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Caring For A Loved One With An Eating Disorder

Eating Disorder

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. Eating disorders are neurological disorders 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. Eating disorders are serious illnesses that are often accompanied by life-threatening physical and mental health complications. Assuming the role of caretaker for a loved one struggling with an eating disorder can be an enormous and overwhelming undertaking. When caring for an individual with an eating disorder, it is essential to understand the specific eating disorder your loved one is battling and arm yourself with an array of coping techniques and strategies to offer the most useful support. As a caretaker faced with navigating a loved one’s eating disorder consider the following suggestions to set yourself up for success:

  • Learn as much as you can: Caregivers should educate themselves and try to understand the disorder by reading credible sources and speaking with professionals.
  • Practice self-care: It can be easy to lose sight of the importance of maintaining and prioritizing your own health and well-being. However, if you become emotionally or mentally unwell you will be doing a disservice to your loved one who is battling an eating disorder, as you will be unable to properly care for them.
  • Do not take things personally: Individuals who are struggling with an eating disorder did not choose their diagnosis and they usually do not intentionally mean to hurt their loved ones.
  • Acknowledge big and small accomplishments: Caregivers should always offer encouragement to their loved one by expressing pride for any accomplishments that align with and reinforce a healthy relationship with food.
  • Appearing preoccupied is to be expected: Keep in mind that obsessive thoughts of food, weight and body image are occupying your loved one’s mind from the moment they wake up to the moment they go to sleep.
  • Pay attention to red flags: A caretaker must be able to recognize the warning signs that may indicate setbacks in one’s recovery.
  • Patience is key: Recovery is a long process and does not happen overnight.
  • Nobody is to blame: Although the exact cause behind why an individual develops an eating disorder remains unknown, research has found that it is likely due to a combination of psychological, biological, and environmental factors.

According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), an estimated 30 million U.S. adults will have an eating disorder at some point in their lives.

 

Treatment In Calabasas

Calabasas is a city in California. It is a well-known suburb of Los Angeles, located west of the San Fernando Valley and north of the Santa Monica Mountains. Over the past decade, the city of Calabasas has grown in its reputation for luxury as well as for privacy which makes it a hidden gem for residential living for society’s elite, and one of the most desirable destinations in Los Angeles County. It is also home to a plethora of highly qualified mental health clinicians providing an array of therapeutic services and treatment options.

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.

What’s The Most Serious Eating Disorder?

Eating disorders are defined by the American Psychiatric Association as “behavioral conditions characterized by severe and persistent disturbance in eating behaviors and associated distressing thoughts and emotions.” There are several different types and each are recognized as chronic psychological conditions listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) under the Disorder Class: Feeding and Eating Disorders. The pervasive symptoms associated with any type of eating disorder can cause adverse physiological consequences and interfere with one’s ability to function optimally in daily life. Experts consider anorexia nervosa, colloquially known as anorexia, to be the most severe type of eating disorder because it has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder.

Anorexia

Anorexia is characterized by “an abnormally low body weight, an intense fear of gaining weight and a distorted perception of weight.” An individual struggling with anorexia may exhibit behavioral warning signs such as skipping meals, over-exercising, obsessively reading nutritional information, constantly weighing themselves, regularly making excuses not to eat, denial of a problem despite excessive weight loss, etc. People with anorexia engage in a cycle of self-starvation that often result in malnutrition including a lack of essential minerals and nutrients. When an individual with anorexia becomes severely malnourished, every organ in his or her body can suffer irreparable damage. There are myriad adverse short and long-term effects of anorexia, and without proper treatment anorexia can lead to life-threatening consequences.

Facts and Stats

There are several eye-opening facts and statistics related to anorexia, as well as many misconceptions about this eating disorder, such as:

  • There is currently no medication approved by the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) for the treatment of anorexia.
  • 1 in 5 anorexia deaths are by suicide.
  • The mortality rate associated with anorexia is 12 times higher than the death rate of all causes of death for females aged 15 to 24 years old.
  • 20% of women diagnosed with anorexia have high levels of autistic traits.

Anorexia is considered one of the most lethal psychiatric disorders, carrying a sixfold increased risk of death. Further, the South Carolina Department of Mental Health assert that twenty percent of people suffering from anorexia will die prematurely due to complications related to their eating disorder.

Treatment In Calabasas

Calabasas is a city in California. It is a well-known suburb of Los Angeles, located west of the San Fernando Valley and north of the Santa Monica Mountains. Over the past decade, the city of Calabasas has grown in its reputation for luxury as well as for privacy which makes it a hidden gem for residential living for society’s elite, and one of the most desirable destinations in Los Angeles County. It is also home to a plethora of highly qualified mental health clinicians providing an array of therapeutic services and treatment options.

