Eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and binge eating are common.

Anorexia and bulimia are a by-product of an image obsessed society, where we are constantly confronted by images of slim, airbrushed models and bombarded with advertisements for new diets and other weight loss tools. Binge eating is a stress response to a fast-paced modern world and can cause serious self-esteem issues when a sufferer gains large amounts of weight.

What are eating disorders?

Eating disorders occur when an individual eats in a damaging way. They may restrict calorie intake through starvation or purging, regularly consume more than their recommended daily calorie intake, or even insist on only eating one type of food. Three key eating disorders are anorexia, bulimia and binge eating.

What is anorexia?

Anorexia (or anorexia nervosa) involves depriving the body of calories in an effort to lose weight. Anorexia symptoms include rapid weight loss, tiredness, lethargy, thinning hair on the head, brittle and discoloured fingernails, increased body hair and irregular or absent menstrual periods. Anorexics often engage in excessive exercise, too, in an attempt to burn off calories. Anorexics tend to avoid sitting down to eat with others, making frequent excuses to miss family meals or dining out with friends. Causes of anorexia are usually related to body image, but can also, as with bulimia, represent a deep-seated need for a sufferer to have control over one aspect of their life in situations where they feel the rest of their life has spiralled out of their control.

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What is bulimia?

Bulimia suffers typically binge on food and then make themselves vomit or consume laxatives so that they do not absorb any calories from it. Anorexics may also display signs of bulimia and vice versa. Like anorexia sufferers, bulimia sufferers also commonly use intense exercise regimes to burn off more calories. Bulimia sufferers are often not as underweight as anorexics, but many of the other symptoms are similar. Vomiting can also cause damage to teeth and acid reflux and other issues with the digestive system. Bulimia sufferers will often eat with others, but disappear to the bathroom soon afterwards to purge.

What is binge eating disorder?

Binge eating is the practice of eating so much that you feel overfull and often nauseous. Binge eaters frequently hide food and plan binges in advance. The main symptom of binge eating is rapid weight gain, to the point where a sufferer’s weight is unhealthily high and often falls within the “obese” range.

How do I know if I have an eating disorder?

Am I eating too much? Am I eating too little? If the answer to either of these questions is “Yes”, then you may have an eating disorder. The recommended daily calorie intake to maintain a steady weight for an adult male is 2500 calories. For an adult female it is 2000 calories. Eating disorders affect women to a greater degree than men, but there are still many men who suffer from them. If you notice any of the symptoms listed in the previous section in a loved one, it may be time to intervene.

What can I do about my eating disorder?

Talking therapy is very effective in the treatment of eating disorders. Our Online Therapy Clinic eating disorder therapists can help you identify the causes of your eating disorder, analyse the feelings and situations which lead to your disordered eating, identify triggers, help improve your self-image and work with you to develop coping strategies.

For more information call 0753 718 1090 or email [email protected]. To book a Virtual Therapy appointment with the Online Therapy Company, please fill in the online booking form.

Author – Dr Aisha Ali – DPsych Couns Psych, ADOS 2 Certified B.Psych (Hons)

Dr Aisha Ali is a highly experienced BPS Chartered Counselling Psychologist and Expert witness with over 15 years experience of working within the NHS in complex care and private practice. She has extensive experience of working with individuals, couples and families presenting with complex psychological and emotional issues. Aisha provides life and performance coaching.

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