Eating Disorders

 

Individuals suffering from eating disorders may be unaware that they have a disorder or may have difficulty asking for help.  Below are some “danger signs” to help determine if you or a loved one could be at risk for having an eating disorder.  If three or more of the following symptoms apply to you or a loved one please contact us:  You or your loved one may be at risk of having an eating disorder.


*Thoughts about feeling fat and fear of gaining weight

*Strict dieting/fasting

*Feelings of loss of control when eating

*Making excuses to avoid family meals

*Staying away from social situations that involve eating

*Weight determines self-esteem

*Body image obsession

*Guilt or shame after eating

*Repeated attempts at dieting

*Eating large amounts of food over a short period of time

*Rituals to make what one eats less obvious

*Self-consciousness or embarrassment about eating

*Sneaking food

*Lying about eating habits

*Restrictive eating

*Self-induced vomiting

*Abuse of laxatives, diuretics, diet pills, ipecac syrup and compulsive exercise 

*Eating to relieve stress or depression

*Perfectionism

*Eating when not hungry

*Eating sensibly in front of others and then making up for it when alone

*Changes in mood and/or depression

*Low body weight with possible menstrual irregularities

*Embarrassment about body weight

*Low self-esteem

*Difficulty identifying or expressing feeling

*Gastrointestinal problems-pain and/or irregularity

 

 

What are Eating Disorders?

 

Eating disorders are characterized by severe disturbances in eating behavior.  The practice of an eating disorder can be viewed as a survival mechanism.  Just as an alcoholic uses alcohol to cope, a person with an eating disorder can use eating, purging or restricting to deal with their problems. Many times the practice of an eating disorder is an expression of feelings that an individual has no other way of expressing.  Some of the underlying issues that are associated with an eating disorder include low self-esteem, depression, feelings of loss of control, feelings of worthlessness, identity concerns, family communication problems and an inability to cope with emotions. Eating disorders are usually divided into three categories:  Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa and Compulsive Overeating.

 

Anorexia Nervosa

 

This is a disorder where the main characteristic is the restriction of food and the refusal to maintain a minimal normal body weight.  Any actual gain or even perceived weight gain is met with intense fear.  Not only is there a true feeling of fear, but also once in the grasp of the disorder, Anorexics experience body image distortions.  Those areas of the body usually representing maturity or sexuality including the buttocks, hips, thighs, and breasts are visualized by the Anorexic as being fat.  For some anorexics, weight loss is so severe there is a loss of menses.  In the obsessive pursuit of thinness, Anorexics participate in restrictive dieting, compulsive exercise, and can also abuse laxatives, diuretics, ipecac syrup and diet pills.  If left untreated, Anorexia Nervosa can be fatal.

 

Bulimia Nervosa

 

Bulimics are caught in the devastating and addictive binge-purge cycle.  The Bulimic eats compulsively and then purges through self-induced vomiting, use of laxatives, diuretics, diet pills, ipecac syrup, strict diets, fasts, chew-spitting, vigorous exercise, or other compensatory behaviors to prevent weight gain.  Binges usually consist of the consumption of large amounts amount of food in a short period of time.  Binge eating usually occurs in secret.  Bulimics, like Anorexics, are also obsessively involved with their body shape and weight.  The medical complications can be severe and even fatal.

 

 

Compulsive Overeating

 

Compulsive Overeaters are often caught in the vicious cycle of binge eating and depression.  They often use food as a coping mechanism to deal with their feelings.  Binge eating temporarily relieves the stress of these feelings, but it is unfortunately followed by feelings of guilt, shame, disgust, and depression.  Binge eating, like bulimia, often occurs in secret.  It is not uncommon for Compulsively Overeaters to eat normally or restrictively in front of others and then make up for eating less by binge eating in secret.  For other Compulsive Overeaters, binges consist of “grazing” on foods all day long.  Similar to Anorexics and Bulimics, Compulsive Overeaters are constantly struggling and unhappy about their weight.  The number on the scale often determines how they feel about themselves.  Medical complications can also be severe and even life threatening for Compulsive Overeaters.

 

Treatment:

 

Most people are able to get adequate treatment as an outpatient using a multi-disciplinary treatment team consisting of a psychiatrist, internal medicine doctor, psychotherapist, registered dietician, and often a dentist.

 

If the individual is unable to successfully achieve treatment goals as an outpatient, a higher level of care is necessary to manage their eating disorder symptoms.  This may include an acute hospital stay followed by a long-term eating disorder treatment facility.  These facilities are located throughout the United States.


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