Eating disorders are considered an illness, most commonly affecting women between the ages 12 and 25. Unfortunately, eating disorders are very common in our society: 30 million people in the United States are facing an eating disorder; 10 million of those are men. While there are various forms of eating disorders, an eating disorder is generally described as an individual with problematic, unhealthy eating behaviors as a direct result of thoughts and emotions. Generally, eating disorders describe an obsession with food and body weight, rarely aligned with reality.
People with eating disorders use food and their body weight as a way to deal with thoughts and emotions. Instead of dealing with the thoughts and emotions directly, an individual with an eating disorder develops abnormal eating habits and behaviors and controls their body weight to alleviate emotional discomfort and pain. The behaviors of the eating disorders vary, but there are three main types of eating disorders.
Anorexia is characterized by restricted eating, and is technically diagnosed when a patient weighs 15% less than the normal weight for their height. Those with anorexia have a massive fear of appearing overweight, and suffer with body weight issues. They are chronically underweight as a result of undereating, often paired with obsessive exercise. Overtime, anorexia can create serious health problems, including hormonal imbalances, osteoporosis, low blood pressure, thinning hair, and dry, dull skin. If it goes untreated, anorexia can create irreparable damage on the body.
Bulimia is characterized by repetitive binge eating, followed by purging (throwing up) or the use of a laxative. Usually, those with bulimia are restricting their food intake and exercising heavily. For various reasons, like emotional stress or starvation, the individual will binge eat, consuming sometimes thousands of calories in a single sitting. Binge eating lends a feeling of being out of control, triggering purging or laxative use to bring the individual back into perceived control. The binge eating and purge cycle repeats several times a week, or several times a day if severe. Those suffering from bulimia can usually hide it well, as they are often normal weight or even slightly overweight as a result of binge eating. Bulimia has extremely detrimental effects on the body, at the most extreme including esophageal tears, gastric rupture, and cardiac arrhythmias.
Binge Eating Disorder
Those who struggle with binge eating consume large amounts of food in a short amount of time while feeling out of control. Binge eating disorder is diagnosed when frequent overeating is associated with eating quickly, eating until uncomfortably full, eating large amounts of food even though not hungry, eating alone out of embarrassment, and feeling guilty about the amount of food being eaten. Over time, binge eating leads to health problems such as severe obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular conditions.
The treatment of eating disorders has much to do with the relationship between the eating disorders and emotions. In treating eating disorders, the most important part is helping the patient return to physical health — returning to healthy weight, interrupting the binge-purge cycle, and stopping binge eating. As physical health is restored, the emotional causes underneath the disorder can be addressed and treated.
Colorado CBT is a clinic that helps residents in Denver treat their eating disorders, with treatment modalities such as ACT, CBT, and EFFT. Our practitioners specialize in working with those suffering from all eating disorders. Our treatment approach is strongly influenced by the “8 Keys to Recovery from an Eating Disorder.” These keys come from a book called, 8 Keys to Recovery From an Eating Disorder: Effective Strategies From Therapeutic Practice and Personal Experience, by Carolyn Costin and Gwen Schubert Grabb. To discuss eating disorders and treatments, reach out to make an appointment.