We are surrounded by food and food-related products. Whether it is cooking programmes on TV, adverts for the most effective slimming products, or magazine articles on the latest super foods. Added to these are the endless media messages about what we should look like; how toned, how curvy. Not surprising then that this can lead to a conflicted relationship with food and body image. For those of us who have less self-esteem this in turn can lead to questionable eating and dieting patterns. But how do we know when our relationship with food has actually become an eating disorder?
An eating disorder is a mental illness that leads to irregular eating habits and feeling highly distressed about body shape and weight. It can include either not eating enough or overeating. Typical disorders include Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder. They often co-exist alongside anxiety and anxiety disorders, as well as substance abuse. They can involve feelings of embarrassment, shame and depression. Secretive behaviour is common to those with eating disorders, which means they can be difficult to identify in others and hard for those suffering to come forward.
The focus on food leads to a rather limited way of living and a black and white perspective with rigid thinking. Feeling concerned about your body or being secretive about your eating disorder or facing concerned relatives takes up a lot of your energy. Perhaps you feel as if you are stuck in this cycle and hopeless about anything changing. Perhaps you feel conflicted about seeking help, with a fear of losing control over your body.
This includes an obsessive fear of gaining weight, refusal to maintain a healthy body weight, and an unrealistic perception of body image. Many people with anorexia nervosa will vehemently limit the quantity of food they consume and view his or herself as overweight, even when they are clearly underweight. Anorexia can have damaging health effects, such as brain damage, multi-organ failure, bone loss, heart difficulties, and infertility. The risk of death is highest in individuals with this disease.
This eating disorder is characterized by repeated binge eating followed by behaviors that compensate for the overeating, such as forced vomiting, excessive exercise, or extreme use of laxatives or diuretics. Men and women who suffer with bulimia may fear weight gain and feel severely unhappy with their body size and shape. The binge-eating and purging cycle is typically done in secret, creating feelings of shame, guilt, and lack of control. Bulimia can have injuring effects, such as gastrointestinal problems, severe hydration, and heart difficulties resulting from an electrolyte imbalance.
Individuals who suffer from Binge Eating Disorder will frequently lose control over his or her eating. Different from bulimia nervosa however, episodes of binge eating are not followed by compensatory behaviors, such as purging, fasting, or excessive exercise. Because of this, many people suffering with binge-eating disorder may be obese and at an increased risk of developing other conditions, such as cardiovascular disease. Men and women who struggle with this disorder may also experience intense feelings of guilt, distress, and embarrassment related to their binge-eating, which could influence further progression of the eating disorder.
Whilst these eating disorders respond to treatment, they are also one of the types of mental illness with the highest mortality rate. For this reason it is important that action is taken as soon as an eating disorder is suspected and that a comprehensive and expert care plan is put together. The practitioners at Psymplicity Healthcare are used to instigating this process in order to ensure the best chance of recovery.
A multi-pronged approach is the most effective when treating eating disorders. This might include:
At Psymplicity Healthcare we recognise how difficult it can be either to be suffering from an eating disorder or to witness a loved one suffering. Our compassionate and experienced practitioners understand this experience and also feel optimistic, based on working with different clients that a positive outcome is attainable, even for those starting in a place of doubt and poor overall health. We believe that a holistic treatment programme that takes into consideration all aspects of your experience can provide you with the consistent care to take measured steps, at your own pace, towards wellbeing. We have specialist psychiatrists, psychotherapists and dieticians to provide a comprehensive service. Our aim is for you to gain not only a better relationship with food but also with yourself.