The MLRA Therapy Blog

Insights and ideas from the therapist team at Meghan L. Reitz and Associates.

Eating Disorders: Anorexia, Bulimia, and Body Image Issues

What IS Anorexia? What IS Bulimia? What IS Binge Eating? And what does it mean to have body image issues? In this article, I will delve into eating disorders, triggers, treatments, and what they mean in society today. Of course many people have heard of anorexia or bulimia, but they may not have a grasp on what the disorder actually are. Anorexia is when a person deprives themselves of food- meaning they won't eat, or control the amounts they eat, which usually results in major weight loss as well as other health problems. Bulimia is a form of eating disorder where an individual actually purges, or physically induces themselves to throw up, food that they have eating. In fact often times, binge eating (gorging yourself to the max) can be and is often associated with this disorder. The person will eat and eat and eat, then purge. Although individuals with bulimia do not normally display the dramatic weight loss that Anorexics do, they also will have severe health problems due to stomach acid on the teeth, etc. Most often times, all of these eating disorders stem from body image issues. Many individuals, including females and males, perceive their bodies in a way that is not realistic. They may see themselves as "fat" when in actuality they are not. It's a type of thinking and perception that does not add up to the reality of how they really look on the outside.

Triggers for these disorders can stem from so many things. To name just a few, they could include:

1) Past trauma

2) Poor self-esteem/self-image

3) Parents or someone in authority influencing an individual to achieve perfection and nothing else

4) Low self-worth

Why are these triggers? Well, take for example if your life has been managed by parents who have always expected perfection from you. Sometimes, girls and boys get to a point, that in order for them to feel any control over their lives, they take control of food- how much they eat, how much they don't eat, etc. It gives that person a sense of control, where everything else seems out of control in their lives.

Luckily, there are a lot of programs out there for individuals with eating disorders. If you or someone you know might be dealing with some of these issues, it's important to get help sooner rather than later. Search for an outpatient therapist and psychiatrist that specializes in Eating Disorders. There are inpatient and outpatient programs at hospitals and treatment centers that focus on eating disorders. Often times, there are also programs that work in conjunction with eating disorder programs called self-injury programs. It has been found in some research and from many of my clients who have dealt particularly with anorexia, they they also will engage in self-harm (cutting, etc.) to help with the emotional pain they are going through.

Please seek out treatment. These issues are very serious and can result in death. Check out where you can speak online with a counselor such as myself who specializes in these areas or look into your area for in-person counselors/therapists/psychiatrists. Here is also a website link that I would highly recommend looking at in regards to this topic that is such an issue in today's culture of being "thin."

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Specific eating diesdrorsAnorexia nervosa (AN), characterized by refusal to maintain a healthy body weight and an obsessive fear of gaining weightBulimia nervosa (BN), characterized by recurrent binge eating followed by compensatory behaviors such as purging (self-induced vomiting or excessive use of laxatives)Binge eating disorder (BED), binge eating without compensatory behavior (Considered to be in the eating diesdrors not otherwise specified category)[13]Purging disorder, characterized by recurrent purging to control weight or shape in the absence of binge eating episodesRumination syndrome, involving the repeated painless regurgitation of food following a meal which is then either re-chewed and re-swallowed, or discarded.Diabulimia is the deliberate manipulation of insulin levels in an effort to control their weight.Food maintenance syndrome is characterized by a set of aberrant eating behaviors of children in foster care.[14]Female athlete triad is a syndrome in which disordered eating behavior, amenorrhea and/or oligomenorrhea, and decreased bone mineral density (osteoporosis and osteoenia) are present (though not all patients exhibit all three components).Eating diesdrors not otherwise specified can mean a number of things. It can mean the individual suffers from anorexia but still gets their period; it can mean they may still be an average healthy weight but be suffering anorexia; it can mean the sufferer equally participates in some anorexic as well as bulimic behaviors (sometimes referred to as purge-type anorexia).Pica is defined as a compulsive craving for eating, chewing or licking non-food items or foods containing no nutrition. These can include such things as chalk, plaster, paint chips, baking soda, starch, glue, rust, ice, coffee grounds, and cigarette ashes.Night eating syndrome consists of morning anorexia, evening polyphagia (abnormally increased appetite for consumption of food frequently associated with injury to the hypothalamus) and insomnia.Nocturnal Sleep Related Eating DisorderOrthorexia nervosa is an obsession with a pure diet, where it interferes with a person's life. It becomes a way of life filled with chronic concern for the quality of food being consumed. When the person suffering with orthorexia slips up from wavering from their perfect diet, they may resort to extreme acts of further self-discipline, including even stricter regimens and fasting.

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