Eating disorders include a wide range of mental health conditions, such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder that impact an individual's relationship with food, exercise, and body image.
Therapy for Eating Disorders
Eating disorders often present themselves as an obsession with food, body weight, or exercise, however, they are often indicative of difficult emotional experiences that an individual is attempting to manage through the symptoms of their eating disorder. Eating disorders can feel incredibly confusing and chaotic to individuals who experience them, as their symptoms can provide them with brief periods of control, often followed by feelings of shame and emptiness.
If left untreated, eating disorders can have serious and permanent consequences. Treatment for eating disorders can help individuals work towards functional ways of navigating difficult emotional experiences that may be contributing to their eating disorder, while establishing skills to reduce the difficult symptoms they are experiencing.
What is Anorexia Nervosa?
Anorexia often develops during a person’s teenage years or early adulthood, but there are instances of younger children developing the condition. Anorexia is a very serious and dangerous condition that, if left untreated, can lead to organ failure, infertility, brittle bones, and even death.
When a person is afflicted with anorexia, no matter what you say to them or how underweight they become, they can’t help but see themselves as overweight. They tend to severely restrict their food intake to the point of starvation, monitor their weight obsessively, and even exercise excessively.
Signs and symptoms of anorexia differ from person to person, but they often include:
Being extremely underweight as compared to someone of similar size and age
Skipping meals, restricting food, or not eating at all.
Severe anxiety regarding weight
Engaging in behaviors to avoid gaining weight
Having a relentless desire to get thinner, even when there is no excess weight remaining
Refusing to eat in public or often claiming they have already eaten
Seeing oneself as overweight even though they are visibly underweight
OCD and Anorexia
Anorexia is often linked to obsessive compulsive disorder. Many people who struggle with anorexia obsess about their weight, food, and meal plans. They then engage in compulsive behaviours such as starving themselves, exercising for hours, or even hoarding food.
Psychologists categorize anorexia into the restricting type and binge eating & purging type. The restricting type is more commonly recognized since it involves more noticeable behaviours such as restrictive dieting, excessive exercise and long periods of fasting. Restrictive types do not binge, and only choose to restrict their diet.
People with binge eating and purging type may eat large quantities of food, or they may choose to restrict their diet. In either case, they tend follow meals with purging behavior such as vomiting after meals, taking laxatives, or exercising excessively.
What is Bulimia Nervosa?
Bulimia is another serious eating disorder that involves a person binge eating unusually large quantities of food in a specific time until the person is painfully full. Often times, the person feels as though they cannot stop eating or control the quantity of food ingested.
Each binge eating episode is often followed by severe abdominal discomfort, as well as a strong sense of guilt for consuming large amounts of calories. The person then feels the need to purge what they have eaten by vomiting, laxatives, fasting, diuretics, enemas, and excessive exercise to relieve the discomfort and guilt.
Bulimia has very serious consequences to a person’s health and could cause inflammation of the mouth and throat, damage to the teeth, dehydration, mineral imbalances, gut irritation and more.
Signs and symptoms of bulimia:
The symptoms of bulimia are very similar to the purging and binge eating subtypes of anorexia. The main difference is that people with bulimia tend to have a relatively normal weight, as opposed to being underweight.
Recurrent episodes of binge eating
Feeling a loss of control or inability to stop eating during episodes
Purging after binge eating episodes
A deep fear of gaining weight even though weight is normal
Self-esteem heavily influenced by weight and body image
Get Specialized Help from Monica Arnold, Registered Provisional Psychologist, EMDR Trained.
What is Binge Eating Disorder?
Binge eating disorder is the most misunderstood of the eating disorders. It is often misrepresented as emotional eating, loving food too much or lack of self-control. However, binge eating disorder is believed to be one of the most common eating disorders.
Individuals with this disorder have similar symptoms to those of bulimia and the binge eating subtype of anorexia. They typically have episodes where they consume large quantities of food in short periods of time with no control or ability to stop until the urge is satisfied.
Unlike bulimia and the binge eating subtype of anorexia, those with binge eating disorder do not restrict calories or use purging behaviours, such as vomiting, to compensate for their food intake.
Signs and symptoms of binge eating disorder:
Consuming large quantities in a short amount of time until uncomfortably full
Lack of control or inability to stop eating during episodes
Feelings of guilt and shame after episodes
No use of purging activities to compensate for binge eating