What Are Body Image and Eating Disorder Issues?

Eating disorders are about much more than food. Eating disorders often manifest from a need for control, family discord, genetic predispositions, societal pressures, illness, or other mental health issues.

No matter the cause, eating disorders take a detrimental toll on one’s body and overall health. Symptoms may include distorted body image, nutrient deficiencies, weight fluctuations, heart and brain damage, or even death, depending on the eating disorder type.

Eating disorders are also connected to several mental health-related ailments, including but not limited to low self-esteem and self-worth, anxiety, depression, shame, and perfectionism. While eating disorders are about more than food, food is how individuals with eating disorders cope with inadequacy feelings in the absence of more effective and adaptive coping methods. body image and eating disorder issues

What Are Different Types of Eating Disorders?

Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder associated with weight loss and distorted body image. Individuals with anorexia often restrict the number of calories and types of food they eat. They may feel ashamed of their body or their habits but have difficulty changing them.

Some symptoms of anorexia nervosa pose dangerous, long-term effects and include:

  • Severely restricting calories
  • Distorted body image
  • Intense fear of gaining weight
  • Low blood pressure
  • Heart and brain damage
  • Yellowing of skin
  • Fragile and brittle nails or hair
  • Feeling cold a lot
  • Fatigue
  • Death

Bulimia Nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by reoccurring binge-and-purge cycles. Individuals with bulimia may partake in frequent binge eating accompanied by drastic efforts to avoid weight gains through methods such as self-induced vomiting, laxative use, or excessive exercise. Those with bulimia may be underweight, overweight, or normal weight. Still, bulimia nervosa can cause severe damage to the digestive system and create harmful chemical imbalances in the body.

Symptoms of bulimia nervosa include:

  • Having a lack of control over the binge-and-purge cycle
  • Using laxatives or forcing yourself to throw up
  • Excessive fasting or exercise
  • Chronically swollen throat
  • Tooth erosion
  • Acid reflux
  • Dehydration
  • Irritation of intestines
  • Imbalance of electrolytes

Binge Eating Disorder is the most common eating disorder in the United States. Individuals with binge eating disorder frequently partake in binge-eating episodes consisting of large quantities of food in a short period, often leading to physical discomfort and pain. Binge-eating may be associated with a loss of control, followed by shame, distress, and guilt.  Unlike bulimia nervosa, people with binge eating disorder do not usually attempt to purge their bodies of food or calories.

Symptoms of binge eating disorder include:

  • Feeling a lack of control whenever you eat
  • Eating fast and continuing to eat even when full
  • Only eating alone to avoid feelings of embarrassment
  • Becoming overweight or obese
  • Feelings of guilt and shame around eating habits

Rumination Disorder is an eating disorder characterized by regurgitating previously chewed and swallowed food followed by rechewing and either re-swallowing or spitting out the food. This rumination typically occurs within the first 30 minutes after a meal. Unlike medical conditions like reflux, it’s voluntary.

Symptoms of rumination disorder include:

  • Effortless regurgitation, typically within 10 minutes of eating
  • Abdominal pain or pressure relieved by regurgitation
  • A feeling of fullness
  • Bad breath
  • Nausea
  • Weight loss

Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (AFRID) is an eating disorder characterized by troublesome eating due to disinterest in food in general or distaste of certain smells, tastes, colors, textures, or temperatures.

Symptoms of AFRID include:

  • Avoiding or restricting food, causing insufficient calories or nutrients
  • Eating behaviors that interfere with daily social functions, such as eating with others
  • Weight loss or underdevelopment for age and height
  • Nutrient deficiencies or dependence on supplements or tube feeding

Orthorexia is an eating disorder not officially listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders. Orthorexia is an eating disorder best characterized by an unhealthy focus on “clean and healthy” eating to the detriment of one’s health and overall wellbeing.

Warning signs and symptoms of orthorexia include:

  • Compulsive checks of  a food’s nutritional labels and ingredients
  • Increased focus on the health value of food and ingredients
  • Cutting out food groups considered “unhealthy or unsafe” (e.g., all sugar, all carbs, all dairy, all meat, etc.)
  • Refusal to eat any foods other than those narrowly defined as “healthy or pure”
  • Excessive focus on others’ diet and nutritional health
  • Body image concerns may or may not be present

Should I Seek Therapy for Eating Disorders?

No matter the type, eating disorders are challenging and take a detrimental toll on one’s health and overall life functioning. Wondering whether you or a family member should seek therapy for an eating disorder?

Below is a list of some of the most common signs of an eating disorder:

  • Preoccupation with food and calories
  • Excessive weight gain or loss in short periods
  • Embarrassment about food habits or eating in front of others
  • Obsession with food and preparation in a way that disrupts plans, relationships, work, etc.
  • Recurring patterns of binging and purging/restricting/exercising
  • Consistent disappointment with physical appearance, negative self-talk and put-downs, comparisons to others’ bodies, and avoidance of certain clothing types to hide body parts

If you or a family member exhibits one or more of the above symptoms, therapy can help.

What Are My Next Steps?

At Washington Psychological Wellness, we understand that overcoming an eating disorder can be challenging and overwhelming. Our eating disorder therapists have expertise in helping you establish a more adaptive and healthy relationship with food, yourself, and your body.

Your therapist will provide compassionate care delivered at a pace that feels safe and comfortable for you.

Our therapists value an integrative and holistic approach in care and will happily reach out to, collaborate, and coordinate care with a reliable treatment team, including dieticians, psychiatrists, or physicians. Through treatment, you will live a life authentic to your personal goals, needs, and aspirations.

Are you ready to seek therapy for an eating disorder?

Washington Psychological Wellness is here for you. Contact us now for a complimentary 15-minute initial consultation to learn how therapy for an eating disorder can help you! body image and eating disorder issues

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