Article – Eating Disorders: what are they and what should I do?

Eating Disorders: what are they and what should I do?

“We don’t know who is healthy and who is not just by looking at their body shape.”
-Cheryl Ann Webster

Eating disorders are complex, irrational, and difficult to understand.  There are three main types of eating disorders: Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa and the recently researched Binge Eating Disorder. Each have their health risks and should be treated as soon as possible.


Anorexia Nervosa is defined by a body mass index less than 85% due to a restriction of food.

Symptoms

  • Inadequate food intake leading to a weight that is clearly too low.
  • Intense fear of weight gain, obsession with weight and persistent behavior to prevent weight gain. Excessive weighing of oneself.
  • Self-esteem overly related to body image.
  • Preoccupation with weight, food, calories, fat grams, and dieting.
  • Refusal to eat certain foods, progressing to restrictions against whole categories of food (e.g. no carbohydrates, etc.).
  • Frequent comments about feeling “fat” or overweight despite weight loss.
  • Denial of hunger.
  • Development of food rituals (e.g. eating foods in certain orders, excessive chewing, rearranging food on a plate).
  • Consistent excuses to avoid mealtimes or situations involving food.
  • Excessive, rigid exercise regimen–despite weather, fatigue, illness, or injury, the need to “burn off” calories taken in.
  • Withdrawal from usual friends and activities.

Bulimia Nervosa is defined by an excessive binge then a purge, either by self-induced vomiting, exercise or laxative abuse.

Symptoms

  • Frequent episodes of consuming very large amount of food followed by behaviors to prevent weight gain, such as self-induced vomiting.
  • A feeling of being out of control during the binge-eating episodes.
  • Self-esteem overly related to body image. Mostly average weight.
  • Evidence of binge eating, including disappearance of large amounts of food in short periods of time or finding wrappers and containers indicating the consumption of large amounts of food.
  • Evidence of purging behaviors, including frequent trips to the bathroom after meals, signs and/or smells of vomiting, presence of wrappers or packages of laxatives or diuretics.
  • Withdrawal from usual friends and activities.

 


Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is a type of eating disorder that is characterized by recurrent binge eating without the regular use of compensatory measures to counter the binge eating.

Symptoms

  • Frequent episodes of consuming very large amount of food but without behaviors to prevent weight gain, such as self-induced vomiting.
  • A feeling of being out of control during the binge eating episodes.
  • Feelings of strong shame or guilt regarding the binge eating.
  • Indications that the binge eating is out of control, such as eating when not hungry, eating to the point of discomfort, or eating alone because of shame about the behavior.

Do you know someone who fits one of these diagnoses? Unsure how you should approach them?

Often times, those who are struggling with an eating disorder do not recognize their symptoms as a problem. They may be defensive about the behaviors and/or rationalize them. Research shows that the earlier the treatment begins, the better the prognosis.

Treatment for an eating disorder involves the following therapy:

  • Individual therapy with a licensed therapist who specializes in eating disorders. Often, an eating disorder is accompanied by depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder or substance abuse. Individual therapy will focus on stress management, positive coping, anxiety reduction, body image and self-confidence.
  • Nutritional therapy with a Registered Dietitian that specializes in eating disorders to assist with healthy meal planning and monitor weight.
  • A psychiatrist to provide medication management, if needed.

If you are struggling with an eating disorder or you know someone who is, contact Leanna Kobrin, LMHC at the Center of Psychological Effectiveness at 954-583-8831 ext 390 and start on the road to recovery.