mental health, therapy, counseling and psychology terms glossary

Eating Disorders

Individuals experiencing Eating Disorders have an obsessive focus on food and are critical of their bodies to an extent that affects their daily lives. Age, gender, genetics, stress, and even certain vocations can lend to an eating disorder. For example, a runner or gymnast may be more disposed to an eating disorder – teenagers and young adults struggling with social pressures or individuals experiencing divorce or career changes are also prone to developing problematic eating habits. These individuals are generally attempting to cope with their overwhelming feelings and painful emotions by controlling what they ingest.

There are several types of eating disorders with varied actions and effects. Anorexia Nervosa is a severe restriction of food and overexercising causing the individual to become very thin and malnourished. Bulimia Nervosa is a cycle of binging on large amounts of food then purging the calories by vomiting, laxatives, and excessive exercise. Binge Eating Disorder (BED) involves binge eating without purging and they can’t seem to stop eating even when overly full, then they feel guilty and embarrassed by the situation. Other eating disorders include Pica, Rumination Disorder, Avoidant/Restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID), Night Eating Syndrome (NES), and Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED).

An individual with an eating disorder can recover and learn to have a healthy relationship with food again. It is helpful to recognize the signs and get treatment as early as possible. Medical doctors should also be consulted in addition to a therapist to ensure nutritional needs are being met for optimal health and general wellbeing. Family support is also helpful, especially when an adolescent or young adult is being treated.

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