What is an Eating Disorder?
Eating Disorders describe illnesses that are characterized by irregular eating habits and severe distress or concern about body weight or shape. Eating disturbances may include inadequate or excessive food intake which can ultimately damage an individual’s well-being. The most common forms of eating disorders include Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Binge Eating Disorder and affect both females and males.
Eating disorders can develop during any stage in life but typically appear during the teen years or young adulthood. Classified as a medical illness, appropriate treatment can be highly effectual for many of the specific types of eating disorders. Although these conditions are treatable, the symptoms and consequences can be detrimental and deadly if not addressed.
Eating disorders commonly coexist with other conditions, such as anxiety disorders, substance abuse, or depression.
Types of Eating Disorders
The three most common types of Eating Disorders are as follows:
Bulimia Nervosa -This eating disorder is characterized by repeated binge eating followed by behaviours that compensate for the overeating, such as forced vomiting, excessive exercise, or extreme use of laxatives or diuretics. Men and women who suffer with Bulimia may fear weight gain and feel severely unhappy with their body size and shape. The binge-eating and purging cycle is typically done in secret, creating feelings of shame, guilt, and lack of control. Bulimia can have injuring effects, such as gastrointestinal problems, severe hydration, and heart difficulties resulting from an electrolyte imbalance.
Binge Eating Disorder – Individuals who suffer from Binge Eating Disorder will frequently lose control over his or her eating. Different from bulimia nervosa however, episodes of binge-eating are not followed by compensatory behaviours, such as purging, fasting, or excessive exercise. Because of this, many people suffering with binge-eating disorder may be obese and at an increased risk of developing other conditions, such as cardiovascular disease. Men and women who struggle with this disorder may also experience intense feelings of guilt, distress, and embarrassment related to their binge-eating, which could influence further progression of the eating disorder.
Causes of Eating Disorders
Eating Disorders are complex disorders, influenced by a facet of factors. Though the exact cause of eating disorders is unknown, it is generally believed that a combination of biological, psychological, and/or environmental abnormalities contribute to the development of these illnesses.
Examples of biological factors include:
- Irregular hormone functions
- Nutritional deficiencies
Examples of psychological factors include:
- Negative body image
- Poor self-esteem
Examples of environmental factors that would contribute to the occurrence of eating disorders are:
- Dysfunctional family dynamic
- Professions and careers that promote being thin and weight loss, such as ballet and modelling
- Aesthetically oriented sports, where an emphasis is placed on maintaining a lean body for enhanced performance. Examples include: rowing, diving, gymnastics, wrestling, and long distance running.
- Family and childhood traumas: childhood sexual abuse, severe trauma
- Cultural and/or peer pressure among friends and co-workers
- Stressful transitions or life changes
Transitional periods have often been identified as triggers in those who may be struggling with an eating disorder. Divorce, emigration and students who are leaving home for the first time are examples of this. Making new friends, separation from what is familiar, a change of status and the pressure of social acceptance and approval are the emotional burdens that such transitions cause.
Signs & Symptoms of an Eating Disorder
A man or woman suffering from an eating disorder may reveal several signs and symptoms, some which are:
- Chronic dieting despite being hazardously underweight
- Constant weight fluctuations
- Obsession with calories and fat contents of food
- Engaging in ritualistic eating patterns, such as cutting food into tiny pieces, eating alone, and/or hiding food
- Continued fixation with food, recipes, or cooking; the individual may cook intricate meals for others but refrain from partaking
- Depression or lethargic stage
- Avoidance of social functions, family and friends. May become isolated and withdrawn
- Switching between periods of overeating and fasting
Treatment For An Eating Disorder
Because of the severity and complexities of these conditions, a comprehensive and professional treatment team specializing in eating disorders is often fundamental in establishing healing and recovery. Treatment for an eating disorder is usually comprised with one or more of the following and addressed with medical doctors, nutritionists, and therapists for complete care:
Medical Care and Monitoring-The highest concern in the treatment of eating disorders is addressing any health issues that may have been a consequence of eating disordered behaviours.
Nutrition: This would involve weight restoration and stabilization, guidance for normal eating, and the integration of an individualized meal plan.
Therapy: Different forms of therapy, such as individual, family, or group, can be helpful in addressing the underlying causes of eating disorders. Therapy is a fundamental piece of treatment because it affords an individual in recovery the opportunity to address and heal from traumatic life events and learn healthier coping skills and methods for expressing emotions, communicating and maintaining healthy relationships.
Varying levels of treatment, ranging from outpatient support groups to inpatient eating disorder canters, are available and based on the severity of the eating disorder. In any case, recognizing and addressing the eating disorder are crucial in being able to begin treatment.
How Hypnosis and NLP May Promote Recovery
It has been recognised that many people with an eating disorder have rigid “black and white” thinking. This type of thinking leads to negative emotions, stress, guilt and anger which not only has an effect on the systems of the body but also re-enforces and strengthens these thought patterns. If I can explain very simply here what happens in our brain; Every thought we have “lights up” specific neurons and just like a muscle that’s used becomes stronger with use these neurons become stronger with every repetitive thought. Neural Darwinism is a principle of neuroscience stating that neural networks that no longer fire are subject to pruning; links between the neurons in the network are literally severed until the network becomes incapable of firing. This means that those neurons (thought patterns) can be collapsed! When we take steps to change our thinking we can feel and behave differently. Go to this page for booking information
Hypnosis and Neuro-Linguistic Programming provides various techniques to change patterns of thoughts; Additionally the person will learn techniques to access calm feelings whenever they need them. This provides a new resource for coping with the stresses of life. Hypnosis may also provide an opportunity for the person to address and heal from past traumatic experiences. For more information about hypnosis click here and for neuro-linguistic programming click here
The practice of Mindfulness meditation is also known to help a person be more aware of themselves, in particular about what they are saying to themselves and in most cases reduces stress, anxiety and depression. Click here to read my newsletter article about mindfulness meditation.
Contact me today if you would like to make a booking to begin the steps of recovery.