity. Behaving anxiously stresses the body. A body that’s under stress can become tired more quickly. Being chronically tired is linked to inactivity. The more inactive we are, the more likely it is that the body will gain weight.

4. Adverse effects of medication. Weight gain is a common side effect of certain types of anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications, such as Zoloft, Lexapro, Prozac, and Paxil. Many people have noticed an increase in weight due to the medication they are taking.

Since each body is somewhat chemically unique, each person will have a unique experience with either weight gain or loss due to anxiety disorder.

How to get rid of the weight gain anxiety symptom?

Here are a few ways to eliminate anxiety-caused weight gain:

1. Address your anxiety issues. As you address your anxiety issues, your body will stop producing unnecessary stress responses, which will reduce the production of blood sugar. A reduction in the production of blood sugar will help to reduce the body’s storage of excess fat.

2. Reduce your body’s stress. Reducing your body’s stress will also reduce unnecessary stress hormone production and increase your natural energy.

3. Eat a healthier diet. Choosing more nutritious whole foods, rather than fast and high calorie foods, can help your body lose weight, as well as give you more natural energy.

4. Increase your activity so that your body uses more fuel than is consumed and stored.

5. Ask your doctor about changing your medication to something that isn’t associated with weight gain.

The most important is dealing with your anxiety issues so that your body isn’t unnecessarily stressed over the long term.

If you are having difficulty addressing your anxiety issues, you may want to connect with one of our anxiety disorder therapists, coaches, or counselors. Working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist, coach, or counselor is the most effective way to overcome problematic anxiety.

NOTE: You might want to talk with Liliana Tosic, our recommended Natural Nutritional Therapist, for more information about how to stabilize or gain weight through making healthy dietary changes.

For a more detailed explanation about all anxiety symptoms, why symptoms can persist long after the stress response has ended, common barriers to recovery and symptom elimination, and more recovery strategies and tips, we have many chapters that address this information in the Recovery Support area of our website.

The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder 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:

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