Eating disorders are defined by three primary characteristics: unhealthy or unnatural dietary practices, an intense preoccupation with weight and physical appearance, and an inability to control food consumption behavior.
Many people attempt to make changes in their diets as a way to lose a few pounds or overcome chronic obesity. Many of these individuals also turn to exercise to help them reach their weight loss goals.
But when carried to an extreme, frequent dieting can lead to food and exercise obsessions and eventually to an eating disorder. For eating disorder victims, food becomes the enemy as well as the center of their existence, turning one of the most naturally pleasurable experiences in the world (eating) into a source of distress and misery.
These are the four categories of eating disorder:
Binge eating disorder (BED)
Other specified feeding or eating disorder (OSFED)
In the early stages of an eating disorder you may have difficulty identifying the troublesome attitudes and behavior, in yourself or in others. Dieting is common and everyone becomes preoccupied with their weight, health and appearance from time to time.
Here are some symptoms to watch for that will let you know when calorie-counting has transformed into something more worrisome:
Binge Eating Disorder:
Anorexia is generally considered the most hazardous type of eating disorder, and that reputation is well deserved. Prolonged calorie deprivation is a form of malnutrition that can have a devastating effect on the human body.
If you suffer from anorexia nervosa, you are at risk of:
The unnatural food consumption practices and traumatic purging incidents that define bulimia nervosa have a devastating long-term effect on the body.
If left untreated bulimia nervosa can cause:
Binge eating is a cause of obesity and all the physical and emotional health problems that go with it. Those who are unable to control their binging face an elevated risk for:
While these factors don’t necessarily cause eating disorders to develop (in some cases they may be effects rather than causes), they are common among those who suffer from these conditions.
Women of all ages comprise 60 percent, 80 percent and 90 percent of binge eating disorder, bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa sufferers respectively.
(National Comorbidity Survey)
Over 50 percent of teen girls and 30 percent of teen boys will use unhealthy weight control practices at some point (i.e., smoking, fasting, purging, etc.).
(Journal of Pediatric Psychiatry)
Approximately 20 percent of all “normal” dieters will eventually develop some type of eating disorder.
(International Journal of Eating Disorders)
Men and women with eating disorders are 4-5 times more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol than the general population.
(The Journal of) Addictive Behaviors)
Approximately half of all eating disorder victims have a history of substance abuse, either simultaneously with or prior to the development anorexia, bulimia, BED or OSFED.
In some instances the use of drugs or alcohol may be a coping mechanism designed to relieve the stress, guilt and embarrassment that eating disorder sufferers feel. But other times those with eating disorders will begin drinking or using certain drugs because they believe those substances will suppress their appetites, speed up their metabolism or give them more stamina for exercise.
Ultimately both substance abuse and eating disorders thrive where self-esteem and a positive self-image are lacking. Chemical dependency may be the result when those who feel lost, helpless and alone turn to drugs and alcohol as a way to escape from their feelings of inadequacy.
When an eating disorder or substance abuse problem reaches the crisis stage, hospitalization in the former case and detox is the latter may be required. Serious physical complications can result from either type of illness and those situations will always take first priority.
Once the patient’s condition has stabilized, he or she will be enrolled in an integrated treatment program specially designed for those with a dual diagnosis of substance abuse and a mental health disorder. Psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, physicians, nurses and addiction treatment counselors may all be asked to contribute to the development of the healing plan, depending on the unique circumstances of the patient’s situation.
Each person’s program for recovery from co-occurring disorders will include diverse services like individual psychotherapy, peer group meetings, family therapy, lifestyle improvement courses and various health-promoting activities patients can continue to practice after their stints in rehab are finished. Nutritional counseling is often added to treatment program involving an eating disorder, since it is vital that men and women in recovery adopt substantially different dietary habits to support their healing process.
Because self-esteem issues lie at the root of addiction and eating disorders, much of the counseling patients receive will place great emphasis on rebuilding their sense of empowerment and self-respect.
If you come to a Footprints BHC to get treatment for both an eating disorder and drug or alcohol addiction, you will be in good, skilled and caring hands.
A multi-disciplinary team of health care professionals will watch over you throughout your entire stay. Following hospitalization and detox (if you need them) you’ll receive the highest-quality, evidence-based dual diagnosis treatment services available. Your healing regimen will be individually customized and completely coordinated to make sure your eating disorder is acknowledged and addressed as aggressively and compassionately as your substance abuse issues.
During individual, group and family therapy you’ll strive to uncover the true reasons for your unhealthy and self-destructive behavior. You’ll also receive daily access to highly effective mind-body healing techniques that will aid you tremendously as you seek personal transcendence and transformation. Our nutritional healing and therapy services should be especially helpful and productive, as you attempt to move beyond your history of dysfunctional eating.
“At Footprints BHC we’ll show you how to embrace a healthy and life-affirming approach to problem-solving and stress management. We’ll help you cultivate the positive energy and unconquerable attitude of hope you need to make a lasting recovery from your co-occurring disorders.”
– Nick Russi, Co-Founder