Understanding Eating Disorders

understanding eating disorders

With school starting back, we thought it would appropriate to discuss understanding eating disorders. The pressure of being back in school can sometimes be a trigger for some kids and teens. Let’s dive into the facts.

Understanding Eating Disorders

It is estimated that 3% of adolescent females have an eating disorder. This means that in an average high school in the United States made up of 1,000 students, 30 of these female students are suffering from a significant eating disorder.  Males can also suffer from eating disorders, although eating disorders are more common in females.

Waters Edge Counseling has therapists trained and experienced in helping those suffering from eating disorders. Our counselors can assist you with coping skills and teach you ways to discontinue the harmful behaviors.

Symptoms of eating disorders vary, depending on the type of eating disorder, but if one’s primary concern is control of food, dieting, weight loss, and body image, he or she may be moving from just being concerned about weight and food choices into a full blown eating disorder.  Wanting to stay physically fit, trim, and healthy are great goals, but for those with eating disorders, these goals become an obsession that takes over their lives.

There are some common myths, however, surrounding eating disorders. Let’s take a look at some of those.

Eating Disorders and Some Common Myths

Myth 1: Eating Disorders only Affect Teenage Girls Who End Up Underweight

Eating Disorders can occur in anyone. Any gender, body size, or age. Eating disorders are diagnosed more and more in young kids of both genders. Not to mention in adults of both genders. People of any body size can also develop eating disorders. Since eating disorder behaviors can sometimes look similar to typical “dieting” behaviors, it can be difficult to identify eating disorders in people who claim to just be dieting.

Recovering from Eating Disorders

Myth 2: I would Notice if Someone I Care About was Vomiting or Undereating

Those suffering with eating disorders can be extremely capable of hiding their behaviors. This happens because those affected by an eating disorder may feel ashamed of what they are doing. They may also fear that someone will make them stop if they are found out. What can be clues of an eating disorder?

Obsession with food, fear of eating in front of people, or making excuses for not eating are some. Also eating only “safe” or “healthy” foods, elaborate food rituals, disappearing (often to the bathroom), and excessive exercise can be signs. Moving food around on the plate to make it appear like they are eating it, among many others, can be tip-offs that someone might be struggling with an eating disorder.

Myth 3: Eating Disorders are a Choice and Those Suffering Just need to be Reminded of their Worth

Eating disorders are complex medical and psychiatric illnesses that don’t have just one cause. Five different eating disorders are defined by the American Psychiatric Association:

  1. Anorexia Nervosa
  2. Bulimia Nervosa
  3. Binge Eating Disorder (BED)
  4. Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)
  5. Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED).

People who develop eating disorders also often deal with other mental health concerns. These can include major depression, anxiety, social phobia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Increasingly, societal factors such as body ideals portrayed in the media, and real life factors such as life stress and bullying. This perfect storm can cause an illness that affects how a person perceives and uses food to manipulate their body and condition.

eating disorder treatment

What Can I Do?

So, what’s the answer? If you are concerned or find that you or someone in your life is struggling with an eating disorder, the first step can be difficult.

Waters Edge Counseling suggests taking them to a physician or encouraging them to seek a medical evaluation. In addition to medical care, recovery also usually includes working with a dietitian as well as a mental health professional.

We urge you to give us a call if you need support – we are well-trained in helping those with eating disorders, and we’re here to help.