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.

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.

Is Obesity An Eating Disorder?

Obesity-eating-disorder

Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses that are characterized by abnormal, irregular eating habits, and an extreme concern with one’s body weight or shape. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) includes several different types of eating disorders, all of which are categorized under the Disorder Class: Feeding and Eating Disorders. While obesity and eating disorders are linked, it would be inaccurate to claim they are one and the same. One publication asserts that “obesity is a heterogeneous condition with a complex and incompletely understood etiology, and thus cannot be considered a mental disorder per se.” Hence, most medical experts do not label obesity as an eating disorder, nor is it included in the DSM-5. 

What Is Obesity?

Obesity is essentially an abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that presents a risk to one’s health. Harvard Health explains that the healthy range for body mass index (BMI) is between 18.5 and 24.9, overweight is defined as a BMI of 25 to 29.9, and obesity is defined as a BMI of 30 or higher. Obesity is associated with serious health problems (e.g., diabetes, coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, colorectal cancer, etc.). Although it is not recognized as an eating disorder, obesity accounts for far more morbidity and mortality than all the eating disorders combined because it is much more prevalent. More than 30% of Americans are obese, compared with the 4% of Americans who meet criteria for anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or binge-eating disorder, according to the American Psychological Association. This issue continues to rise and has reached epidemic proportions, as over the past five years, the obesity rate among adults aged 18 and older in the United States has increased an annualized 1.8%, amounting to 33 people per 100 individuals. An estimated 300,000 deaths per year are due to the obesity epidemic, which makes it the second leading cause of preventable death in the United States. 

There are many factors that can play a role in the development of obesity, such as genetic influences, caloric intake, exercise, stress and more. Obesity is a common comorbidity (i.e., the simultaneous presence of two or more diseases or medical conditions) of certain eating disorders. Those who struggle with obesity, for example, may also struggle with anorexia as a method of controlling one’s food intake in the hopes of weight loss. Research indicates that “there is a significant co-occurrence of eating disorders, particularly binge eating disorder, in individuals with higher BMI.” Obesity and eating disorders are each associated with severe physical and mental health consequences, and individuals with obesity as well as comorbid eating disorders are at greater risk of these than individuals with either condition alone. Both obesity and eating disorders require medical intervention.

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.

How To Help Someone With An Eating Disorder

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. Eating disorders can be debilitating and can adversely affect a person’s emotions, and health, and interfere with one’s ability to adequately function in his or her daily life. According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), an estimated 30 million U.S. adults will have an eating disorder at some point in their lives. If left untreated, continued malnutrition that occurs with an untreated eating disorder can lead to severe short and long-term consequences. The best way to help someone with an eating disorder is to be able to recognize its warning signs and ultimately encourage them to pursue treatment.

Treatment

Every individual is different, and each person will require a tailored treatment plan to ensure all nuanced needs are met. The treatment plan for an individual diagnosed with an eating disorder will be directly informed by several contributing factors, such as one’s 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. Depending on one’s needs, an eating disorder treatment plan could include any combination of the following components:

  • 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.
  • Medications:
  • Anorexia nervosa: The FDA (U.S. 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 (generically: fluoxetine).
      • Binge-eating disorder: The first medication the FDA approved as a treatment for the binge-eating disorder is called Vyvanse (generically: 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.
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT): DBT can benefit an individual diagnosed with an eating disorder by helping to foster self-management skills, lower stress, reduce anxiety, and learn to control destructive eating behaviors. DBT promotes acceptance and teaches individuals how to live in the present moment and cope with emotional triggers that may otherwise perpetuate unhealthy symptoms and behaviors associated with eating disorders.

The goal of treatment for an individual diagnosed with an eating disorder is to help them find a healthy and sustainable relationship with food. Although eating disorders are life-long conditions, with proper treatment and support, a person can learn to effectively manage their symptoms.

 

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.

The Most Serious Eating Disorder

eating disorder

Eating disorders are defined by the American Psychiatric Association as “behavioral conditions characterized by severe and persistent disturbance in eating behaviors and associated distressing thoughts and emotions.” There are several different types and each are recognized as chronic psychological conditions listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) under the Disorder Class: Feeding and Eating Disorders. 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. Still, anorexia, formerly known as anorexia nervosa, is recognized as the most dangerous type of eating disorder because of its high mortality rate. The South Carolina Department of Mental Health assert that twenty percent of people suffering from anorexia will die prematurely due to complications related to their eating disorder.

