Eating Disorders

Esteem Therapy, LLC

Eating disorders destroy quality of life and damage self-esteem. Recognizing symptoms and finding appropriate treatment offers hope for freedom from the grips of an eating disorder.

If you or someone you love is suffering with an eating disorder seeking treatment is essential. Eating disorders left untreated will progress. An eating disorder is a serious mental health illness with disturbances in eating behaviors and disturbances in cognition and emotional states. Individuals who develop an eating disorder have an unhealthy preoccupation with food and body size, weight, or shape.

How long have you been suffering?

Feelings of shame often lead to attempts to hide eating disorder behaviors, to avoid others knowing the truth of its existence.

How often have you hidden the truth from people you love to avoid feelings of shame or embarrassment?

Do you find yourself desperately wanting to recover from the eating disorder while also having urges to engage with the eating disorder behaviors?

You have likely promised yourself and others many times that you are done with the eating disorder only to find yourself pulled back into its merciless hold.

Help is available. You are not alone. You do not have to continue suffering in silence.

Make yourself a priority.
Reach out and learn how to Esteem Therapy can help.

Anorexia Nervosa (AN)

Anorexia nervosa presents with restricting food intake resulting in weight loss or failure to gain weight. This leads to a significantly low body weight for individual’s age, sex and height. AN is accompanied with body distortion and an irrational fear of gaining weight, as well as being unaware of seriousness of current low body weight.

Bulimia Nervosa (BN)

Bulimia nervosa presents with uncontrolled binge episodes followed by compensatory behavior, such as purging, often occurring several times a week or many times a day. Individuals with BN experience an inability to stop or prevent binge episodes usually resulting in deep feelings of shame, self-loathing and depression Weight can fluctuate from low to above normal body weight. Individuals with BN experience distorted body image and their worth is defined by body weight, shape and or size.

Binge Eating Disorder (BED)

Binge eating disorder presents with frequent episodes of excessive overeating, in a short period of time and usually when not hungry. Binge episodes are often followed by overwhelming emotions of guilt, shame, self-loathing. Individuals who binge eat feel they cannot control how much they eat; normal signals of hunger and satiation is replaced with overpowering compulsion to eat vast amounts of food. Binge eating often occurs even when not feeling hungry and often eating to the point of being in physical pain. Episodes of binging are not followed by purging but often result in going long periods restricting food intake or low-calorie dieting.

Binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder affecting more people than anorexia and bulimia. Research reveals that in the United States 3.5% of women and 2% of men have binge eating disorder.

Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED)

This is a term applied when eating disorder symptoms do not meet the maximum for clinical diagnosis. This may include having all symptoms of anorexia but with normal body weight, or an individual with symptoms of bulimia nervosa who is not engaging in binge or purge episode as often as expected.

Unspecified Feeding or Eating Disorder (UFED)

This is a term used when eating disorder symptoms do not meet full criteria for any eating disorders but do cause significant dysfunction and distress reducing quality of life.

Emotional Eating

Emotional eating presents as eating not to satisfy physical hunger but to comfort, avoid feeling negative emotions or reward yourself. Emotional hunger often presents suddenly and with a specific craving. Eating emotionally, like binge eating, is eating past the point of feeling full and attempting to escape feeling negative emotions. Emotional eating often involves eating unhealthy foods, high sugar foods and other comfort foods. Individuals engage in emotional eating to feel better or fill an emotional void. Emotional eating does NOT fix emotional issues but instead creates more pain. Individuals have reported after eating emotionally the problem still exists and is layered with guilt and shame.

Eating Disorder Health Risks

Emotional and Psychological Health Risks

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Body dysmorphia
  • Substance use, addiction
  • Loneliness, isolation
  • Low self-esteem

Common Psychological Signs

  • Preoccupied with food, weight, dieting, calories, thinness, body size, and specific body parts
  • Fears gaining weight or becoming “fat”
  • Obsessed with being healthy and eating health foods
  • Feels distressed if can’t follow diet or exercise plan
  • Fears eating certain foods
  • Consistently feels guilty, shame, embarrassment after eating
  • Uses food to numb distressing emotions
  • Perfectionistic, especially with respect to food, eating, and body image
  • Black-and-white thinking, especially with respect to food, eating, and body image

Binge Eating Health Risks

  • Weight gain, obesity
  • Insomnia, sleep apnea
  • Type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance
  • Gallbladder disease
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Cancer
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Kidney disease
  • Stroke
  • Fertility problems

