Eating Disorder Treatment

What is An Eating Disorder?

Eating disorders are serious and often fatal illnesses associated with severe disturbances in an individual’s eating behaviors and related thoughts and emotions. A professional treatment program is often the only way a person can learn how to overcome the struggle of an eating disorder.

Some individuals can become so preoccupied with food and weight issues that they find it hard to focus on any other aspects of life include personal relationships, family, and work. Studies suggest that 1 in 20 people will be affected by an eating disorder at some point in their lives. An individual with an eating disorder is preoccupied with thoughts about food, body weight, and shape.

Although eating disorders are commonly associated with women, men can develop eating disorders as well. Common eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder. Other types of eating disorders include rumination disorder and avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder.

Symptoms of Eating Disorders

Eating disorders cause serious emotional and physical problems. Each condition involves extreme food and weight issues. However, every type of eating disorder has unique symptoms that separate it from others. The chance of successful recovery from an eating disorder is greater when it is detected early. It is important to be knowledgeable and aware of the warning signs of an eating disorder. A person struggling with an eating disorder won’t necessarily exhibit all of the signs and symptoms at the same time, and they can vary based on the specific eating disorder.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, symptoms include:

  • Extremely restricted eating
  • Extreme thinness (emaciation)
  • A relentless pursuit of thinness and unwillingness to maintain a normal or healthy weight
  • Intense fear of gaining weight
  • Distorted body image, a self-esteem that is heavily influenced by perceptions of body weight and shape, or a denial of the seriousness of low body weight

Other symptoms may develop over time, including:

  • Thinning of the bones (osteopenia or osteoporosis)
  • Mild anemia and muscle wasting and weakness
  • Brittle hair and nails
  • Dry and yellowish skin
  • Growth of fine hair all over the body (lanugo)
  • Severe constipation
  • Low blood pressure slowed breathing and pulse
  • Damage to the structure and function of the heart
  • Brain damage
  • Multiorgan failure
  • Drop in internal body temperature, causing a person to feel cold all the time
  • Lethargy, sluggishness, or feeling tired all the time
  • Infertility

Anorexia Nervosa

Individuals with anorexia nervosa will deny themselves food to the point of starvation. They often see themselves as overweight, even when they are dangerously underweight. Individuals will obsess about weight loss, deny hunger, refuse to eat, practice binge eating and purging behaviors, as well as exercise to the point of exhaustion.

Individuals with anorexia will also weigh themselves repeatedly and use laxatives to lose weight. These behaviors are practiced as a way to limit or burn calories. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder- and while some individuals die from the complications associated with starvation, others die from suicide.

Emotional symptoms of anorexia include irritability, social withdrawal, apathy, fear of eating in public, and a deep obsession with food and/or exercise. Food rituals are developed as a way to take the fear out of being “fat.” Low food intake and inadequate nutrition can cause a person to become very thin. Their body is forced to slow down to conserve energy, which results in loss of menstruation, constipation, irregular heart rhythms, trouble sleeping, low blood pressure, and dehydration. Some individuals with anorexia may also exhibit binge eating and purging behaviors, while others may just restrict eating.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, symptoms include:

  • Extremely restricted eating
  • Extreme thinness (emaciation)
  • A relentless pursuit of thinness and unwillingness to maintain a normal or healthy weight
  • Intense fear of gaining weight
  • Distorted body image, a self-esteem that is heavily influenced by perceptions of body weight and shape, or a denial of the seriousness of low body weight

Other symptoms may develop over time, including:

  • Thinning of the bones (osteopenia or osteoporosis)
  • Mild anemia and muscle wasting and weakness
  • Brittle hair and nails
  • Dry and yellowish skin
  • Growth of fine hair all over the body (lanugo)
  • Severe constipation
  • Low blood pressure slowed breathing and pulse
  • Damage to the structure and function of the heart
  • Brain damage
  • Multiorgan failure
  • Drop in internal body temperature, causing a person to feel cold all the time
  • Lethargy, sluggishness, or feeling tired all the time
  • Infertility

Bulimia Nervosa

Individuals with bulimia often feel out of control when binging on large amounts of food and will then desperately try to rid themselves of the extra food and calories. This condition involves forced vomiting, abuse of laxatives, and excessive exercise. The behavior will demonstrate in a repeating cycle that controls most aspects of a person’s life. This cycle of binging and purging, and the behavior associated with it has negative effects both physically and emotionally. People with bulimia may be slightly underweight, normal weight, or overweight.

