Eating disorders are not simply a lifestyle or diet choice. Eating disorders are a serious medical illness that can be potentially life-threatening. They can affect people of all ages, body weights, and genders. Fortunately, therapy, medical treatment and monitoring, and nutritional counseling can help people overcome eating disorders and live a healthy life.
Types of eating disorders
The most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder. Symptoms of an eating disorder vary depending on the illness.
Symptoms of anorexia nervosa
- Restricting, avoiding, or eating very small quantities of food
- Purging behavior like vomiting or using laxatives or diuretics
- Excessive exercising or obsessively controlling calorie intake
- Trouble maintaining normal weight relative to body mass index
- Having low energy and feeling exhausted the majority of the time
- Extreme fear of being overweight
Symptoms of bulimia nervosa
- Feeling a lack of control around food
- Recurrent eating of an abnormally large amount of food in one sitting also called binge eating
- Using excessive exercise, fasting, forced vomiting, or similar behavior to compensate for overeating
Symptoms of binge-eating disorder
- Eating large quantities of food in one sitting
- Feeling a lack of control around food
- Inability to stop eating when full
- Eating in secret or alone to avoid embarrassment
- Feeling guilty, ashamed, and embarrassed about eating habits
How to treat eating disorders
Therapy and counseling
There have been many positive results with therapy and counseling treatment for eating disorders. When seeking this type of treatment, a patient can choose between individual, group, or family therapy based on their specific needs. Family therapy can be especially beneficial because it is crucial that the person has a solid support system. If the person is not ready to tell friends and family about their eating disorder, they can choose individual or group therapy.
If you are just beginning therapy and counseling, you may speak with a psychologist, psychiatrist, therapist, or counselor before being referred to a healthcare provider that specializes in eating disorders.
In group therapy, the patient works with an experienced counselor and other patients who are going through the same thing. This can be a beneficial form of therapy for someone who is just realizing or figuring out what they are struggling with. This is a space where people who struggle with eating disorders can hear testimonies, get advice on how to cope, and open up about their own experience. In group therapy, there is also an option to have a sponsor, who is someone to call when the patient experiences triggers and feels like they may revert back to their unhealthy eating behavior.
Individual counseling is beneficial for a more focused approach to finding the underlying causes for the patients eating disorder. In individual counseling, patients get an added benefit of one-on-one, in-depth conversations with a therapist. This is the most private form of counseling and everything discussed remains confidential.
Nutritional counseling is a very useful tool for those coping with an eating disorder. In nutritional counseling, the person learns about healthy nutrition and is coached on how to maintain a healthy weight, develop neutral feelings about food, and how to reestablish key nutritional levels. Nutritional counseling is tremendously helpful when paired with therapy.
Medications such as antidepressants, antipsychotics, or mood stabilizers can help with anxiety and depression that often co-occur with eating disorders. It may also be necessary to take medications to address the physical health issues related to or caused by the eating disorder.
Find treatment for an eating disorder
If you are interested in seeking treatment for an eating disorder for you or a loved one, our counselors can help. Even though things may seem hopeless in the present, there is always help and resources for you to find a brighter future ahead!