An Eating Disorder is a mental health condition that can be described as unhealthy practices related to eating, exercise or body shape.
Often in society we see underweight celebrities and models represented as the perfect body image and the ideal of beauty. Even some toys, such as Barbie Dolls, create a false representation of body shape and weight.
People can also experience peer/family pressure to look a certain way. Therefore, it is not always easy to identify eating disorders as people who are suffering from this can resort to secrecy due to shame or guilt.
Behaviours Associated with Eating Disorders
As with any condition, symptoms vary depending on the individual, however the following behaviours are common:
- Dieting – calorie counting, fasting or skipping meals.
- Excessive exercise regimes.
- Binge eating – hoarding or consuming large amounts of food.
- Purging – self inflected vomiting or consuming laxatives or diet medications.
- Social withdrawal – eating alone or avoiding social situations that involve eating.
- Change in clothing style – wearing baggy clothes that hide body shape.
Severe and persistent disturbance in eating behaviour can cause psychosocial and sometimes physical impairment, such as changes in weight (gain or loss), disturbance to menstrual cycle, dizziness, fatigue, lapses in concentration, and irregular heartbeat.
What Causes Eating Disorders?
Eating disorders may arise for various reasons, for example:
- As a coping strategy to deal with emotional pain – over or under eating to cope with painful circumstances.
- Traumatic event/s, such as bullying, abuse (physical/sexual/emotional), death of someone special, or divorce.
- Peer and family pressure.
- Low self-esteem, issues related to sexuality, or lack of confidence.
- Genetics – research has found people with a family history of bulimia nervosa have a higher risk of developing the condition.
Do I have an Eating Disorder?
If you are experiencing the following symptoms, you might have an eating disorder:
- Over concern or worry about your appearance, food intake and gaining weight.
- Mealtime anxiety – feeling anxious, emotional and guilty around mealtime, feeling depressed, anxious or irritable.
- Dissatisfaction with body shape and appearance; feeling the need to lose more weight although friends or family have expressed concerns that you are underweight.
- Fear of gaining weight.
- Pretending that you have eaten when you haven’t.
- Unhealthy eating habits, being secretive about eating habits.
- Feeling anxious, guilty or frustrated after eating, or feeling out of control around food.
- After food consumption, resorting to vomiting due to concern of overeating.
- Monitoring weight on regular basis.
Common Types of Eating Disorders
Binge Eating Disorder (BND): Frequently consume large quantities of food sometimes without feeling hungry, known as bingeing. Most of the time after engaging in binge eating, the individual feels shameful and guilty, and resorts to fasting or strict dieting.
Bulimia Nervosa (BN): A person with bulimia nervosa engages in frequent episodes of binge eating, feeling that they are not able to stop or control the amount they eat. To prevent weight gain they engage in compensatory behaviours such as self-induced vomiting, consuming laxatives or diet medications, fasting or engaging in excessive exercise regimes.
Anorexia Nervosa (AN): A person with anorexia nervosa restricts food intake due to fear of gaining weight. Therefore, they are significantly underweight. Dissatisfied with their body-image or shape, they see themselves as fat even though family and friends worry about their weight; and they lack recognition of the seriousness of their problem. People with this condition resort to extreme dietary restrictions and exercise regimes.
Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED): A person with OSFED can experience clinically significant distress associated with disruptive eating habits and distorted body image.
Pica: A person with pica may resort to eating non-nutritious, non-food substances.
Treatments for Eating Disorders
It is important to start treatment as early as possible as eating disorders can have chronic consequences to health.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based treatment for eating disorders, which helps with identifying the thoughts, feelings and behaviours that have led to the eating disorder, and then bringing about change.
To make an appointment try Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call Vision Psychology Brisbane on (07) 3088 5422.