Eating disorders 

Eating disorders are a group of conditions characterised by abnormal eating habits that may involve either insufficient or excessive food intake to the detriment of an individual’s physical health and emotional wellbeing.

Diagnosis and treatment of eating disorders

There can be various causes for eating disorders to develop in the first place, often due to a combination of biological, psychological or environmental factors. After ruling out organic causes and the initial diagnosis of an eating disorder being made by a medical professional, such as a GP or Psychiatrist, the role of a psychologist is the assessment and treatment of the underlying psychological components of the eating disorder and any co- existing psychological conditions. Therapy for eating disorders focuses on restructuring and modifying eating styles and behaviours.

Types of Eating Disorders

Binge Eating disorder
Individuals who suffer from severe overweight conditions often experience additional psychological concerns. Experts generally agree that most people with serious binge eating problems often eat an unusually large amount of food and feel their eating is out of control. People with binge eating disorder also may:

  • eat much more quickly than usual during binge episodes
  • eat until they are uncomfortably full
  • eat large amounts of food even when they are not really hungry
  • eat alone because they are embarrassed about the amount of food they eat
  • feel disgusted, depressed, or guilty after overeating

Compulsive overeating
A person who compulsively overeats will eat food beyond a standard dietary requirement at various times throughout the day and evening. Overeating for long periods of time can lead to excessive weight gain and high levels of stress. In order to help with the process of weight loss, it is important for the person’s anxiety and compulsion to overeat to be addressed with therapy.

Bulimia nervosa
Bulimia nervosa is characterised by cycles of bingeing (overeating) and purging (ridding the body of the excess food usually by vomiting or laxatives) or by compensatory over-exercising.

Anorexia nervosa
People who have anorexia are very anxious about their weight. They keep it as low as possible, by strictly controlling and limiting what they eat. They restrict what they eat in order to lose weight because they:

– believe they are overweight
– have a very strong fear of being overweight
– want to be thin

Even if they are already very thin and underweight, people with anorexia continue to want to lose weight. It is typical to be obsessed with calories, food, recipes and cooking for others. Sometimes a person with anorexia exercises excessively to use up calories or try to get rid of food from their body, for example, by using laxatives, diuretics or self-induced vomiting.

Orthorexia
This is an obsession with a “pure” diet, where it interferes with a person’s life. It becomes a way of life filled with chronic concern for the quality of food being consumed. When the person suffering with Orthorexia slips up from wavering from their “perfect” diet, they may resort to extreme acts of further self-discipline, including even stricter regimens and fasting.

Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified
This can mean a number of things. It can mean the person suffers from anorexia but still has a menstrual cycle or they may still be an “average healthy weight”; it can mean the sufferer equally participates in some anorexic as well as bulimic behaviors (sometimes referred to as purge-type anorexia). A person with diabetes may deliberately manipulate their insulin levels in an effort to control their weight (sometimes referred to a Diabulmia).

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