Eating Disorders

Eating disorders involve a serious disturbance in eating habits, including: 16

  • Not eating enough
  • Repeatedly eating too much in a short period of time
  • Taking drastic measures to rid the body of calories consumed (purging through vomiting; overuse of diuretics or laxatives; excessive exercise; or fasting)
  • Being constantly concerned over body size and shape

All eating disorders usually have an underlying emotional cause that is expressed through an unhealthy relationship with food.  An eating disorder is not a ‘diet’. While most people consider a diet as a means to get healthier, people with eating disorders see losing weight as a way to improve one’s life, relationships, and self-image. Controlling food and weight becomes a means of hiding pain, anger, fear and other troubling emotions.

The different types of eating disorders are:

Anorexia – characterized by:

  • Refusal to maintain a normal weight for one’s height, body type, age, and activity level
  • Intense fear of gaining weight or becoming ‘fat’.   Extreme concern with body weight and shape.
  • Body image misperception; for example, feeling ‘fat’ despite being underweight
  • Loss of menstrual periods

Bulimia Nervosa – characterized by:

  • Preoccupation with food and weight
  • Binges (the consumption of a very large amount of food in a short period of time)
  • Compensation for binges with one or more of the following unhealthy measures:
  • self-induced vomiting (purging)
  • misuse of laxatives, water pills, or diet pills (another type of purging)
  • excessive exercise
  • fasting
  • Secretiveness and shamefulness about the bingeing and purging

Binge eating – characterized by:

  • Periods of uncontrolled, impulsive, or continuous eating to the point of being uncomfortably full.
  • Feelings of shame and self-hatred about the bingeing
  • No compensatory behavior (such as purging) after bingeing

Emotional and Behavioral symptoms of eating disorders:

  • preoccupation with body appearance or weight
  • moodiness, irritability, confusion or shakiness
  • reduced concentration, memory, and thinking ability
  • depression or suicidal thoughts
  • anxiety, especially around meal times
  • Dieting or making frequent excuses not to eat
  • overeating or hoarding food
  • obsessive rituals such as drinking only out of a certain cup, or eating certain foods
  • wearing baggy clothes, or a change in clothing style
  • trips to the bathroom after meals
  • Social symptoms of eating disorders
  • social withdrawal or isolation
  • avoidance of social situations involving food
  • decreased interest in hobbies

These maladaptive eating patterns can become addictive as time passes and therefore more difficult to treat.  The earlier we address these symptoms, the better the prognosis of success in treating them.