Among the most common struggles people face with mental health, eating disorders are serious, complex mental illnesses that can have devastating consequences if left untreated. Eating disorders can cause serious physical health problems along with emotional and psychological suffering, and those who are struggling with disordered eating deserve support to reestablish a healthy relationship with food.
That's why it's so important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of eating disorders, as well as the therapies available to help. If you recognize them in someone you love -- or even yourself -- you can start the process of recovery sooner rather than later.
At the , we understand the unique challenges that come with eating disorders. Our team of experienced therapists specializes in treating eating disorders and related issues, such as body image dissatisfaction, anxiety, and depression.
Here are four things everyone should know about eating disorders:
1. There Are Different Types of Eating Disorders
While eating disorders have common features, different types of eating disorders have different characteristics that need to be addressed during treatment. The three major types of common eating disorders are:
- Anorexia Nervosa: Anorexia nervosa is described to show significant weight loss due to excessive dieting and exercise. There are individuals that often diet and exercise to the point of starvation. Individuals with anorexia often feel that they will never be thin enough and continue to see themselves as overweight despite their extreme weight loss.
- Bulimia Nervosa: Bulimia is an eating disorder in which the individual takes part in extreme overeating. This type of eating is known as binge eating, or binging; individuals with this disorder often follow their binge eating by exhibiting purging behaviors or other serious behaviors to compensate for their overeating.
- Binge eating disorder: Binge eating disorder is a condition in which the individual experiences a series of times when they are overeating and they have feelings of lacking control over their eating.
2. Loved Ones May Notice Eating Disorder Symptoms
It is not uncommon for individuals suffering from eating disorders to not see the severity of their condition. Oftentimes, it can be hard for them to recognize the problem because they have been actively avoiding or denying it. Loved ones and family members may be able to see signs and symptoms that something is wrong before the individual does.
Symptoms of these disorders include but are not limited to:
- Dramatic weight loss
- Wearing loose clothes to hide weight loss
- Preoccupation with food, dieting, calorie counting
- Refusal to eat certain foods, such as carbs or fats, for fear of gaining weight
- Avoiding mealtimes or eating in front of others during avoidant restrictive food intake
- Preparing elaborate meals for others but refusing to eat them
- Excessively exercising
- Lack of menstruating
- Medical complications like constipation or stomach pains
- The disappearance of large amounts of food in a short time, or finding lots of empty food wrappers or containers
- Evidence of purging, including trips to the bathroom after meals, sounds or smells of vomiting, or packages of laxatives or diuretics
- Using gum, mouthwash, or mints excessively
- Hoarding food
If you or someone you love is displaying any signs or symptoms of an eating disorder, it’s important to seek help as soon as possible. However, this can be a delicate conversation that requires sensitivity and understanding.
3. There Are Risks for Developing Eating Disorders
Eating disorders have been found to develop during the teenage years and young adult years. While people of any gender can develop an eating disorder, they are most common in girls and women. Additionally, eating disorders frequently develop in people with existing mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety.
It’s important to note that simply having risk factors does not mean you will definitely develop an eating disorder. It just means that you may be more at risk than someone who doesn’t have any of these factors.
4. Eating Disorder Treatment Is Available
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is used to treat the mental and emotional elements of an eating disorder. CBT with an eating disorder therapist works to change how an individual thinks and feels about food, eating, and body image. It can also help correct disordered eating patterns and prevent relapse.
Along with CBT, the team of eating disorder recovery specialists at CBI also employs the following methods to help clients struggling with eating disorders:
- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT): This approach helps clients to focus on the present moment and accept their thoughts and feelings without judgment.
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): DBT is a type of CBT that emphasizes the importance of accepting both positive and negative emotions.
- Motivational Interviewing: This technique is designed to help clients with an eating disorder to identify their goals and motivation for change.
- Harm Reduction: Harm reduction is an approach that focuses on reducing the harmful consequences of an eating disorder, rather than eliminating the disorder entirely.
Ultimately, every person is unique, and the CBI treatment team works to create an individualized approach tailored to each person’s needs.
Find Eating Disorder Therapy Near You
offers comprehensive treatment for eating disorders that is tailored to meet the individual needs of each client. If you're ready to change your relationship with food for the better, schedule your first appointment with CBI today.