Emotional symptoms of bulimia include low self-esteem, feelings of being out of control, feelings of guilt and shame about eating, and withdrawing from friends and family.

Bulimia inflicts physical damage and hurts an individual’s overall health. Binging and purging have damaging effects on various parts of the body. Typically, an individual’s teeth are damaged by excessive vomiting, and acid reflux is common. Excessive purging leads to dehydration that can cause cardiac arrhythmias, heart failure, and sometimes death.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, symptoms include:

  • Eating unusually large amounts of food in a specific amount of time, such as a 2-hour period
  • Eating even when you’re full or not hungry
  • Eating fast during binge episodes
  • Eating until you’re uncomfortably full
  • Eating alone or in secret to avoid embarrassment
  • Feeling distressed, ashamed, or guilty about your eating
  • Frequently dieting, possibly without weight loss

Binge-Eating Disorder

A person suffering from binge-eating disorder will overeat on a regular basis (binge) due to a lack of control over their eating. They may eat really quickly or eat more food than they intended when they are not hungry. Sometime the individual will continue to eat long after they feel full to the point of being uncomfortable.

Usually, after a binge, they experience feelings of guilt or disgust and shame by their behavior and the amount of food intake. The difference in this disorder and bulimia or anorexia is that they do not try to compensate for this behavior with excessive exercise or vomiting. The embarrassment of binge-eating can often lead to eating alone as a way to hide their behavior.

These are some symptoms and signs of a binge-eating disorder:

  • Secret behavior– the individual will binge when they are alone; this behavior can happen late at night or in a restaurant parking lot. The person may even hide the wrappers and food containers as a way to get rid of the evidence.
  • Food Hoarding– stockpiling food like bags of chips or cookies in a closet or under the bed
  • Lack of control– feeling powerless over how much food is consumed or knowing when to stop which leads to being uncomfortably full after a binge
  • Abnormal eating pattern– eating lightly throughout the day without a set meal schedule, or eating a small amount at mealtimes or skipping meals altogether
  • Food rituals– over chewing or not allowing foods to touch on a plate. They may only eat from certain food groups.
  • No purging– the absent of behaviors to get rid of unwanted extra calories, like vomiting, exercising excessively, or taking laxatives.

Rumination Disorder

This disorder is the act of repeatedly and constantly regurgitating food after eating, but it is not because the person has a medical condition or is suffering from one of the other eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia, or binge-eating. The food is brought back up into the mouth without nausea or gagging, and the regurgitation may not be intentional. Sometimes the food that is regurgitated is either chewed or swallowed again or spit out.

This disorder can cause malnutrition if food is continuously spat out or if the individual eats a significantly lower amount of food to avoid this type of behavior. Rumination disorder may show up more in infancy or with people who have an intellectual disability.

Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder

This particular disorder is characterized by a person’s failure to meet minimum daily nutrition requirements because they have a lack of interest in eating or avoid food with specific sensory characteristics, like color, texture, smell, or taste. Sometimes the individual has a fear associated with the consequences of eating, like choking. What makes this disorder different from the others is that food is not avoided because of the fear of gaining weight.

This disorder can result in extreme weight loss or failure to gain the necessary weight in childhood. It can also be the cause of nutritional deficiencies that can lead to other health problems.

Getting Help For An Eating Disorder

The residential eating disorder treatment program at Montare Behavioral Health utilizes individualized treatment plans in a therapeutic environment in order to treat eating disorders. Treatment plans include body image therapy, family therapy, group therapy, individual therapy, nutrition therapy, exercise, neurofeedback, recreational therapy, and various holistic treatments. Often the sooner one enrolls in eating disorder treatment, the better off they will be.

For those individuals who are experiencing the symptoms of an eating disorder, seeking treatment can be beneficial. At Montare Behavioral Health, we offer individualized eating disorder treatment plans to help you restore a sense of control to your life. Contact us today at (888) 292-0870 to learn more about how Montare Behavioral Health can help you overcome your eating disorder.

References

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/eating-disorders/symptoms-causes/syc-20353603  https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/warning-signs-and-symptoms