Eating Disorders: What Are They and How Are They Treated?

An eating disorder is a serious mental health disorder that can have dangerous implications for those affected. This complex condition requires a comprehensive treatment programme, provided by fully-trained professionals with experience in dealing with the emotional and psychological issues that can contribute to illness. If you are struggling with an eating disorder or food addiction, Banbury Lodge can help. We have a team of therapists with specialist knowledge of how to treat all types of ED.

What Is an Eating Disorder?

An unhealthy attitude to food and a change in eating habits as a result of this attitude are the main characteristics of an eating disorder. However, it is important to remember that not all food disorders are the same. There are several types of eating disorder and food addiction, and symptoms can differ dramatically. Nonetheless, each condition is a serious mental health problem that can have disastrous consequences if left untreated.

If you are suffering from an eating disorder or if you are worried about someone you love, you should know that food disorders can be treated. With the right programme provided by those with experience of the condition, it is entirely possible that you can go on to recover fully and learn how to develop a healthy relationship with food once more.

Types of Eating Disorders

Not all eating disorders are the same; some are related to the severe restriction of food while others centre around binge eating and a loss of control in terms of the amount of food eaten. What they all have in common though is the fact that they can have a severe impact on mental and physical health and require treatment as soon as possible before they spiral out of control. Below are a few examples of types of eating disorder:

  • Bulimia Nervosa – Bulimia nervosa, or bulimia as it is more commonly known, is a condition whereby those affected will cycle through periods of binge eating followed by purging. During bingeing sessions, bulimics will consume a large quantity of food over a very short period. They tend to binge in secret and will feel guilt and shame afterwards, causing them to try to purge themselves of the excess calories consumed. Purging can take the form of making themselves vomit, taking laxatives, or exercising excessively.
  • Anorexia Nervosa – Anorexics have a distorted body image and see themselves differently to how others do. They tend to restrict the number of calories they consume, with some cutting out entire food groups. They tend to avoid any foods that they see as being fattening, and some will also exercise excessively and take laxatives in a bid to keep their body weight as low as possible.
  • Binge Eating Disorder – BED is a condition whereby sufferers will consume copious quantities of food over a very short period. However, unlike bulimics, they will not purge themselves afterwards. Many lose control when they are eating and will only stop when they are physically sick.

Who Is Affected?

There is a common belief that eating disorders affect only teenage girls, but this is not true. Stereotyping can be particularly dangerous because if the affected person perceives that she (or he) does not fit the profile, it might be the case that this person believes that she/he is not affected or that she/he cannot get such a condition.

The reality is that eating disorders can affect anyone no matter how old they are, what their gender is or their background. Age and gender cannot be used to rule out a diagnosis. Reports have suggested that children as young as seven have been affected, and while the majority of those who are affected do tend to be girls between the age of twelve and twenty, young boys, men, and older women also suffer. In fact, a quarter of those affected by eating disorders in the UK is male.

Do I Have an Eating Disorder?

It is difficult to accept that there is a problem and many of those affected will fiercely contest the suggestion that they do have one. Some eating disorders are easier to spot than others. For example, anorexics tend to have a very low body weight, which could (should) raise alarm bells for loved ones.

On the flip-side, bulimics tend to have a steady body weight and, as such, their condition can often go unnoticed for much longer. In the case of a binge eating disorder, weight gain cannot be a definitive sign, so family members and friends will usually need more evidence if they are concerned. Moreover, with weight being such a sensitive topic, broaching the subject can be difficult.

If your loved ones have raised concerns about your eating habits and your attitude towards food, you are likely to have denied a problem in the first instance; most people do. Nevertheless, now that you have had time to consider their concerns, you might be more willing to entertain the idea. It is likely that you are aware deep down that something is not quite right. Below are the signs of the various eating disorders. If you can identify with some of these then it is probably time for you to speak to someone about getting help.

  • Do you eat copious quantities of food over a short space of time?
  • Do you binge eat in secret?
  • Do you eat until you are physically sick or uncomfortably full?
  • Do you avoid eating with others or pretend that you have already eaten?
  • Do you try to get rid of food that you have eaten by making yourself sick or by taking laxatives?
  • Do you starve yourself between food binges?
  • Do you restrict foods that you believe to be fattening or bad for you?
  • Have you lost a lot of weight recently? Or has your weight increased dramatically?
  • Do you lose control over your eating at times?
  • Are you obsessed with food? Do you think about it all the time?
  • Do you have an intense fear of gaining weight?
  • Do you feel that you need to lose more weight despite others telling you to eat more?

You should know that an eating disorder is unlikely to go away by itself. Treatment is necessary to help you identify and challenge the negative thought patterns that are affecting the way you see food.

