Eating Disorders Counseling
Eating disorders are quickly becoming a problem of epidemic proportions in America, with as many as 24 million individuals suffering from an eating disorder at any given time.
Eating disorders also have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, making treatment critically important. Most suffers are young women; however, eating disorders are on the rise for individuals of every gender and background. There are three basic categories of eating disorders: anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and eating disorder not otherwise specified, also known as ED-NOS.
The primary symptom of anorexia is an obsessive preoccupation with weight loss and the process of eating.
Individuals struggling with anorexia may refuse to eat, or restrict themselves to limited caloric intake. They may also engage in compulsive exercising and weigh themselves several times per day. These behaviors can result in extreme weight loss, absent or irregular menstrual periods, and hair loss, in addition to placing them at risk for organ failure.
Anorexia is often characterized by a drive for perfectionism and is likely to be accompanied by symptoms of depression, anxiety, of substance abuse.
Bulimia is characterized by a cycle of binging, or consuming large amounts of food in one sitting, followed by purging, or self-induced vomiting.
Individuals who are bulimic may maintain a normal weight despite their bingeing, and often suffer from poor body image and self esteem. Behavior patterns may include other harmful activities such as periods of fasting, overuse of laxatives or diet pills, and compulsive exercise.
Individuals with bulimia tend to be secretive, and hide their behavior from family members and loved ones.
Eating Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified
ED-NOS is a category reserved for individuals who struggle with unhealthy patterns of eating, but may not meet the exact requirements for anorexia or bulimia. ED-NOS can encompass a range of symptoms including fasting, unhealthy use of laxatives, compulsive exercise, feelings of body dysmorphia, and occasional purging.
Some individuals may suffer from both anorexia nervosa and bulimia. Both disorders often have features of perfectionism, obsessiveness, and are often accompanied by depression and/or anxiety.
While the exact causes of anorexia nervosa and bulimia vary from person to person, there are many known factors that may influence the development of an eating disorder. Women are more likely to develop an eating disorder if their mother or sister has one, or the patterns can be brought on by stressful life changes.
Many also argue that the pervasive cultural pressure on women to be thin plays a significant role in diminishing self-esteem and creating an atmosphere for eating disorders to flourish. Regardless of the causes, eating disorders are dangerous and possibly fatal.
Obtaining medical care for any eating disorder is imperative, and psychotherapy is also a crucial component to treatment. At Symmetry Counseling, we can assist you with:
- Engaging with medical professionals to obtain physiological care, including nutritional counseling
- Addressing underlying psychological roots of the eating disorder
- Identifying unhealthy behaviors and creating new, adaptive patterns
- Assessing and treating presence of co-occurring depression and anxiety