Anorexia

Anorexia is characterized by “an abnormally low body weight, an intense fear of gaining weight and a distorted perception of weight.” Though anorexia can manifest at any age, experts suggests it most commonly develops during adolescence. The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) point to specific risk factors that can increase one’s propensity for developing anorexia, including, but not limited to the following:

  • Dieting and starvation: habitual dieting to the point of starvation can increase a one’s potential for developing anorexia. Studies have shown that starvation impacts one’s brain functioning and one’s ability to make rational decisions. In turn, restrictive eating behaviors are perpetuated and returning to healthy/ normal eating habits become increasingly difficult.
  • Genetics: Individuals with familial history of anorexia and/ or other eating disorders put certain people at higher risk of developing anorexia.
  • Transitions: emotional stress resulting from various life transitions (e.g., new school, move, death of a loved one, etc.) can increase the risk of anorexia.
  • Peer influence: teens going through puberty and adolescence face hormonal changes, increased peer pressure, and often internalize criticisms about appearance, which can put teenagers at a higher risk for anorexia. 

Anorexia is the third most common chronic illness among adolescents. Further, it is considered one of the most lethal psychiatric disorders, carrying a sixfold increased risk of death. 

Signs and Symptoms

Everyone is unique, and as such, an individual struggling with anorexia will present with a distinct set of signs and symptoms. The Mayo Clinic does, however, provide examples of common signs and symptoms associated with anorexia, some of which may include, but are not limited to, any combination of the following:

  • Thin appearance
  • Insomnia
  • Extreme weight loss
  • In adolescents: 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

Certain behavioral warning signs may be exhibited by an individual struggling with anorexia such as skipping meals, over-exercising, obsessively reading nutritional information, constantly weighing themselves, regularly making excuses not to eat, denial of a problem despite excessive weight loss, and more. Individuals diagnosed with anorexia engage in a cycle of self-starvation that often results in severe malnutrition including a lack of essential minerals and nutrients. When an individual with anorexia becomes severely malnourished, every organ in his or her body can suffer irreparable damage, and without proper treatment anorexia can be life-threatening. 

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.

What Qualifies As Having An Eating Disorder?

eating-disorder

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIH) defines eating disorders as “serious medical illnesses marked by severe disturbances to a person’s eating behavior.” There are several different types of eating disorders listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) categorized under the Disorder Class: Feeding and Eating Disorders. 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. Constantly engaging in weight loss and diets that involve severely restricting food intake to the point of continued hunger can contribute to the development of an eating disorder. This way of eating can not only cause adverse effects to one’s energy levels, but it can also impact one’s physical health as it prohibits one’s ability to extract and absorb the needed vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that are innately sourced from consuming food. The different types of eating disorders include: 

    • 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 their daily life. 
    • 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. 
    • 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 with emotions of embarrassment, shame, guilt, and/ or distress. 
    • Rumination disorder: is an 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. 
  • 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. 

Eating disorders can be debilitating and can adversely affect a person’s emotions, health, and interfere with one’s ability to adequately function in his or her daily life. 

Signs and Symptoms

Every person is unique and will exhibit a distinct set of signs and symptoms as they relate to the presence of an eating disorder. Furthermore, the type of eating disorder an individual struggles with can influence the signs and symptoms experienced. The Mayo Clinic provides a list of examples of behaviors that could be indicative of an eating disorder, some of which include the following: 

  • Obsessively focusing on healthy eating
  • Skipping meals 
  • Withdrawing from social activities
  • Making excuses for not eating
  • Adhering to an overly restrictive diet 
  • Preparing separate meals when eating in a group instead of eating what everyone else is eating
  • Excessive exercise
  • Constantly checking the mirror and/ or pointing out perceived flaws
  • Using laxatives, herbal weight loss products, and/ or dietary supplements
  • Regularly excusing oneself during meals to use the restroom
  • Eating in secret
  • Expressing disgust, shame, and/ or guilt about one’s eating habits

The combination, severity, and duration of symptoms is influenced by the type of eating disorder present as well as the individual. If left untreated, continued malnutrition that occurs with an untreated eating disorder can lead to severe short and long-term consequences. Although eating disorders are life-long conditions, with proper treatment and support, a person can learn to effectively manage its symptoms.

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.

What Type Of Therapy Is Best For Eating Disorders?

woman receiving therapy for an eating disorder

Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses. They are characterized by abnormal, irregular eating habits, and an extreme concern with one’s body weight or shape. There are several different manifestations of eating disorders. The various types are listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) under the Disorder Class: Feeding and Eating Disorders. The three most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder. Eating disorders can be debilitating and can adversely affect a person’s emotions, health, and interfere with one’s ability to adequately function in his or her daily life. If left untreated, eating disorders can result in severe short and long-term consequences. 

