Eating Disorders

A Look at Eating Disorders and Treatment Options

In these modern times, many individuals across the country suffer from a wide variety of eating disorders. Whether we are referring to anorexia, bulimia or an addiction to food itself, these illnesses can severely affect quality of life and some can even be deadly. Some recent new stories illustrate how prevalent these conditions are in our society.

The Main Types of Eating Disorders

Most medical professionals divide the types of food-related illnesses into three classifications. While each is different in its nature, it is important to appreciate that self-esteem, body image and mental health are all the primary contributing factors.

Anorexia

The first type of illness is known as anorexia. This condition is characterized by extreme food restriction, a distorted body image and the compulsive fear of gaining weight. Sufferers will severely limit their food intake while never being satisfied that they are thin enough.

Bulimia

Bulimia is another common illness. This mental health disorder is defined by an individual eating large amounts of food (known as binge eating) only to subsequently purge this food in the form of vomiting. Once again, one of the underlying causes is the irrational compulsion to lose weight. Side effects will not only be the insufficient uptake of nutrients but the possible erosion of the oesophagus and increased rates of tooth decay.

Compulsive Eating

On the other end of the spectrum, some individuals engage in compulsive eating. This food addiction causes a sufferer to ingest unhealthy portions of food at one sitting. The result can be massive weight gain, unhealthy levels of cholesterol and potential heart problems. Note that binge eating can also fall into this category.

Symptoms

Some common warning signs that someone may suffer from these conditions can include:

  • Sudden, unexplained weight gain or loss.
  • Poor dental hygiene due to the teeth being exposed to stomach acid during purging sessions.
  • A disproportionate amount of importance placed on outward appearances.
  • A severely lowered immune system.
  • Feelings of malaise or depression.

Eating Disorder Treatment Options

As these types of mental health disorder may have significantly different causal factors, there are several methods available to restore a healthy balance to one's life.

The first option is seeking traditional therapeutic counselling. This can be done on a face-to-face basis or in a group setting. Counsellors will provide tools and skills that can help patients cope with their fears, re-establish a positive body image, establish a healthy diet and realize when they may be slipping back into a negative habit. Sessions tend to be quite effective although they may take time to show results. Avoid mental health centres that seem overly expensive and yet come with few objective recommendations. Instead, perform an online search of any practitioners in the area and determine whether they have received positive reviews.

A second option is the administration of certain carefully monitored medications. Such forms can include tricyclic antidepressants or other medications that can properly regulate certain chemicals in the brain that may be imbalanced. These can only be prescribed by a psychiatrist and the patient will concurrently see an eating disorder specialist.

Another popular option is to attend eating disorder groups such as Overeater's Anonymous. These groups offer a robust support system where individuals in similar situation can relate their experiences, gauge each others' progress and offer much-needed advice when necessary. Such groups are free to attend and are administered by a licensed therapist; he or she most likely having suffered from a similar ailment in the past.

If someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder, talk to the person suffering from the illness and explain that they need the help of a trained doctor who can provide the correct type of therapy to help them overcome their battle. Try to begin to have them understand that conditions such as food addiction or bulimia nervosa do not represent a weakness of character but rather a true medical condition. Finally and perhaps most importantly, it is essential that the sufferer is comfortable with the doctor they are seeing, as otherwise the help received may be ineffective and they will rebound into their old habits.

Three of the most effective eating disorder treatment techniques are:
  • Personalized counselling.
  • The administration of certain types of medication.
  • Group sessions.
  • Talk to the sufferer and support them through their treatment.