Eating Disorders and Treatment
There are a range of disorders classified under Eating Disorders when a person’s eating patterns, habits and behaviors have an extreme impact on their diet and nutrition, leading to severe consequences. Most cases of eating disorders appear when a person is in their teens, however in some cases they may appear later in life if they are co-occurring with other issues.
Clinically Reviewed by: Charee Marquez, LMFT
Review Date: 3/1/2023
This is an eating disorder where a person goes to extreme lengths to control their food intake in order to control their weight. People with anorexia have a disorder which skews the perception of how they view their own body weight and appearance. By resorting to extreme measures such as severely limiting their calorie intake, exercising too much, using laxatives, and vomiting immediately after eating. When the disorder is severe, it can lead to starvation and dehydration with fatal consequences.
A person with bulimia goes through cyclical episodes of binge-eating and purging what they eat because they have no control over their eating. In an attempt to control their eating habits, they may sometimes end up not eating for lengths of time, and then binging all at once. Many people who suffer from bulimia also suffer from guilt and shame about their weight and appearance.
Similar to bulimia, a person with binge-eating disorder has no control over what they eat, and therefore they binge-eat, leading to weight gain. However, in the case of binge-eating disorder patients, they do not purge after they eat, so the excessive weight gain can lead to obesity, which in turn can lead to guilt and shame about their eating habits.
In addition to the above, there are other eating disorders such as Rumination Disorder where the patient is continually regurgitating what they eat, or Restrictive Food Intake Disorder where they avoid foods which they don’t like to the point of restricting their minimum daily nutrition. These disorders typically occur in childhood.
In most cases, those who are suffering from eating disorders may try to hide their eating habits, however overtime, they tend to show some signs of unhealthy behaviors.
Some common signs of Eating Disorders include:
In general, young girls and women tend to develop eating disorders, although it is not uncommon for male patients to suffer from eating disorders as well. Depending on the type of disorder, eating disorders can lead to a whole range of complications, sometimes fatal.
Some common impacts of Eating Disorders
If your eating disorder is co-occurring with addiction or substance abuse disorder, they may need to be treated in parallel. In almost all cases, there is a mental health condition involved with eating disorders, so you should seek a psychological evaluation and a therapist to work with you.
There are no medications to cure an eating disorder. Change must come about through education, therapy and switching to healthy eating habits. Sometimes medications may be used to treat co-occurring disorders.
Depending on the severity of your condition, you may be recommended a treatment plan such as a Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) or Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) where you can receive supervision and support on a daily basis while still being able to attend school or work.
CBT is an approach that helps identify distorted thinking patterns that are self-destructive and can create challenges in an individual’s life; and then to evaluate them from a realistic perspective. CBT is effective in treating eating disorders, as well as other mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and others.
DBT is another kind of talk therapy, especially aimed at individuals who experience intense emotions by helping them to understand their thoughts and thereby helping them to change their unhelpful behaviors. It is used in patients who experience eating disorders co-occurring with trauma, suicidal ideation, and borderline personality, among others.
Because most patients of eating disorders are teens and young adults, family can play a major role in educating themselves about eating disorders, as well as supporting their loved ones with healthier alternatives. FBT can also help improve relationships within the family by promoting better communication.
In extreme cases, if you are experiencing a severe eating disorder you may need to be hospitalized in order to receive more intensive treatment to revert the effects of the disorder before transitioning into therapy.
If you suspect that you or your loved one may be suffering from an eating disorder, it is best to consult with your primary care provider immediately. In most cases, you may be referred to a therapist to provide psychotherapeutic care because most cases of eating disorders co-occur with other mental health conditions. With treatment it is possible to learn healthier eating habits and live happier lives.
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