Every individual is different and will react distinctly to the array of therapeutic treatment modalities available. 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. Some of the most frequently relied upon therapeutic treatment methods when treating eating disorders could include, but are not limited to cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, and interpersonal therapy.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) works by addressing one’s thoughts. It holds the basic assumption that one’s thoughts govern one’s feelings, which in turn affects one’s behaviors. Through CBT an individual’s unhelpful cognitive distortions and behaviors are challenged and disrupted, essentially prohibiting one’s ability to maintain dysfunctional eating habits.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is recognized as an effective method of treatment for an individual diagnosed with an eating disorder. DBT can help an individual learn useful self-management skills, reduce stress, minimize anxiety, and learn to control destructive eating behaviors. DBT promotes acceptance and teaches individuals how to live in the present moment and cope with emotional triggers that may otherwise perpetuate unhealthy symptoms and behaviors associated with eating disorders. 

Interpersonal Therapy

Interpersonal therapy (IPT) a therapeutic modality that is most often used to treat individuals who suffer from psychiatric disorders such as anxiety disorders, eating disorders, depression, etc. Interpersonal therapy 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.

When posed with the question: What type of therapy is best for eating disorders? The answer is variable as there are countless factors that must be considered which make it is impossible to provide a definitive answer regarding the universal efficacy of any single type of therapy. In order to provide the most effective treatment, including a variety of different types of therapies into one’s treatment plan may be advantageous.

Disclaimer: 

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 as a means to disregard professional advice or delay seeking treatment.

How To Treat Bulimia Through Therapy

woman with bulimia standing on a scale with tape around her ankles

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) lists bulimia nervosa under the Disorder Class: Feeding and Eating Disorders as a complex brain disorder. Bulimia nervosa, also referred to as bulimia, is one of the three most commonly diagnosed eating disorders in America. The Mayo Clinic defines bulimia as a “serious eating disorder marked by binging, followed by methods to avoid weight gain.” Hence, bulimia is essentially characterized by episodes of uncontrolled binging (extreme overeating), typically followed by purging (making oneself vomit). An individual struggling with bulimia may also purge via the misuse of various medications related to weight loss, such as laxatives, diuretics, enemas, and/ or excessive exercise. The episodes of binging and purging is often referred to as a binge-purge cycle. Depending on the individual, eating binges can range from occurring twice a week to several times a day. Bulimia is not solely about one’s weight, but also revolves around one’s self-image. The psychological nuances and physical consequences that can arise from bulimia are what makes it such a complex disorder. The damage that occurs from prolonged malnutrition and the unhealthy cycle of binging and purging can lead to significant short and long-term physiological complications. While bulimia is a chronic disorder, with proper treatment an individual can learn the tools and skills needed to develop a healthy and sustainable relationship with food.

Treatment

Every individual is different and will require some form of customized treatment when it comes to bulimia. There are many different mental health treatment options and distinct forms of therapies used to treat bulimia. The nuanced needs of a person diagnosed with bulimia will greatly inform which psychotherapeutic methods are included in one’s treatment plan. In order to treat bulimia through therapy, a person’s treatment plan could comprise of one or more of the following types of therapy:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is based off of the notion that one’s thoughts govern one’s feelings, which in turn affects one’s behaviors. According to the Society of Clinical Psychology, “In CBT, the therapist works collaboratively with the patient to disrupt the factors maintaining the binge-purge cycle with the goal to achieve abstinence from these behaviors.”
  • Interpersonal therapy (IPT) is a therapeutic modality that is most often used to treat individuals who suffer from anxiety disorders, eating disorders, depression, as well as other psychiatric disorders, including bulimia nervosa. Interpersonal therapy focuses on how a person’s communications and interactions with other people affect his or her own mental health. Through interpersonal therapy an individual will learn to resolve and adjust unhealthy interpersonal complications, resulting in a symptomatic recovery.
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy that places greater emphasis on the psychosocial aspect of therapy. DBT can benefit an individual diagnosed with bulimia by helping to foster self-management skills, lower stress, reduce anxiety, and learn to control destructive eating behaviors. The goals of DBT are to help an individual learn to establish healthy coping mechanisms that can be applied to environments that would have otherwise provoke destructive eating behaviors. It helps individuals learn how to reduce emotional reactivity and improve their interactions with others. DBT promotes acceptance and teaches skills to enable an individual to live in the moment and cope with emotional triggers that may otherwise perpetuate the binge-purge cycle and other unhealthy symptoms and behaviors associated with bulimia. 

A treatment plan for bulimia will be carefully tailored so as to effectively accommodate all of the individual’s mental health needs. 

Disclaimer: 

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 as a means to disregard professional advice or delay seeking treatment.