OVERCOMING EATING DISORDERS
An eating disorder is a serious condition that disrupts an individual’s regular eating habits. It is characterized by eating too much or too little, accompanied by excessive concerns about one’s weight and body image. It often stems from or co-occurs with depression, anxiety disorders, or substance abuse.
Contrary to popular opinion, eating disorders occur in individuals of all ages and both genders. There are millions of people in the United States with eating disorders and 90% are young adult women. Just 1% of teen girls suffer from anorexia nervosa, while 2-3% of teen girls have bulimia nervosa.
For individuals dealing with eating disorders, the Integrated Counseling and Wellness team is here to help you understand the problem and your treatment options.
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WHAT‘S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ANOREXIA, BULIMIA AND OTHER EATING DISORDERS?
Anorexia nervosa is characterized by intentionally starving yourself due to the overwhelming belief that you are overweight, despite all signs pointing to the contrary. Sufferers typically develop an obsession with losing weight, creating their own food restrictions and strenuous exercise routines.
Bulimia nervosa is characterized by the consumption of excessive amounts of food followed by cleansing the body. This is done via induced vomiting, diuretic or laxative abuse, as well as compulsive exercise. Studies show that 50% of anorexia sufferers will eventually develop bulimia. Other eating disorders may include some characteristics of anorexia nervosa and/or bulimia nervosa, but not all.
Common symptoms of anorexia nervosa include:
- Constantly striving toward low body weight
- Fear of weight gain
- Distorted body image
- Possible loss of menstrual periods in females
- Impotence in males
Common symptoms of bulimia nervosa include:
- Early osteoporosis, i.e., loss of bone mass
- Muscle loss and weakness
- Brittle hair and nails
- Severe constipation
- Racing heart
- Erosion of dental enamel
Common complaints associated with an eating disorder include: stomach distress, diarrhea, constipation, headaches/migraines, thinning hair/hair loss, dry skin and lightheadedness.
HOW TO TREAT AN EATING DISORDER
The first step to recovering from an eating disorder is admitting to yourself that you indeed have a problem. Despite clinging to the belief that controlling food is the answer to all of life’s problems, you might be starting to realize that this belief is negatively affecting your health.
It is also important to remember that recovering from an eating disorder is not a one-person task. No matter how embarrassing it may be to voice your concerns to another person, reaching out to someone you trust – such as a family member, close friend, and a professional – is a critical step toward recovery. Common steps for treating an eating disorder are:
-Assemble a treatment team to address every aspect of the problem.
-Address any health problems caused by binge eating or excessive dieting.
-Develop a long-term treatment plan, which may include talk therapy, nutritional counseling, nutritional interventions, medications and more.
-Establish self-help strategies to ensure that you understand the cause of the eating disorder and learn healthier coping skills.
EMOTIONAL DO’S AND DON’TS OF COPING WITH EATING DISORDERS
-Be open-minded about every emotion you experience.
-Experience your emotions without fear or the need for control.
-Let yourself open up to the people you trust most.
-Allow interaction with others rather than food to comfort you.
-Avoid or control your emotions because they scare you.
-Worry that your emotions will make you fall apart.
-Allow others to shame you for expressing your feelings.
-Use food as a coping mechanism for negative emotions.
TIPS FOR AVOIDING EATING DISORDER RELAPSE
The first thing to remember about effectively treating an eating disorder is that you must be ready for a potential relapse. Relapse is a natural part of the recovery process, which is why you must know the common eating disorder relapse signs to ensure that you are able to seek help in a timely manner. These signs include:
- You find your thoughts returning to eating and weight loss
- You have feelings of shame or guilt after eating
- You feel the need to hide information from your treatment team
- You continue to focus on looking good rather than being healthy
- You believe that being slim is the key to happiness
- You continually have negative thoughts when looking in the mirror
- People close to you believe that your self-image is inaccurate
If you wish to avoid relapse at the outset, there are a few precautionary steps that you can take:
- Develop a healthy relationship with food by listening to your body, letting go of rigid eating rules, and regaining a sense of hunger and fullness
- Accept and love yourself just the way you are, which may include dressing for yourself and not for others, keeping your body active and strong, focusing on your positive qualities, and always being ready to challenge your own self-criticism
- Discuss your concerns with a professional
- Obtain treatment for accompanying problems: depression, anxiety or excessive weight loss
- Establish a relapse correction plan
EATING DISORDER SUPPORT GROUPS
When dealing with an eating disorder, remember that you are not alone: There are support groups near you. Find more information: www.nationaleatingdisorders.org or speak with your therapist from Integrated Counseling and Wellness about finding the right support group for you. If you, a friend or a loved one suffer from an eating disorder, please call or email us today. We want to help you.