What is an eating disorder?
Eating disorders are defined by abnormal eating habits. This may involve not eating enough, or eating so much it affects your health. These disorders may include:
- Bulimia nervosa
- Anorexia nervosa
- Binge eating disorder
- Eating disorder not otherwise specified
Untreated eating disorders can lead to severe medical complications, and may even be fatal. This makes it critical to receive a proper diagnosis and treatment.
Research indicates that about 5 percent of individuals, or one in every 20 people, will experience symptoms of an eating disorder at some point in their lives. Nearly half of all Americans personally know someone with an eating disorder.
Eating disorders may accompany other concerns, such as depression, anxiety, or substance abuse. A person with an eating disorders is also at an increased risk of suicide and medical complications.
What causes eating disorders?
According to the National Eating Disorders Association, eating disorders are complex issues that can develop in many different people, for a variety of reasons. Risk factors may include biological, psychological, and cultural concerns, which may affect individuals differently.
- Family history of eating disorder or other mental-health concerns
- History of dieting and other weight-control issues
- Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes
- High levels of perfectionism
- Dissatisfaction with body image
- Personal history of anxiety, including social phobia and obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Rigid ideas about behavior
- Social weight stigma
- Being teased or bullied about weight
- Internalizing an ideal appearance
- Loneliness and isolation
- History of trauma
What are the signs and symptoms of an eating disorder?
There are several types of eating disorders, all with their own set of symptoms. In most cases, they come with feeling out of control in your eating, whether too much or too little, or excessive concern about outward appearance.
- Bulimia nervosa usually involves binge eating and purging, which can include self-induce vomiting, over-exercising, and the usage of diuretics, enemas, and laxatives.
- Anorexia nervosa is characterized by extreme food restriction, leading to self-starvation and excessive weight loss. You may have a relentless pursuit of a certain weight or body shape or an intense fear of gaining weight.
- Binge eating usually involves eating unusually large amounts of food in a specific amount of time, which may involve eating even when not hungry or eating alone or in secret to avoid embarrassment
We also offer an anonymous online screening below to help learn if you may be struggling with an eating disorder.
How do I learn if I have an eating disorder?
Eating disorders are highly treatable, though they can be difficult to manage alone. If you experience any of the above problems, feel that your weight loss efforts are taking over your life, or have other reasons to believe you may have an eating disorder, it is important to seek professional medical help.
If you are concerned about an eating disorder, you can make an appointment with your family doctor. Your doctor may conduct an exam or order tests to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms and concerns. They may refer you to a psychiatrist or therapist who has experience with eating disorders, or you can seek out a mental-health professional yourself.
What if my child or loved one shows symptoms of an eating disorder?
Many people with eating disorders may be unaware that they have a disorder, or may not think they need help. It may be hard to convince a loved one they should see a doctor, but you can look out for certain behaviors and express concern with kindness and patience.
Look for behaviors that include:
- Skipping meals or adopting overly restrictive diets
- Making own meals rather than eating with the family
- Social withdrawal
- Excessive, stubborn worry, complaining, or guilt about weight
- Repeatedly eating large amounts or eating in secret
- Use of dietary supplements, laxatives, or herbal products for weight loss
- Going to the bathroom during or shortly after meals
If your loved one of any age shows signs of an eating disorder, you may try to:
- Gently and privately talk to them about symptoms that concern you.
- Suggest that your loved one contact a health provider about their symptoms.
- Help your loved one contact a professional or accompany them to appointments, if appropriate.
- Be supportive, encouraging, and non-judgmental.
- Watch for new or worsening symptoms.
What are the treatments for eating disorders?
Treating for eating disorders depends on your individual needs and the type of eating disorder involved. Treatment plans may include one or a combination of:
- Individual, group, and/or family psychotherapy, which may include:
- Family therapy in which parents of a child with anorexia nervosa assume responsibility for feeding their child, which can help improve weight gain, eating habits, and moods.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help identify and change distorted or unhelpful thinking patterns and beliefs
- Support groups can help provide community and contribute to long-term success
- Medical care and monitoring, including hospitalization and recovery programs for severe conditions
- Nutritional counseling to help develop healthier eating and exercise habits
- Medications, including antidepressants or mood stabilizers, that can help treat concerns that often occur with eating disorders
Get help and hope for eating disorders
Full recovery from eating disorders may take time and effort, but it can be achieved! Some research shows that as many as 70 percent of individuals with anorexia nervosa recovered with no relapse within 18 months after treatment. Another study of bulimia nervosa found those who received treatment within the first 5 years of the disorder had a recovery rate of 80 percent.
MindPath Care Centers aim to help individuals and families struggling with eating disorders find help in a safe, compassionate environment. Our only role is to help you get the treatment you need.
If you or your loved one struggle with an eating disorder, there is help and hope for you. The experienced specialists at MindPath Care Centers are ready to help you live your best life. Call us today at 1-919-929-9610 to schedule an evaluative appointment, or learn more about our services.