Eating Disorders are a complex combination of physical and psychological issues. Eating Disorders include Anorexia, Bulimia, Binge Eating Disorder and Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. An Eating Disorder usually starts with excessive dieting and disordered or unhealthy thinking about food and/or one’s body. People with eating disorders are obsessed with food in some way. They often feel that their behaviors are beyond their voluntary control and experience a significant level of self-critical, negative thoughts and feelings about body weight, body image and healthy food intake. Unhealthy eating habits and weight fluctuations may disrupt normal body function. The focus on appearance, body image, calories, and weight eventually affects all thoughts and behaviors resulting in serious physical problems such as anemia, heart palpitations, bone loss, tooth decay, and disruption of menstrual cycle. The obsession with food or body can also lead to a deterioration in relationships, concentration, emotional stability and daily functioning. Other disorders which are also frequently present for people with Eating Disorders include depression, anxiety and substance abuse.
Individuals sometimes have eating disorders for long periods of time before their family or friends suspect a problem. People with Eating Disorders are often aware that their behavior is abnormal and may withdraw from social contact, hiding their behavior and denying that their eating patterns are problematic. Family members and friends often feel confused about how to best help because feedback and advice is usually initially rejected or ignored. The individual may claim to want “help with dieting” but this is generally not the solution. Eating Disorders seldom stop without professional intervention and, when left untreated, can result in serious emotional and physical consequences.
Proper treatment for a person with an Eating Disorder can make a difference. Professional treatment should be sought when the eating behaviors start having a destructive impact on someone’s physical or mental health. Individuals with Eating Disorders are often very resistant to seek treatment, and families should be firmly encouraging and supportive in getting therapy started as soon as possible.
At Silber Psychological Services, our therapists have extensive experience in the treatment of eating disorders. A thorough evaluation and accurate diagnosis is the first step. When treatment is recommended, establishment of normal weight and healthy eating patterns is the priority. Psychological, social and family issues that may be contributing to the eating disorder are subsequently addressed. The therapist helps the client replace destructive, unhealthy thoughts, behaviors and coping strategies with positive and healthy ones. Therapists can also help family members to better understand the client’s disorder and learn new techniques for responding. A multidisciplinary team may often be needed to provide the best treatment results. Individual Therapy, Family Therapy, and Group Therapy often occur simultaneously. Some clients may benefit from medication. The process of recovery is usually long-term, difficult and fraught with complications, but the journey back to health can be very successful and enormously gratifying for client and family alike.