Purging and Restricting Health Risks

  • Significantly underweight or overweight, not accounted for by medical complications
  • Dehydration & electrolyte imbalance
  • Frequent dizzy fainting spells
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Swollen glands around the cheek and jawbone due to self-induced vomiting
  • Consistently cold hands and feet, even in warm temperatures
  • Amenorrhea - irregular or absent menses
  • Stomach pains
  • Frequent bloating, constipation, diarrhea
  • Dry and or brittle hair, nails, skin, and lips
  • Frequently complain of sore throat
  • Esophagus damage
  • Acid reflux
  • Tooth enamel damage & discoloration
  • Edema (swollen legs and feet)
  • Frequent skin problems on face
  • Heart muscle damage
  • Low blood pressure
  • Muscle paralysis
  • Kidney damage or failure
  • Convulsions, seizures
  • Liver damage or failure
  • Loss of bone density (i.e., osteopenia, osteoporosis)
  • Fertility problems

Common personality traits that occur with an eating disorder

  • Perfectionism: strive to do things perfectly, look perfect, appear perfect to others while constantly feeling as though efforts are NEVER good enough
  • People-Pleaser: pre-occupied with meeting others’ needs before meeting one’s own needs; difficulty saying “No” for fear of disappointing or upsetting others
  • Impulsive: often do not think things through and more likely to make careless decisions; this may present in risk-taking behaviors, stealing, and/or shoplifting
  • Dichotomous Thinking: categorize things into opposites; black-and-white thinking; all-or-nothing such as food is either “good” or “bad”
  • Hypersensitive: extremely sensitive to how others treat you and react to you; easily flustered when you think others might be dissatisfied with you
Esteem Therapy, LLC
Esteem Therapy, LLC

How to Support a Loved One, Who Suffers from an Eating Disorder

  • Eating disorders are not about food. An eating disorder develops as an attempt to protect an individual from distressing emotions. Avoid commenting on what your loved one should or should not eat, how they look, what they need to do to be healthy. Focus on how they feel, how you can support him or her and what he or she needs to feel supported.
  • You are not to blame. Eating disorders are influenced by genetic, biological and environmental triggers. No one person or experience is the only cause. While you may have had some influence in the development of the eating disorder, that alone did NOT cause the eating disorder. Put your energy into creating a healthy relationship with your loved one and creating a safe place for recovery.
  • Recovery is a long and winding road. Be patient. Treatment for an eating disorder typically takes many years. Full recovery requires ongoing treatment provided by a qualified eating disorder therapist. Interrupting and stopping eating disorder behaviors is one step on the journey to full recovery. Working through the emotional pain is essential as well. Do not pressure your loved one to recover quickly. Struggle is normal in recovery and fear of recovery is also a normal part of healing. Recovery is not linear.
  • Knowledge is power. Educate yourself. This will empower you and help you understand what your loved one is experiencing.
  • Participate in treatment. If invited your participation in your loved one’s treatment can be extremely beneficial to recovery.
  • Medication can help. Eating disorders are rooted in an anxiety disorder and often co-occur with other mental health disorders such as depression. Anti-depressants, mood stabilizers can significantly improve the individual’s ability to cope with eating disorder symptoms and their ability to apply coping skills learned. Taking medication for several months can help on the road to recovery.
  • Things may get worse before they get better. In order to achieve full recovery from an eating disorder, emotional triggers must be examined, and new healthy and effective coping skills must be learned and practiced. Eating disorder symptoms can persist or re-surface while distressing emotions rise. Many individuals fall back into eating disorder behaviors temporarily or intermittently because they used to work. Recovery is not always marked by behavior, but by a willingness to examine painful problems that hide beneath the eating disorder.
  • You may also need support. Supporting your loved one through recovery can be exhausting. You may feel confused, angry, shocked, anxious, frightened, sad and hopeless. It is crucial that you have a safe space to express all your feelings. This permits you to be emotionally available for your loved one during recovery.
  • Your loved one is NOT their eating disorder. The eating disorder is separate from them, has shown up in their life, and is damaging their health and their relationship with self. Focus on your loved one’s character and their “true-to-self” attributes. Remind them they are so much more than the eating disorder and how much they are loved.
  • Full recovery is possible. People can and do achieve full recovery and go forward enjoying their lives. Competent quality treatment allows your loved one to release worry and pre-occupation about food, how he or she looks and about his or her body weight, shape and or size. Recovery means feeling happy and no longer being burdened by unbearable emotional pain.