In order to understand how to handle an eating disorder, it is important to first define what an eating disorder is and how it impacts a person’s life. Ultimately, an eating disorder disrupts your ability to eat, creating corresponding preoccupations about food intake and body appearance, affecting one’s thoughts and emotions to the point of interrupting daily activities and creating health problems. Millions of Americans have an eating disorder, which concerningly carries one of the highest mortality rates among all mental illnesses. The most common eating disorders include:
- Anorexia Nervosa: Refers to an extreme food restriction that causes a significant decrease in body weight, intense fear of gaining weight, and distorted perception of one’s own weight; people struggling with anorexia are often below a healthy weight.
- Bulimia Nervosa: Involves consuming large amounts of food in a short period of time, followed by purging to get rid of calories; people struggling with bulimia can actually be within a normal weight range.
- Binge-Eating Disorder: Involves the consumption of large amounts of food in a short period of time without compensating for calories; unlike bulimia, people with binge-eating disorder do not purge after eating.
- Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID): Involves the development of highly selective eating habits, disturbed feeding patterns, or both.
Oftentimes, eating disorders tend to run in families, and people may be more prone to develop an eating disorder if a blood relative previously dealt with one. Also, low self-esteem, feelings of hopelessness and inadequacy, and other psychological factors have been associated with the development of an eating disorder. Society often sets unrealistic standards for appearance, and some people develop eating disorders in their pursuit of the “perfect” body. Furthermore, family or relationship problems, peer pressure, trauma, and other environmental factors can play major roles in the development of an eating disorder.
Eating disorders may occur for many reasons, and the symptoms associated with eating disorders range from emotional and behavioral symptoms like feeling uncomfortable eating around others to physical symptoms such as muscle weakness. Regardless of symptoms, it is important to understand how to address an eating disorder as quickly and safely as possible.
To treat an eating disorder, you may require support from a group of medical professionals, including:
- Primary Care Practitioner: Treats health or dental problems associated with your eating disorder.
- Psychiatrist: Provides additional medical guidance and helps you evaluate pharmacological treatment of the physical symptoms associated with your eating disorder.
- Dietician: Provides nutrition and meal planning insights.
- Psychologist: Helps you uncover the root cause of your eating disorder and explore strategies to cope with eating disorder
The aforementioned medical professionals tailor an eating disorder treatment plan to a patient, which may involve one or more of the following types of therapy:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Addresses disruptive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that lead to eating disorder
- Family-Based Therapy: Involves collaborating with family members to cope with unhealthy eating patterns and restore healthy eating habits.
- Group Therapy: Requires meeting with a mental health professional and other eating disorder patients to explore eating disorder treatment strategies.
In addition to therapy, an eating disorder treatment plan requires nutrition education through which patients understand the importance of getting the appropriate nutrients and develop insights needed to work toward maintaining healthy eating habits and weight. Medications may also be used in combination with psychotherapy to treat an eating disorder. If you are dealing with serious mental or physical problems associated with your eating disorder, you may require inpatient treatment as well.
Many eating disorder treatments are available, and finding the right one is sometimes difficult. At Achieve Medical Center, we offer healthy eating services in conjunction with mental health treatments to help people with eating disorders. To learn more or schedule a consultation with Achieve Medical Center, please call contact us online or call us at (858) 427-5060.