Anxiety is a common feeling experienced by every individual at some point in their life. When we are anxious, our bodies undergo a series of physiological responses that help us cope with the perceived threat. One of the most common symptoms of anxiety is loss of appetite. So why does this happen? In this article, we will explore the biological explanation for why we lose our appetite when we are anxious.

The basis of this phenomenon is the body’s stress response system, also known as the fight or flight response. When we perceive a real or imagined threat, our bodies release a series of hormones, including cortisol and adrenaline, to prepare us to fight or flee the threat. These hormones trigger a number of changes in our body, such as increased heart rate, rapid breathing, and muscle tensing, all aimed at helping us escape perceived danger.

One of the effects of these stress hormones is appetite suppression. This is a protective mechanism developed to prioritize survival in times of danger. When we’re in an anxious state, our body prioritizes responding to the threat, whether it’s a physical danger or an emotional stressor, over nourishing ourselves. This suppression of appetite allows the body to conserve energy and focus on the immediate task at hand, whether it is fighting, fleeing, or dealing with a stressor.

Additionally, the release of cortisol, an important stress hormone, has been found to have a direct effect on appetite regulation. High levels of cortisol in the bloodstream have been shown to increase levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which plays a role in regulating mood and appetite. Serotonin is often referred to as the “feel-good” neurotransmitter because it contributes to feelings of well-being and happiness. However, when serotonin levels rise in response to stress, it can cause decreased appetite and decreased desire to eat.

Chronic anxiety and stress have been associated with dysregulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which is responsible for regulating the stress response and appetite. Prolonged exposure to stress can dysregulate this system, leading to disruptions in appetite regulation and contributing to changes in eating behaviors such as emotional eating, overeating, or loss of appetite.

In conclusion, loss of appetite when we are anxious is a complex interaction of biological, psychological, and environmental factors. Our body’s stress response system, hormonal changes triggered by anxiety, and irregularity of appetite regulatory systems play a role in this phenomenon. Understanding the biological explanation behind why we lose our appetite when anxious can help us better cope with stress and anxiety and develop strategies to support our overall well-being.