Eating disorders are shaped by serious deteriorations in eating behavior and weight regulation. It is the umbrella name given for mental health issues that are examined in three main groups: anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder. The other least frequent eating disorders are pica, rumination disorder, avoidant/ restrictive food intake disorder.
It is possible to say that you may have an eating disorder if you are making serious changes in your eating behavior because of your concerns about your body. When your food choices are impacted by your ideas of your weight and body shape, and you are highly concerned about food and eating, it is also a sign that you might have an eating disorder.
- Calorie counting, fasting, having a list of forbidden foods, trying to skip meals
- Exercising too much or not being able to skip exercise although feeling sick
- Being conscious of body weight and shape, and how it is seen by the others
- Trying to eat in private
- Binge eating and purging
- Changes in the clothes such as wearing loose clothes
- Rapid changes in the weight
- Changes in the menstrual cycle
- Feeling tired and dizzy
- Being cold
- Overthinking about food
- Mealtime anxiety
- Feeling like out of control about food
- Using food to handle difficult feelings
Although the causes of eating disorders are not known exactly, it is thought that genetic, biological, and psychosocial factors play a role together. Low self-esteem, depression, worthlessness, identity confusion, family conflicts, and personality traits also make an impact in the development of an eating disorder.
“Emotional eating” is an eating behavior that is assumed to occur only in response to emotion, not because of the feeling of hunger or when it’s mealtime. In other words, you try to cope with many negative emotions such as anger, shame, sadness by eating. Emotional eating has often been associated with low self-esteem, feelings of inadequacy, and eating disorders.
Contrary to popular belief, eating disorders are not only seen in women. Although the male/female ratio is thought to be 1/10 according to studies, it is known that the frequency of male eating disorders is increasing day by day.
People with anorexia nervosa try to prevent food from entering the body and remove it even if it does. Although the person is clearly well below his ideal weight, they see themselves as fat and has an unstoppable desire to lose weight. The desire to lose weight can be caused by the refusal to eat, or by trying to remove even a small amount of food from the body. It might involve some strategies to lose weight. These include using laxatives (diarrhea agents), making oneself vomit, exercising too much, using diuretics). It makes people to become obsessed with their weight, eating behaviors, and food. Weighing repeatedly and watching small weight changes is one of the features of the mental health condition.
- Eating very little or having a list of forbidden foods you see as fattening
- Thinking that losing weight constantly is a good thing
- Lying about your weight or whether you have eaten or not
- Perceiving yourself as fat, or you have excess fat in some parts of your body although you are underweight or in a healthy weight
- Being unable to see the health consequences of eating less than your body needs
- Trying to supress your hunger
- Inability to have periods
- Calcium deficiency
- Dry skin
- Low blood pressure, breathing slowly, and low pulse rate
- Drop in body temperature
- Issues with the heart rhythm
It stands out with binge eating attacks and subsequent behaviors to prevent gaining weight such as voluntary vomiting, excessive exercise, and diuretic and laxative use. Unlike patients with anorexia, they may be of normal weight or slightly overweight. Because bulimic behavior is often accompanied by feelings of disgust and shame, it is done in secret. The frequency of binge eating, and subsequent bulimic behavior cycles can vary from a few times a week to a few times a day.
- Feeling like you don’t have any control over your eating
- Unable to stop eating or unable to control how much to eat
- Eating large amounts of food in a short amount of time more than a few times a week
- Fear of gaining weight
- Overthinking about body shape and weight
- Having a restrictive diet between binges
- Using laxatives, over exercising or vomiting to prevent weight gain after binging
It is an eating disorder in which an individual consumes much more food in a short time than other people would eat under normal circumstances. People with this issue cannot restrain the eating behavior and they tend to repeat binging.
Unlike bulimia, people who struggle with binge eating do not try to prevent gaining weight with taking measures such as exercising or vomiting. Instead, they might try to diet or have normal meals.
- Eating large amount of food in a shorter amount of time
- Feeling like you can’t stop eating
- Eating when you aren’t hungry
- Eating although you feel full
- Frequently eating alone or in secret
- Frequently dieting
- Eating alone and trying not to be seen by others while eating
- Feeling disgusted or guilty about overeating
The treatment needed for the recovery from the eating disorder would depend on what kind of an eating disorder you may have.
The treatment of eating disorders would require psychotherapy, medical support, and nutritional support.
In some eating disorders, avoiding or delaying treatment might risk your health and you might need inpatient treatment.
Medical support: You might consider having a consultation with your GP, if you would like to talk about the eating problems you might have. It will be important to see whether medication can be helpful or a referral to psychiatry is an option for you.
Mental health support: You might consider seeking help from a psychotherapist specializing in eating disorders to help you to recover from the condition.
Nutrition support: Nutritionists will help with nutrition and meal planning.
Social support: It is difficult to deal with an eating disorder. Seeking support from family and friends will help you to overcome the difficulties.
Psychotherapy is the essential component of the treatment for eating disorders.
It can help you to:
- Understanding the root causes of your eating disorder
- Gaining control over your eating disorder
- Improving eating habits
- Helping with your mood
- Helping with your body image and
- Help with being preoccupied with thinking about food
- Helping you to express yourself
- Helping with the challenges you face and learning new skills
- Improving problem solving skills
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is an evidence-based treatment approach to eating disorders which will help you to re-establish healthy eating, addressing emotions and behaviours that are linked with the eating disorder. It will help you to recognize and change thoughts might be causing eating disorder behaviours.
Schema Therapy is found to be effective in the treatment of the eating disorders. It helps with identifying what makes eating disordered. It also focuses on finding out what makes you stuck with the eating disorder such as thoughts, feelings, behaviours, and beliefs that are difficult to change which are named as schemas. It will also address the origins of the eating disorder by finding out which maladaptive schemas might be effective in having and maintaining the issue. It will then restore your thoughts and feelings about eating and help you move towards healthy eating and feeling confident in your body. Schema Therapy is especially helpful in the treatment of chronic, long term and entrenched issues.
You might benefit from it, if any of the below applies to you.
- If you think the issue might be linked with your childhood or teenager years.
- Your eating disorder tends to be a long-term issue in your life.
- If you have been to therapy before and the issue persists.
I am an accredited counsellor, CBT and Schema Therapist. I mostly work with people who had a difficult childhood such as experiencing trauma, being bullied, or lacking emotional support and now experience depression, panic and anxiety, difficulties in relationships, low self-esteem, borderline personality disorder, eating disorders and body image issues.
I help people with a wide range of psychological problems at my private practice in central London and offer online sessions, if you are unable to attend in person.