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Does thinking about food keep you from accomplishing your goals?

upset woman sitting staring at a scaleDo you obsess about your weight?

Do you feel uncomfortable in your body even when others tell you that you look great?

Does a cycle of binge eating leave you feeling sad and remorseful?

The national eating disorders association estimates that 20 million American women and 10 million American men will struggle with an eating disorder at some point. But you don’t have to let food and negative body image control your life. At SMPsychotherapy and counseling services, many providers have experience working with people healing from eating disorders.

What Is an Eating Disorder?

An eating disorder is a mental health and behavioral condition involving severely disturbed eating behaviors and problematic thought patterns and emotions about food and body image. Eating disorders can involve unhealthy dieting, binge eating patterns, and obsessive thoughts about body size and shape. These disorders can affect people of any age, race, gender, socioeconomic group, and body weight. Eating disorders often begin during adolescence. Left untreated, eating disorders can impact physical, psychological, health, and social relationships.

Types of Eating Disorders

The National Eating Disorders Association recognizes eleven eating disorders. The symptoms are different, but each involves rumination about eating habits, disordered eating, exercise habits, or body size. Eating disorders are life-threatening mental illnesses, and treatment can save the lives of those suffering. Eating disorders include

  1. Anorexia Nervosa – A disorder involving restrictive eating that causes excessive weight loss or a lack of weight gain in children. People with anorexia often have a distorted body image.
  2. Bulimia Nervosa – A disorder with cycles of binge eating followed by attempts to purge the food consumed.
  3. Binge Eating Disorder – A disorder causing people to eat excessive food and feel out of control. After a binge, many sufferers feel remorse or shame but don’t try to purge the food they consume.
  4. Orthorexia – A preoccupation with healthy or “clean” eating.
  5. Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED) – A disorder where people have symptoms of more than one eating disorder or don’t fit all the criteria of anorexia or bulimia. These people are still at risk for life-threatening medical problems.
  6. Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) – Sufferers of ARFID limit the type or amount of food they eat to a point where they aren’t receiving adequate nutrition. There isn’t a fear of increasing body weight as with other eating disorders. Many people with ARFID have Autism Spectrum Disorders.
  7. Pica – This is an eating disorder where people eat items that are not food, such as hair, fabric, or glue.
  8. Rumination Disorder – People with rumination disorder regurgitate food, re-chew it, re-swallow it, or spit it out. They are not regurgitating in response to stress, nor are they disgusted.
  9. Unspecified Feeding or Eating Disorder (UFED) – These eating disorders cause significant stress for the sufferer but don’t contain every component of the other eating disorders.
  10. Laxative Abuse – People who abuse laxatives to control weight.
  11. Compulsive Exercise – Intense exercise interferes with a person’s life. People with this disorder often have obsessive thinking patterns about healthy weight and fear obesity.

Symptoms of Eating Disorders

woman looking at a mirror that's broken/crackedIf you’re worried you or a loved one is dealing with an eating disorder, you may wonder what behaviors should concern you. The symptoms of problematic eating habits vary depending on the disorder and even from person to person. Many symptoms are life-threatening, especially if someone has battled the disorder for a while. Timely intervention can save lives and help people restore their relationship with food and body. Many people who struggle with eating disorders will have symptoms pop up in response to triggers and life changes, so it’s vital to stay vigilant. Disordered eating is a mental health condition requiring professional intervention. A non-exhaustive list of eating disorder symptoms includes the following.

  • Excessive or rapid weight loss without a medical reason.
  • Preoccupation with dieting that interferes with life activities.
  • Refusal to eat certain foods or categories of foods that may get worse over time.
  • Inability to eat around other people.
  • Obsessive concern or unhealthy thinking patterns about body size or weight.
  • Absent or irregular menstruation.
  • Abnormal blood work, including anemia, low blood cell counts, and hormone levels.
  • Abrasions on the top of finger joints from inducing vomiting.
  • Dental problems, including cavities, discoloration, sensitive teeth, and even loss of teeth.
  • Constantly being cold, feeling weak, and tired.
  • Keeping a strict and excessive exercise regimen despite illness, injury, or bad weather. Symptoms of depression if unable to exercise.
  • Evidence of binge eating, such as consuming large amounts of food quickly and hoarding empty wrappers and containers,
  • Frequent trips to the bathroom after meals with sounds or smells of vomit.
  • Drinks excessive amounts of water or non-caloric beverages and/or uses excessive amounts of mouthwash, mints, and gum
  • Calluses on the back of the hands and knuckles from self-induced vomiting
  • Self-esteem that is overly dependent on body image
  • Eating non-food items including paper, soap, cloth, hair, string, wool, soil, chalk, talcum powder, paint, gum, metal, pebbles, charcoal, ash, clay, starch, or ice
  • Growing concern about the health of food items and ingredients.

Treatment for Eating Disorders

upset man looking at his foodTreating eating disorders requires an intensive, multidisciplinary approach. Effective treatment plans treat the psychological and physical issues associated with the disorder and can include a dietician, a mental health professional, and primary care or another medical provider. Treatment programs can be inpatient for severe cases, outpatient for less acute cases, or to maintain progress after a residential treatment program. The level of care you or your loved one need is individualized. It’s common to need meal plans, treatment with antidepressant medications, and psychotherapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). Often, family therapy is necessary if the eating disorder affects children or parents.

At SMPsychotherapy and Counseling Services, many of our providers are skilled at helping clients navigate the difficulties of eating disorder treatment. If you struggle with eating disorders, please know you are not alone. We offer treatment options, including individual therapy, group therapy, and family therapy. Eating disorder recovery is often a life-long process. Still, your brain is elastic so learning new habits and behaviors around food is possible with the right people on your team. Reach out to our office today to stop obsessing about food and learn to love your body no matter its size.

Frequently Asked Questions

If you’re considering therapy for an eating disorder, you likely have some questions or concerns. Our most common questions are answered below. If you need more information or have additional concerns, call our office at (203) 800-9778

How much does therapy for eating disorders cost?

SMPsychotherapy participates with most insurance companies, so all you’ll pay is your copay. For more details, contact our office or your insurance company.

Is inpatient or outpatient treatment better?

The right treatment program for you depends on your diagnosis, your stage of recovery, and if you’re having any physical health complications resulting from your eating disorder. It’s best to check in with your medical provider for guidance or call the National Eating Disorders helpline.

smiling african american woman holding a saladHow do I intervene if I think a loved one has an eating disorder?

The right intervention depends on the severity of symptoms and your relationship with the person. Getting therapy for yourself if you’re concerned about the eating habits of a loved one can help you determine the best way to move forward. Our therapists can help. Call our office at (203) 800-9778 and we’ll match you with a therapist who can guide you.

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