Weight loss

What Is Weight Loss?

Weight loss is defined as a decrease in body weight. The majority of cases of weight loss result in a decrease in body fat. In severe cases of weight loss however, protein and other various elements of the body may be lost.

What Causes Weight Loss?

Voluntary weight loss is typically seen through a healthy diet and exercise. Involuntary weight loss can be associated by chronic inflammation, addiction to drugs or alcohol, cancer, and chronic diarrheal illnesses.

The decrease of mass associated with weight loss can be caused by a decrease in muscle mass, bodily fluid, or fat. Weight loss that is unintentional or has no explanation is typically an indication of an illness and should addressed by a healthcare professional.

There are several conceivable reasons for unexplained weight loss. These can include:

  • Addison’s Disease
  • Addiction/Substance abuse
  • Cancer
  • Changes in diet
  • Certain medications
  • Chron’s Disease
  • Dementia
  • Dental problems
  • Depression (major depressive disorder)
  • Diabetes
  • Eating disorders
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Tuberculosis
  • Peptic Ulcer


Experience weight loss without an explanation can trigger serious symptoms. The underlying cause for a person’s weight loss will determine the individual symptoms they experience. Common symptoms of unexplained weight loss can include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Muscle weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Low blood pressure
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Bloody stools
  • Slower healing of cuts and bruises

When to See a Doctor for Weight Loss?

Anyone who is losing weight without an explanation, or who isn’t actively trying to lose weight, should consult their healthcare provider. Losing 5 percent of one’s body weight within 6-12 months is a sign that there is a more serious problem. Older adults who are frail or thin should consult their doctor even when they experience smaller percentages of weight loss in six months or less.

Weight Loss FAQ

How will a doctor determine what is causing unexplained weight loss?

Your doctor or healthcare provider will ask a series of questions. Other symptoms may be discovered through these questions. A physical exam is common to help determine the cause of unexplained weight loss. Blood tests or other medical examinations may also be required. Following the initial evaluation, a prognosis may be made clear as to a person’s unexplained weight loss.

How is weight loss treated?

Weight loss is treated individually, depending on the cause.

Can depression make you lose weight?

Yes. Changes in eating habits can be directly linked to depression. Many people who suffer from depression also experience weight loss. It is a common symptom of depression however, some people who suffer from depression tend to overeat and gain weight.

Can stress cause you to lose weight?

Yes. Stress-response stimulation can cause an increase in the nervous energy a person experiences, which can lead to an increase in the body’s fuel consumption. Stress hormones are stimulants, which also increase the body’s metabolism. Stress-response also decrease’s the body’s ability to absorb and process nutrients.

External Links

Weight Loss; Sudden Weight Loss Anxiety Symptom, Jim Folk, Marilyn Folk, BScN, anxietycentre.com, August 5, 2017

Unexplained weight loss, Mayo Clinic Staff

Unintentional weight loss, NHS Choices, 2016

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