What are eating disorders?
Eating disorders are serious but treatable illnesses that can affect people of various ages, races, genders, sexual orientations, and body shapes. Some of the common eating disorders that people seek help for are:
- Anorexia Nervosa is characterized by weight loss (or lack of appropriate weight gain in growing children); difficulties maintaining an appropriate body weight for height, age, and stature; and, in many individuals, distorted body image. People with anorexia generally restrict the number of calories and the types of food they eat. Some people with the disorder also exercise compulsively, purge via vomiting and laxatives, and/or binge eat.
- Bulimia Nervosa is characterized by a cycle of bingeing and compensatory behaviors such as self-induced vomiting designed to undo or compensate for the effects of binge eating.
- Binge Eating Disorder is characterized by recurrent episodes of eating large quantities of food (often very quickly and to the point of discomfort); a feeling of a loss of control during the binge; experiencing shame, distress or guilt afterwards; and not regularly using unhealthy compensatory measures (e.g., purging) to counter the binge eating.
- Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED) includes individuals who do not meet the strict criteria for anorexia or bulimia but still have a significant eating disorder.
How common are eating disorders?
While it is difficult to get accurate statistics, current estimates for lifetime prevalence (how many people will develop a given disorder in their lifetime) are as follows:
- Anorexia Nervosa: 0.5 - 1%
- Bulimia Nervosa: 0.5 - 2%
- Binge Eating Disorder: 2 - 4%
- Many more will struggle with disordered eating that doesn’t fit all of the criteria for the above disorders.
What causes eating disorders?
There is no single cause, and each person who struggles with an eating disorder has a unique story. Research suggests that people develop eating disorders in response to a range of biological, psychological, and socio-cultural factors.
How can therapy help with eating disorders?
Individuals with eating disorders often do best when they’re able to work with a team of professionals including a therapist, a psychiatrist, a dietitian, and a physician. As a therapist I help clients:
- Uncover the reasons why they began and continue engaging in certain eating disorder behaviors
- Identify triggers
- Develop new and healthier coping skills
- Cultivate more self-compassion and a healthier body image
Eating Disorder Resources:
National Eating Disorders Association- national organization full of valuable information and resources
Families Empowered And Supporting Treatment for Eating Disorders (F.E.A.S.T.)- a network of parents and families devoted to helping their loved ones recover
When Your Teen Has an Eating Disorder- a guide for parents and caregivers
8 Keys to Recovery From an Eating Disorder Workbook- a great self-help workbook for those in recovery
The Intuitive Eating Workbook- a workbook for those practicing intuitive eating