Eating Disorders

Many people throughout the UK are suffering from an unhealthy attitude towards food and that could be classed as an eating disorder. Those who are suffering from an eating disorder may be excessively focused on their body shape or weight and, as a result, may then make unhealthy choices when it comes to what they will and will not eat.

Eating disorders affect a person in many ways. These are serious conditions that affect an individual's physical, emotional and mental health. The good news is that eating disorders can be treated and that those affected can make a full recovery. However, the longer these conditions are left untreated, the more severe they become and the greater the consequences to both physical and mental wellbeing.

At Recovery Lighthouse, we have counsellors and therapists with expertise in treating patients suffering from eating disorders. We understand that this is a complex illness that requires a great deal of care and attention. Our aim is to get to the root of the problem and to provide patients with the tools required to overcome their condition.

We believe that those with eating disorders have the capability to make a full recovery and to live a life that is no longer dominated by their fear of food.

Who is Affected by Eating Disorders

Both men and women can be affected by eating disorders. According to the B-eat website, more than 725,000 people across the UK are suffering from an eating disorder and, unfortunately, these disorders affect individuals of all ages, with some sufferers as young as seven.

The reality, though, is that eating disorders tend to affect females more than males but both can be affected, as discussed previously, and both need to be treated. Men tend to be less likely to seek treatment for an eating disorder because of the fact that it is generally seen as a condition affecting women.

Types of Eating Disorders

There are many different types of eating disorders, but the ones that most commonly affect people are:

  • anorexia nervosa
  • bulimia nervosa
  • binge eating disorder.

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa sufferers do not eat sufficient amounts of food to get the energy and nutrition their body needs. Most people assume that anorexia is related to dieting or trying to be slim, but it is more to do with low self-esteem or intense feelings of distress.

Anorexia is a serious condition that can be fatal if untreated. Those who suffer from this mental health illness may restrict their intake of food to dangerous levels, possibly leading to malnutrition and death. These individuals often use laxatives to rid their bodies of the food that they have eaten and exercise excessively in a bid to prevent them putting on any weight.

Anorexics are often painfully thin, but cannot see this for themselves. The way they see their body is completely different to the way that others see them. The affected individual may also become secretive and try to hide the fact that they are not eating.

Signs of Anorexia

Below are a few of the behavioural symptoms associated with anorexia:

  • Obsessive pursuit of being thin
  • Being preoccupied with body image or weight
  • Lying about the amount of food that has been eaten
  • Lying about the amount of weight lost
  • Restricting entire food groups
  • Obsessive counting of calories
  • Missing meals
  • Not eating with others
  • Vomiting or using laxatives
  • Exercising excessively.

Physical signs of anorexia:

  • Weight loss
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Loss of libido
  • Constipation
  • Bloating
  • Stomach pains
  • Low body temperature
  • Dizziness
  • Fine downy hair on the body

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia nervosa is another type of eating disorder, but this particular disorder causes sufferers to binge on large quantities of food in one sitting. Many bulimics will eat when they are feeling worried or sad but after the binge eating will feel ashamed or guilty and try to purge themselves by making themselves sick or taking laxatives.

As with anorexia, bulimia is a serious condition that can lead to physical and mental health consequences. Constant bingeing and purging can take its toll on the body and those with bulimia often lose control of their eating habits. They tend to hide their behaviour from others; because their weight often stays steady, it is difficult for others to realise that there is a problem. Bulimics are generally unhappy and tend to suffer from low self-esteem. A large number of them self-harm as well.

Signs of Bulimia

Below are a few of the behavioural signs associated with bulimia:

  • Bingeing
  • Purging
  • Excessive exercising
  • Using laxatives
  • Missing meals
  • Becoming obsessed with food
  • Obsession with body shape and weight
  • Lying about food intake
  • Disappearing after eating food.

Physical signs of bulimia:

  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Constipation
  • Bloating
  • Stomach pain
  • Swollen hands or feet
  • Irregular periods
  • Constantly changing weight.

Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating disorder is becoming more common of the eating disorders in the UK. Those who suffer from this disorder will eat large quantities of food in a short space of time, despite not being hungry. They have no control over their eating and tend to use food as an emotional support.

Binge eaters regularly lose control over the amount they eat and are compelled to continue eating even when full. They tend to eat in private and may experience feelings of disgust or guilt after a bingeing episode. The difference between binge eaters and bulimics is that they do not purge themselves afterwards. For that reason, they tend to be overweight or obese.

Binge eating is dangerous as it can lead to obesity and health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.

Causes of Eating Disorders

There is no single cause of eating disorders although many blame the media for putting pressure on people to be thin. Nonetheless, the reality is that, in most cases, the cause is a lot more complicated. There are many factors that can contribute to a person's likelihood of developing an eating disorder; below are a few examples:

  • Family History: Those with a family history of eating disorders are more likely to develop one themselves. Eating disorders also tend to be more prevalent in those with a family history of substance misuse or depression.
  • Societal Pressure: In many instances, the pressure to be thin can influence a person's risk of developing an eating disorder. Those who are criticised for their weight, body shape or eating habits have an increased risk, as do those under pressure to be thin for a job such as modelling, ballet dancing, or athletics.
  • Mental Health: Individuals with an anxiety disorder, an obsessive personality, or low self-esteem are more likely to develop eating disorders.
  • Traumatic Experiences: Some people develop unhealthy eating habits after an especially stressful situation. It could be the death of a loved one or abuse of some kind. Some will develop an eating disorder because of stress at home, school or work.

Treating Eating Disorders

Recovery Lighthouse knows that treating eating disorders is a complex process that requires time and effort. Unlike other conditions, such as drug and alcohol addiction, abstinence is not an option as food must be a part of daily life.

Nevertheless, what is important is getting to the root of the problem and then teaching the patient to develop healthy attitudes towards food and eating. There are various tools we use to ensure that those with eating disorders are given the help they need to get better. These can include cognitive behavioural therapy, individual therapy, family therapy, dietary counselling, and medication.

It is important to remember that you can recover from an eating disorder; Recovery Lighthouse can help you to do this. We will tailor a treatment plan for your individual needs to ensure that you can begin to live a healthy and happy life again, a life in which food is not in control.

Sources:

  1. https://www.b-eat.co.uk/about-eating-disorders/types-of-eating-disorder
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