Eating Disorders - Anorexia, Bulimia & Binge Eating
An eating disorder can be described is a disturbance or interruption to the manner that someone usually relates to food, their weight and way they view their body image and / or body shape.Both boys as well as girls can struggle and be diagnosed with an eating disorder and it affects children, adolescents, adults and older adults as well.
It is a myth that it only affects adolescent females and in fact this myth can make it even more difficult for a male or someone that is older than an adolescent to ask for help as they often assume, wrongly, that no one their age or sex would be struggling with an eating disorder like they are. Identifying and understanding the cause of the eating disorder can be difficult and often it is impossible to do so.
Many people struggling with an eating disorder report that their confidence self esteem is very low and can feel that this is a significant contributing factor to why they are suffering from the eating disorder. Low self esteem can also make it very difficult to break out of the cycle that the eating disorder has over the sufferer. Other people may talk about the media pressure to look the best and that their body image is such an important factor to the reason why their relationship to food is disturbed.
The three main types of eating disorders include:
Bulimia is a form of eating disorder where the person often eats in a binge fashion which for many is done in secret, which is then followed by feelings of shame and guilt which can also lead to feelings and symptoms of depression. They can feel guilty about the kind of food they have eaten, the amount of food they have eaten or the fact they felt they had lost control of their eating habits. These guilty or shameful feelings often lead the sufferer to feel compelled to empty their body of the food that they have just consumed. This can be done through making themselves sick, the abuse of laxatives, exercising far too much or periods of starvation. Purging food in any fashion can be extremely detrimental to the physical health of the sufferer and it is often vital that someone who has bulimic tendencies for a period of time is seen by a medical professional such as their GP or consultant psychiatrist who specialise in eating disorders in order to look at whether specific medical investigations such as blood tests, heart checks and bone density scans as the impact can be life threatening if not treated.
Anorexia can often lead people to feeling an overwhelming fear of putting weight on or a disgust of certain foods. Anorexia sufferers will often attempt to limit their food intake and control their consumption in order that they lose weight. Someone struggling with anorexia may also use techniques to rid their body of food using laxatives or through vomiting. Many anorexia sufferers report that the feel their lives revolve around food and find themselves thinking about food in an obsessive manner. Sufferers of anorexia often get caught in a trap where they feel they will be happy when they reach a certain 'target' weight and when they get to this weight are still not happy so change the 'target weight again. This often leads the body to be an unhealthy weight. Once the body is in starvation, which can occur quite quickly, the body starts to break down muscle in order to find fuel to keep alive. The heart is a muscle therefore the body therefore anorexia can lead to severe and life threatening heart problems.
Anoreixa nervosa has the highest mortality of all psychiatric disorders therefore it is often essential that someone working with a person with anorexia works alongside a medical professional such as the person's GP or a consultant psychiatrist who specialise in eating disorders. It is often essential that specific medical investigations are conducted if someone has struggled their food intake for a period of time to ensure the physical well being of the person.
Another important aspect of both anorexia and bulimia is that if the body is not getting the nutrients that it requires the brain starts to function differently than before which can lead sufferers to have a more black and white way of thinking and not be able to think as logically as before. This can be difficult for the relatives of sufferers as they can become frustrated with the person and feel they are being deliberately difficult when actually the person is not able to think the same way due to starvation.
Binge Eating Disorder
Binge eating disorder is where a person will eat larger than normal quantities of food in one go and unlike bulimia will not attempt to get rid of the food, instead they remain with the feelings of shame and guilt. Binge eating diosrder sufferers usually also report feeling out of control in relation to their food intake and are often worried that they will binge again and not be able to stop it. This can lead to feelings of depression. Binge eating disorder can lead to many physical complications and often sufferers report that they feel people do not understand their condition and will tell them to simply eat less, unfortunately it is not as simple as that and often trying to understand the underlying reasons as well as trying to install structure and a better relationship with food is essential to recovery.
Counselling for Eating Disorders
Counselling and psychotherapy can help someone struggling with an eating disorder to better understand their situation and look at what may be the underlying cause or reason for the eating disorder. In addition to looking at the underlying reasons for their relationship with food, therapy can help to identify different ways of coping with distress which may help to reduce the need to binge eat.
I have worked within the Eating Disorder Service at Berkshire NHS and am a professional advisor for a national eating disorder charity. I work alongside a number of colleagues who specialise in eating disorders as it is my opinion that, at times, someone suffering from an eating disorder may require more input than psychotherapy and counselling can provide in order to keep them medically and physically safe. Upon an assessment if i feel it would be beneficial for someone to see a colleague I would be able to recommend or make a referral. I work closely with Dr Lalitha de Silva, Consultant Psychiatrist who specialises in eating disorders and we have access to a number of private psychiatric hospitals with dedicated eating disorder facilities for those who require more intense treatment or for those who require hospital treatment due to the severity of their eating disorders.
If you would like more information on how I or counselling may be able to help, please feel free to call me on 01189 680 900.