What Effects Will an Eating Disorder Have on My Life?

The physical and mental effects that an eating disorder can have are serious and need to be addressed as soon as possible. How you are affected will typically depend on the type you are suffering with. Below are some examples of what to expect from each:

Anorexia

  • Dry skin that has a yellowish tint
  • Muscle weakness
  • Brittle nails and hair
  • Constipation
  • Low blood pressure
  • Slow breathing and pulse
  • Low body temperature
  • Loss of energy
  • Fine hair growth all over body
  • Reproduction problems
  • Anaemia
  • Osteoporosis
  • Organ failure

Bulimia

  • Swollen glands in the neck and jaw
  • Sore throat from excessive vomiting
  • Tooth decay and worn enamel from persistent vomiting
  • Calluses on the back of hands from making yourself vomit
  • Gastrointestinal problems such as acid reflux
  • Severe dehydration
  • Electrolyte imbalance that can lead to heart problems or stroke

Binge Eating Disorder

  • Obesity
  • Heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Low self-esteem
  • Depression
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Anxiety

Why Do I Have an ED?

Why some individuals develop an eating disorder when others do not is difficult to answer. In some people, there may be a particular trigger such as a comment about the weight that can cause the condition to spiral out of control, whereas with others, there may be no obvious cause.

Eating disorders are complex conditions and pinpointing an exact cause can be a challenge. In many cases, there will be a combination of events that have led to the problem developing. Nonetheless, there are certain risk factors that can increase a person’s likelihood of developing an unhealthy attitude towards food.

For example, those who have a family history of an eating disorder have a higher risk of developing one themselves. The same is true if there is a family history of mental health problems or substance misuse.

Eating disorders have long been linked to social pressure to look a certain way, and for some, this can be the contributing factor. Those who have a job where being a certain weight is the norm, such as modelling, ballet dancing, athletics or being a jockey, may find that they are overly concerned with staying slim, which can lead to certain eating disorders manifesting.

Others will turn to food for comfort in a bid to help them deal with difficult life situations. Traumatic experiences can also raise the risk of eating disorders. Those who have lost a loved one or have been the victim of abuse may use food as a comfort, or they may try to control their consumption because they feel they have no control over other aspects of their lives.

Can My Condition Be Treated?

If you are suffering from an eating disorder, you should access help as soon as possible. The good news is that you do not have to continue suffering in this way. Expert counsellors and therapists can help you to develop healthy relationships with food.

The importance of treating an eating disorder can never be understated. Without help, your condition may go on to have a serious negative impact on your health and your relationships with family members and friends.

However, if you are ready to get help and are prepared to work with professionals who want to see you get well again, you have every chance of a successful recovery. With the right programme and support from your loved ones, you can learn how to go on to live a healthier and happier life that is not controlled by food.

If your condition is severe, it may be necessary for you to enter a residential facility where you can get the help you need to tackle your illness head-on. Here at Banbury Lodge, we have a team of experts who are experienced in helping people to overcome eating disorders such as bulimia, anorexia and binge eating disorder.

Through a personalised programme of care that is likely to include treatments such as individual and group counselling, our team can help you to get better. We use various therapies like cognitive behavioural therapy to help you identify the negative thought processes that have led you to this point. We can then help you to challenge your negative thought processes with the aim of developing new positive alternatives.

As part of your rehabilitation programme with Banbury Lodge, you will learn the importance of a healthy diet. With nutritional education, you can develop knowledge of the importance of all food groups and why restricting calorie intake can have a severe impact on your health.

Can You Help My Family?

Our treatment programmes include a family recovery programme that will help your loved ones to deal with any issues that have arisen as a result of your illness. If there are any issues within your family unit that have contributed to your eating disorder developing, these can also be addressed during family therapy.

Your family members will be encouraged to attend counselling and therapy sessions during your treatment programme. These sessions may be in a one-to-one setting with your counsellor or perhaps be in a group setting with other family members and yourself in attendance.

How Can I Access Treatment?

If you are ready to put your eating disorder behind you for good, please call us today. We can provide an assessment of your situation and, if you are ready, can arrange for admission to our clinic quickly and easily.

Banbury Lodge is set in the beautiful Oxfordshire countryside and benefits from a peaceful and therapeutic environment. We have a team of fully trained staff members who work around-the-clock to provide care and support to all patients.

Our clinic has an onsite gym where you can focus on your mental and physical health, and we include a range of holistic therapies in our programmes such as yoga, mindfulness, massage, and art therapy, all of which will help to improve your overall wellbeing.

To access our treatment programmes, all you need do is get in touch with us today.

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