Eating disorders are serious illnesses caused by a combination of genetics and environmental stressors. Eating disorders are clusters of symptoms including disturbances in a person's eating behaviors, negative body image, and distortions in their thoughts and feelings related to eating. Those with eating disorders do not choose to suffer from these illnesses and they may be highly ashamed of their behavior. Those with eating disorders frequently suffer from immense shame, isolation from friends and family, and avoidance of once enjoyed activities. They may be at risk of developing other mental health issues. If you are suffering from an eating disorder, you are not alone. Millions of people in the United States suffer from eating disorders every year. Luckily there is treatment to help those who suffer from these devastating illnesses.
Anorexia Nervosa is marked by a distorted body image, and an unwarranted fear that one is or will become overweight. People with Anorexia Nervosa generally maintain a below-average body weight through starvation and/or exercise. If they are in an unstable condition, medical attention and full or partial hospitalization may be required.
- Brittle hair and nails
- Fainting or dizziness
- Low body temperature and frequent feelings of being cold
- Water-electrolyte imbalances
- Low blood pressure
Bulimia Nervosa is characterized by distorted body image, obsessive desires to lose or maintain a low weight, and compulsive behavior to attain that low weight. Bulimia Nervosa is a dangerous disorder involving binge eating (the consumption of large amounts of food in a short period of time) followed by attempts to purge the food eaten from the body. Purging often involves self-induced vomiting, but may also include periods of fasting, excessive exercise, and use of laxatives or diuretics.
- Dental problems and cavities
- Bad breath
- Tooth erosion
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Inflamed esophagus
- Food aversion
- Water-electrolyte imbalance
Binge Eating Disorder
Those who suffer from binge eating disorder have over-eating symptoms similar to those with Bulimia Nervosa, with the absence of purging behavior. Binge behaviors involve eating what the person identifies to be a very large amount of food in a short amount of time, after which they feel guilty, depressed, or disgusted with themselves. During binge episodes, individuals with this disorder often eat until they are very full or physically uncomfortable.
- Eating large amounts of food
- Eating rapidly
- Eating even when full
- Frequently eating alone
- Lack of control once one begins to eat
- Hoarding food
- Frequent dieting without weight loss
- Disgust or self-hatred about eating behaviors
Talk therapy can be very helpful for those suffering from an eating disorder. Talk therapy allows a safe place for individuals to express their deep rooted feelings of shame, inadequacy, and distorted thoughts about food and eating. Therapists can help sufferers to see a more accurate image of reality regarding food and body image. They may help clients develop emotional regulation strategies, interventions to use during crises, and skills for sitting with distressing feelings. Increasing self-esteem in those suffering from an eating disorder is of highest importance. Talk therapy can help increase feelings of worthiness and ease the loneliness often experienced by those suffering with an eating disorder.
Behavioral interventions for eating disorders may include eating normalized meals and practicing eating at ‘normal’ meal times. Clients may be asked to expose themselves to eating in the presence of others, increase caloric intake at meals, and try new foods.
Other behavioral interventions include not engaging in exercise or purging compulsions for a specified amount of time after meal or snack consumption. Clients may work to create replacement behaviors in place of food rituals and they may focus on reintroducing fun and leisure activities into their lives. Reframing negative beliefs about food and the body is an integral part of behavioral treatment for eating disorders. Relapse prevention and identifying triggers that lead to disordered eating behavior should also be included.
Support groups can be useful in helping those with eating disorders realize they are not alone in their illness. Groups such as these can be a road to recovery when individuals are able to lean on each other for support during hard times, and encourage each other in their recovery.
A doctor can prescribe a medication to help manage the emotional and physical symptoms related to an eating disorder. Medications to manage mood symptoms may include selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), other anti-depressant medications, or occasionally second-generation antipsychotic medications (atypical antipsychotics). Medications may also be prescribed to manage symptoms of GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) and other physical conditions developed through an eating disorder.
Learning how to be mindful while eating can be very helpful for those recovering from an eating disorder. Mindfulness helps the individual tune into their physical hunger cues and learn to eat when hungry and stop when full. Mindful exercise may also be helpful in reconnecting the individual with their body in a loving and compassionate way. Examples of mindful exercise activities include meditation, yoga, dance, or being in nature.
Therapists at Live True Counseling Can Help
As a team of therapists trained in talk therapy, behavioral intervention, and mindfulness we may be an excellent fit for someone recovering from an eating disorder. Our therapists come from a place of unconditional positive regard. We are compassionate towards human suffering and passionate about helping others recover from mental illness.