Skip to main content
Tag

eating disorder recovery Archives - Suzanne Wallach

What Are The Signs Of An Eating Disorder?

eating disorder

Eating disorders are complex psychological conditions that are broadly characterized by abnormal, irregular eating habits, and an extreme concern with one’s body weight or shape. They are defined as “serious medical illnesses marked by severe disturbances to a person’s eating behavior.” The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) includes different types of eating disorders, all of which are categorized under the Disorder Class: Feeding and Eating Disorders. Each type of eating disorder is associated with different signs and symptoms, as indicated below: 

  • Anorexia nervosa: is an eating disorder characterized by weight loss and/ or lack of appropriate wait gain in growing children, an inability to maintain an appropriate body weight for one’s age, height, stature, intense fear of gaining weight and a distorted perception of body image (weight and/ or shape). People struggling with anorexia will employ extreme efforts to control their weight and/ or shape, which can significantly interfere with their ability to properly function in daily life. The Mayo Clinic provides examples of common signs of anorexia, some of which include: 
    • Thin appearance
    • Insomnia
    • Extreme weight loss
    • Not making expected developmental weight gains
  • Dizziness and/ or fainting
  • Abnormal blood counts
  • Fatigue
  • Thinning, brittle hair
  • Absence of menstruation
  • Dry and/ or yellowish skin
  • Irregular heart rhythms
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dehydration
  • Excessively exercising
  • Bulimia nervosa: is an eating disorder characterized by a cycle of overeating (bingeing) and compensatory behaviors (purging) in attempts to undo the effects of the binge eating episodes. Purging could include self-induced vomiting, excessively over exercising, and/ or abusing diuretics. The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) provides examples of common signs of bulimia, some of which include:
    • Appears uncomfortable eating around others
    • Fear of eating in public or with others
    • Shows unusual swelling of the cheeks or jaw area
    • Discolored, stained teeth
    • Has calluses on the back of the hands and knuckles from self-induced vomiting
    • Diets frequently
    • Shows extreme concern with body weight and shape
    • Extreme mood swings
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Dizziness
    • Fainting
    • Non-specific gastrointestinal complaints
    • Sleeping problems
    • Muscle weakness
    • Impaired immune system
  • Binge-eating disorder (BED): is an eating disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of compulsively eating abnormally large quantities of food (often quickly) to the point of physical discomfort, without engaging in compensatory behaviors. Often binge episodes are followed by emotions of embarrassment, shame, guilt, and/ or distress. The Office on Women’s Health (OASH) provides examples of common signs of binge-eating disorder, some of which include:
    • Noticeable weight fluctuations
    • Depression
    • Eating in secret
    • Anxiety
    • Low self-esteem/ low self-worth
    • Skipping meals
    • Hiding food in unusual places
    • Eating excessive amounts of food in a short period of time
    • Continuing to eat, even when painfully full 
    • Inability to feel satiated
    • Suicidal ideation
  • Rumination syndrome: is a feeding and eating disorder characterized by repeatedly and unintentionally regurgitating (spitting up) undigested or partially digested food from the stomach, chewing it again and either swallowing it or spitting it out. The Mayo Clinic provides examples of common signs of rumination syndrome, some of which include:
    • Effortless regurgitation, typically within 10 minutes of eating
    • Abdominal pain or pressure relieved by regurgitation
    • A feeling of fullness
    • Bad breath
    • Nausea
    • Unintentional weight loss
  • Avoidant/ restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID): is an eating disorder characterized by restricting food intake (e.g., eating smaller amounts) and/ or eliminating certain groups to the point of infringing on one’s exposure to and ability to absorb needed nutrients coming from food. The National Eating Disorders Association provides examples of common signs of AFRID, some of which include:
    • Sudden refusal to eat foods previously eaten
    • Fear of choking, vomiting, pain or nausea due to certain foods or the act of eating
    • Lack of appetite or low appetite without medical cause
    • Very slow eating, easily distracted during eating or forgetting to eat

The information above is provided for the use of informational purposes only. The above content is not to be substituted for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment, as in no way is it intended as an attempt to practice medicine, give specific medical advice, including, without limitation, advice concerning the topic of mental health. As such, please do not use any material provided above to disregard professional advice or delay seeking treatment.

How To Recover From An Eating Disorder?

Eating-Disorder-Recovery

There are several different types of eating disorders listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), and each is categorized under the Disorder Class: Feeding and Eating Disorders. They are serious mental illnesses that are loosely characterized by abnormal, irregular eating habits, and an extreme concern with one’s body weight or shape. The three most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder. The pervasive symptoms associated with any type of eating disorder can cause adverse physiological consequences and interfere with one’s ability to adequately function in daily life. Although eating disorders are life-long conditions, with proper treatment and support, a person can learn to effectively manage its symptoms. 

Treatment Process

There are a variety of eating disorder treatment options available. The path of recovery will not be the same for everyone, as everyone is unique with distinct needs. A personalized treatment plan will provide an individual with the highest potential for a successful recovery. Depending on the nuanced needs of the individual, the treatment process could include any combination of the following components:

  • Inpatient treatment: intensive, inpatient treatment can help address severe malnutrition and other physical health complications that have developed from one’s eating disorder, settings may include:
    • Hospitalization
    • Inpatient facility
  • Psychotherapy: there are a variety of therapeutic modalities used to help treat individuals with eating disorders and may be integrated into treatment plans, some of which include, but are not limited to:
    • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): can be used to help an individual break unhealthy behavioral patterns associated with his or her eating disorder by identifying and replacing dysfunctional patterns.
    • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT): DBT can benefit a person diagnosed with an eating disorder by helping to foster self-management skills, lower stress, reduce anxiety, and learn to control destructive eating behaviors.
    • Interpersonal therapy (IPT): IPT focuses on how a person’s communications and interactions with other people affect one’s own mental health. Through interpersonal therapy an individual will learn to resolve and adjust unhealthy interpersonal problems, resulting in a symptomatic recovery.
  • Medications: there are certain medications that may be used in in treatment plans for eating disorders:
  • Anorexia nervosa: the FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) has yet to approve any medication specifically for the treatment of anorexia nervosa. 
      • Bulimia nervosa: the only medication that is approved by the FDA for the treatment of bulimia nervosa is the SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) known as Prozac (fluoxetine). 
      • Binge-eating disorder: The first medication the FDA approved as treatment from binge eating disorder is called Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine). Antidepressants such as SSRIs (e.g., Prozac) could be prescribed to reduce the frequency of binge eating episodes. Anticonvulsant medications, such as Topiramate, could be prescribed to reduce the frequency of bingeing episodes. 
  • Nutritional counseling: to facilitate weight restoration and body-weight management.
  • Medical care and/ or medical monitoring: to minimize and mitigate possible medical complications that can arise from eating disorders

The treatment plan for an individual diagnosed with an eating disorder will be directly informed by several contributing factors, such as: the exact diagnosis, how long he or she has been actively engaging in unhealthy eating habits, his or her personal health history, and the presence of any co-morbid disorders. The goal of eating disorder treatment is to help an individual find a healthy and sustainable relationship with food. 

The information above is provided for the use of informational purposes only. The above content is not to be substituted for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment, as in no way is it intended as an attempt to practice medicine, give specific medical advice, including, without limitation, advice concerning the topic of mental health. As such, please do not use any material provided above to disregard professional advice or delay seeking treatment.