I have now retired but will continue to keep this web site live for year as a resource in case it is helpful to people.
Eating Disorders such as Bulimia, Anorexia, Compulsive or Binge Eating usually require longer term Psychotherapy in order to help you feel in more control of your problem. These eating disorders can include anything from food aversion, bulimia, anorexia to bingeing or over-eating specific foods or any food.
Anyone can develop an eating disorder, regardless of age, sex, culture or race, although the people most likely to be affected tend to be young women, particularly between the ages of 15-25. It is not unusual, however, for eating disorders to appear in middle age.
Food becomes a problem when it is used to help cope with painful situations or feelings, or to relieve stress without you realising it.
Research shown genetic make-up may have a small impact on the development of an eating disorder as can the attitudes of other family members towards food. In situations where there are high academic expectations, family issues or social pressures, focusing on food and eating can be a way of coping with these stresses.
Anorexia People with this condition develop a fear of fatness going far beyond that of most dieters. The need to control their weight dominates all other emotions and food becomes the central issue of their lives.
Bulimia also develops from an obsessive desire to be thin. However, instead of not eating, the person alternates between frantic bingeing and drastic purging (by self-induced vomiting and/or the abuse of laxatives and diuretics) or periods of excessive fasting and exercise. This can lead to an irregular heartbeat, kidney damage & tooth enamel erosion.
Compulsive eating differs from bulimia; after binge eating, people don’t try to get rid of what they’ve eaten. Some feel powerless to control their desire to keep ‘comfort eating’ & they may develop overweight related health problems.
Binge eating includes an obsession with weight and shape. Exercising and the use of vomiting and laxatives to reduce weight are often major elements. Other signs before a person loses a dramatic amount of body weight include:
- failure to notice or be satisfied with the result of exercise
- avoiding food high in carbohydrates
- low mood
- menstrual cycle becomes irregular or ceases
- lack of interest in sex
Both men and women living with Binge Eating Disorder suffer a combination of symptoms similar to those of Compulsive Overeaters and Bulimia. They periodically go on large binges, eating unusually large quantities of food very fast & uncontrollably, until they are uncomfortably full. Their weight is usually above average & they tend to find it harder losing weight and maintaining it. Unlike Bulimia, purging doesn’t follow a Binge episode.
Reasons for having eating disorders can be similar to those of Compulsive Overeating; a way to hide from emotions, to fill an emotional void and to cope with daily stresses and problems. Bingeing can be used as a way to keep people away, to subconsciously maintain an overweight appearance to cater to society’s stigma “if I’m fat, no one will like me,” as each person suffering may feel undeserving of love. As with Bulimia, Binge eating can also be used as self-punishment for doing “bad” things, or for feeling badly about themselves. Sufferers are at risk of heart attack, high blood-pressure and cholesterol, kidney disease and/or failure, arthritis and bone deterioration, and stroke.
In our society today, people are unduly influenced to be slim or considered “successful” in their life & love by the media and the fashion industry. People mistake the desire for adulation from others as an end in itself, wanting to be admired and seen by others as being something they don’t genuinely feel they are. The belief that image is all important rather than the integrity of the person often needs exploring and unraveling, challenging some of these “hard–wired” beliefs.
Eating disorders often result from a combination of many factors: events, feelings or pressures leading to a feeling of inability to cope including low self-esteem, family relationships, problems with friends, the death of someone special, problems at work, school, college or at university, lack of confidence, sexual or emotional abuse.
It is essential to build a strong relationship with you to help you discover your genuine feelings, explore ways to help express them appropriately, to substitute healthier behaviours and build self esteem, which is the foundation of helping with any eating disorders.
This often means longer term therapy (including Dialectic Behaviour Therapy) which would typically last between 12 and 20 sessions, or more, depending on your progress, taking time to enable you to become comfortable with investigating and accepting your genuine feelings, to build a firm foundation of self-esteem and to slowly make long lasting changes for the better.