What are eating disorders?
Eating disorders are unhealthy patterns of eating associated with difficulties with body image and extreme thoughts, feelings and behaviors around food. Eating disorders result in serious emotional and physical problems that can have life-threatening consequences for females and males.
How common are eating disorders?
Anorexia is one of the most common psychiatric diagnoses in young women. While Anorexia and Bulimia are found mostly in women, Binge Eating Disorder effects both men and women. The perception that Eating Disorders only impacts women can make it difficult for men and boys to seek the treatment they need.
The effects of Eating Disorders can be devastating for clients and their family. People struggling with eating issues often experience depression, anxiety, substance abuse and relationship issues.
What are the different types of eating disorders?
Anorexia Nervosa: People with Anorexia have a difficult time eating to maintain a healthy weight and fear being fat, even when everyone around them sees them as underweight. Even though it is hard to eat, preoccupations with food and dieting in the form of calorie and fat gram counting, and food rituals (eating food in a certain order, excessive chewing, rearranging food on a plate without actually eating) are common. Anorexia has serious health consequences including changes in how the heart and blood pressure function, osteoporosis, kidney failure, fatigue and weakness, and hair and skin changes.
Bulimia Nervosa: Dieting is also a part of Bulimia. In Bulimia, there is a cycle of problematic behavior that starts with food restriction or dieting, which is then followed by period of excessive eating (binging) and behaviors designed to rid the body of the food (purging) such as vomiting on purpose, taking laxatives or water pills, or excessive exercise. After the purging behavior, the cycle of dieting begins again. There is a sense of being out of control while eating. People with Bulimia are often very concerned about their body appearance (particularly for certain areas such as belly, buttocks or thighs) and struggle with body image issues. Like Anorexia, Bulimia can have medical consequences which include digestive dysfunction, electrolyte and chemical imbalances impacting the heart and other organ systems, and dental problems.
Binge Eating Disorder (BED): BED is marked by excessive eating of large quantities of food in a short time frame without any type of compensatory behavior. People with BED feel out of control of their eating and struggle with feeling depressed, guilty and disgusted by their eating. Medical consequences include high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, gall bladder disease, and joint problems.
What Does Treatment of an Eating Disorder Involve?
The goal of psychotherapy is to address both the primary eating disorder symptoms and the associated psychological, neurobiological and interpersonal issues that co-exist with the disruptive eating patterns. Outpatient treatment is individual or family, based on the client’s unique symptoms. Care is often coordinated between psychologists, medical providers, psychiatrists, and nutritionists.