Addressing Eating Disorders

In the age of social media, diet culture, filters and photoshop, there are so many unrealistic expectations for the way that we look. These expectations can lead to body dysmorphia and an obsession with weight detrimental to your mental health. A common result of the unhealthy fixation on the way you look is an eating disorder.

Eating disorders are some of the most complex mental health-related disorders. They have complicated symptoms and very rigid thought patterns unlike other mental health disorders, such as depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, and bipolar disorders. Eating disorders involve an essential part of everyday life that is key to our survival: food. 

The presence of an eating disorder can have a complex origin, and they typically manifest in adolescence or early adulthood. For some, eating disorders stem from traumatic experiences, cultural expectations, and standards, family of origin, and it is common for the eating disorder to provide a sense of control to the individual.

If a family member has struggled with an eating disorder, the likelihood of experiencing one within the lifetime is much higher. Eating disorders typically correlate with depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorders, substance use, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Those who experience an eating disorder are more likely to attempt suicide, which adds to the eating disorder’s deadly nature.  

Eating disorders not only affect your mental health but can have a profound effect on your physical body. Eating disorders can affect the heart, the esophagus, teeth, bone density, electrolyte levels, the gastrointestinal tract, and menstruation in biological females. Atrophy of the heart, muscles, and bones is common. Teeth erosion is common when purging by vomiting is present. The gastrointestinal tract begins to shut down, and takes time to wake up when reintroducing food; constipation, gas, and bloating are common when reintroducing food. When body weight is extremely low, menstrual cycles will stop in biological females, also called menarche. Medical intervention is necessary for when these reach their most extreme, and hospitalization and food tubes are often necessary for weight restoration and stabilization. 

Some early warning signs are typically food avoidance or limited food intake, laxative use, self-induced vomiting, over-exercising, significant weight loss, low self-esteem, fear of gaining weight, distorted body image, or significant weight gain for binge-eating disorder. The following are the common eating disorders and their definitions: 

Anorexia Nervosa

An eating disorder marked by abnormally low body weight, an intense fear of gaining weight or “becoming fat”, and a distorted view of weight and body shape. There are two subtypes of anorexia nervosa; binge-eating/purging type and restrictive type. Food is consumed in a high amount, with purging behaviors following, in binge-eating/purging type. In restricting type, food intake becomes limited to non-existent. 

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia Nervosa is an eating disorder marked by large amounts of foods being eaten, with purge-type behaviors following. Purge behaviors include self-induced vomiting, excessive exercising, or laxative use. Eating is typically done in a small period of time, and there is typically a feeling of lack of control while eating. Self-esteem is highly influenced by body weight and shape. 

Binge-eating disorder

An eating disorder marked by large amounts of foods consumed with no purging type behaviors.  Eating is typically completed in a short period of time. Typically the individual will eat until uncomfortably full, rapidly, and alone due to feelings of embarrassment. Distress is common, as well as feelings of disgust after a binge occurs. Weight gain is common when a binge-eating disorder is present. 

Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder 

Also known as ARFID. An eating disorder in which there is an eating disturbance marked by lack of interest in food, or avoiding food due to disliking taste and texture. Significant nutritional deficiencies are typically present, as well as significant weight loss. Physical functioning can be affected, such as stunted growth. 

Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorder

Also known as OSFED. An eating disorder diagnosis is given when symptoms are present but don’t meet the full criteria for any disorders. The subtypes of OSEFED include the following specifications: Atypical anorexia nervosa, Bulimia nervosa (of low frequency and/or limited duration), Binge-eating disorder (of low frequency and/or limited duration), and Purging disorder. 

If you, or someone you know, would like help addressing the mental health side effects of an eating disorder, give Tx Harmony Counseling in The Woodlands a call at (832) 352-1600 or contact us here.

Kaitlyn DeLeon, LPC

Kaitlyn DeLeon, LPC

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