Why Longer Nights Can Increase Eating Disorder Challenges


There are many factors that can increase the dangers of an individual suffering an eating disorder, but some may not be aware how these can be linked to a lack of daylight in the winter months.

With the clocks going back and the days getting shorter and shorter until the Winter Solstice (December 21st), many people will suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which commonly causes depression, low self-esteem and anxiety. However, it can also be linked to eating disorders. 

As the NHS notes, symptoms can include an increased appetite, with higher cravings for carb-rich foods in particular. 

However, the crossover of eating issues and SAD can be greater than that, as Eating Disorder Hope noted. The US-based site observed that between 60 and 90 per cent of SAD cases occur among women and the age of onset is usually around 20, meaning there is a large overlap with the demographics most likely to need eating disorder support.

At the same time, it noted, the amount of research on links between the conditions is “somewhat unexplored”. However, even without a lot of specific research it remains true that people with eating disorders and alcoholism are more likely to have SAD and that bulimia tends to get worse in the winter months.

Of course, there may be other factors at play. With Christmas on the horizon, there will be a lot of opportunity to eat in abnormal ways. For most people, this will simply be a case of excess, but for bulimia sufferers this may add to a pre-existing propensity to binge eat. 

Added to this may be the widespread desire of many to lose weight after all the excesses of the festive season, with many making getting fit and eating more healthily a new year resolution. While that may be a reasonable and sensible step for many, it could place more pressure on those who have an unhealthy obsession with their weight and appearance.

With these different winter pressures in place, it may be wise for sufferers to start seeking help now, so that the next few months do not make matters worse.

Published: 16 November 2022