Besides the fact that all of us love eating, eating is also important for survival and leading a healthy life. Similarly, thanks to beauty standards, we all like to see ourselves thin and beautiful. We diet and exercise to achieve the same. Neither dieting nor eating is bad, but anything in excess becomes harmful, right? That is the reason a different class for psychological disorders concerning eating habits was created. Either you are eating out of the way or dieting out of the way; both are harmful and are consider as psychological disorders. Now since they are psychological disorders, there has been research and as a result, possible treatments are now available. If you suspect you, or a loved one, are suffering from an eating disorder, do not wait and read on!
What exactly happens in eating disorders?
Mainly there are three types of eating disorders. Anorexia Nervosa is one of them. Individuals suffering from anorexia have distorted body image. They tend to see themselves as ‘fat’ when in reality they are not. They make attempts to lose weight and go to unhealthy extents for achieving the feat. Also they often refuse to eat and even if they do eat, they eat scant amounts of food. Exercising compulsively in another attempt to lose weight, they might even starve themselves to death. They are vulnerable to depression, anxiety, and might become suicidal in the meantime.
A person is diagnosed with Bulimia Nervosa when they eat excessively, but purge their body of food later. They feel ashamed when they eat unhealthy amounts but relax after purging. They use medicines like laxatives or diuretics to purge, or sometimes vomit. Of all people recognized to be suffering from bulimia, approximately 85-90% are females. The most commonly identified cause behind these disorders is socio-cultural reasons.
Binge eating is another eating disorder most of us have heard of. It is characterized by frequent episodes of excessive, out-of-control eating. The individuals tend to eat till they feel uncomfortably full, even when they are not feeling hungry. Overeating is different from binge eating. We all overeat at many points in life, but binge eating is associated with mental conditions and is a psychological disorder, whereas overeating is not.
Eating disorders are serious mental health conditions, but they are treatable. Over the years, these disorders were identified, and thus began the research to find how they could be treated. Different target groups, like adolescents, teens, and adults uses different approaches. Treatment plans also vary depending on the symptoms of a particular person, mental status, other medical histories, etc. However, a typical treatment could include the below listed.
Your treatment plan will most likely include a registered dietician. A dietician is necessary since they can help you understand the adverse biological effects of the disorder on your body. They will work with you to establish healthy eating patterns and move towards a healthy body weight. They can inform you about the practices you should undertake to correct health problems resulting from obesity or malnutrition.
As mentioned before, eating disorders can bring with them distress, depression, and anxiety. In such cases, antidepressants may become necessary. They cannot cure your eating disorder though. Furthermore, eating disorders also cause physical problems leading to heart problems, rupturing of intestines, or kidney failures. Medications might also help gain the weight you lost or vice versa. Therefore, ensure your treatment team consists of medical professionals too.
Eating disorder patients might need to be hospitalized depending on their situation. Serious or life-threatening physical health problems that arise due to these disorders may call for urgent medical attention. Some alternatives to hospitalization may be day treatment programs, or residential treatments depending on your body’s needs.
Here comes the most important part of your treatment. Getting diagnosed is just the first step. Psychotherapy is the walking stick up the staircase. Medications are not enough because they do not provide what therapy does. In therapy, you learn to monitor your eating and mood, develop healthy ways to cope with stressful situations arising from the habits associated with the disorder, improve your relationships, help you understand how exactly your disorder functions, etc. Different therapies work differently on every person and you will need to find out which ones suit you best. Some therapies found effective in treating eating disorders are as follows.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
This is the most used therapy for treating psychological disorders. It focuses on beliefs, cognitions, and underlying reasons that cause and maintain disorders. The main aim of the therapy is to change distorted beliefs about body image, perceived beauty, and appearance. This therapy has been found effective on most psychological disorders.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
Unlike CBT, the ACT focuses mainly on changing unhealthy behavior, in this case, eating patterns. You should create goals and stick to them. It does not support eliminating anxiety, it being a part of daily life. Instead, it teaches to cope with it and learn and grow.
This is a treatment plan most effective for teens living with their families. Here, family members help them restore healthy eating habits until they are self-sufficient. The cause of the disorder is usually irrelevant and re-feeding and gaining weight to promote recovery is the top priority.
This theory blames interpersonal and social conflicts. Psychotherapy professionals recommend this therapy for treating bulimia and binge eating. It works towards the resolution of a specified interpersonal problem area. There are four such areas: grief, interpersonal deficits, interpersonal role disputes, and role transitions. Resolving these issues improves relationships and communication. This in turn helps enhance symptoms of the eating disorder.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy
Much similar to CBT, the main focus is on changing behaviors in this therapy. The center of attention is to build skills to replace maladaptive eating behaviors, emotion regulation, and tolerating distress. The cause is again subdued here.
Going deeper than the CBT, the psychodynamic approach holds that understanding the root cause underlying any disorder is the key to reach its treatment. Accordingly, this therapy tries to find out any internal conflicts, motives, and unconscious forces that might be causing distress. It establishes that only discontinuing the behaviors without assessing the deeper cause will give rise to relapse.
Above all, you are the most important piece of the treatment plan. Even if you try every possible treatment for your disorder, but you are not willing to see a change in you, they are of no use. To correct the problem, you have to accept there is one. Similarly, to completely recover from a psychological disorder, it is extremely important to overcome the stigma attached to mental health and psychological disorders. What is equally important is that you accept the presence of your disorder and firmly believe that there is nothing wrong with seeking help. You can consider joining support groups, talking to your trusted ones, or peacefully carrying out your hobbies. You are not alone and you will be through this in no time with the support of your loved ones. Happy Recovering!