Two of the greatest mental results of unhealthy relationships is increased stress and depression. Stress–the not knowing if you’ll catch the person with whom you’re experiencing trouble on a good or a bad day, the constant worrying that today you’ll have a fight–can have an immediate impact on your health, making you fatigued, restless and irritable. It can also impact your digestive health and give you headaches. Depression–the feeling of worthlessness, the thoughts (perhaps planted by the other person) that you’re unworthy and unloved–likewise can cause difficulty sleeping, as well as increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Depression also affects your appetite, or lack thereof.
Stress, Depression and Gaining Weight
One way in which unhealthy relationships can affect your weight is that the excess stress and/or the feeling of depression can cause you to overeat, particularly unhealthy food like sweets. This is because eating can release what’s called “endorphins” into your brain. This chemical is responsible for a “feel good” mood for a short while both while you eat and after you eat. Sweets, such as chocolate, are especially likely to release these endorphins, so you may elect to eat sugary foods that are high in calories, making weight gain occur even faster.
Along with overeating, you may not be burning calories because you feel fatigued and experience a lack of energy due to your stress and/or depression. Couple overeating with a lack of exercise and it becomes clear why gaining weight is a direct effect of a negative relationship.
Stress, Depression and Losing Weight
Not everyone gains weight as a result of unhealthy relationships; conversely, you may lose weight. However, although the prospect of losing a few pounds may seem positive, if it’s a result of a negative relationship, it’s often done in a way that jeopardizes your health–and it can be far more than a few pounds.
One effect of both stress and depression may be loss of appetite. You may also experience a general feeling of nausea, which is exacerbated when you try to eat. Both of these factors may cause you to eat little to no food throughout the day. However, this is not a healthy behavior. You need the nutrients and energy provided by food to experience a healthy life. If the behavior of eating minimally continues for long, you can be at great risk for illness and even death.
Not eating much is made even more dangerous when coupled with overexercising, another trait that those in negative relationships may experience. This is because exercise can release those “feel good” endorphins for short bursts, so to experience the endorphins, you may exercise for long hours each day. When you’re not getting enough nutrients, exercising to that extreme can cause you to lose weight dramatically–but it can also increase your risk of serious injury and death.
The first step to getting out of an unhealthy relationship is to recognize that it exists and that it’s affecting your health. If you need help doing so and planning your escape from a negative relationship, speak with a counselor or a trusted friend immediately.