Eating Disorders

Facts

  • Girls and women make up 90-95% of those struggling with anorexia and bulimia, and the remaining 5-10% being comprised of boys and men.
  • Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.
  • 70% of normal weight adolescent girls feel fat and are engaged in negative eating behaviours to lose weight.
  • Children as young as six years of age have developed negative attitudes about large bodies.
  • 52% of girls begin dieting before age 14.

Anorexia nervosa

Characterized by a drastic weight loss from extreme food restriction. Most individuals with anorexia don't recognize how underweight they are. Even when down their weight is below the minimum requirement for their age and height, these individuals may still "feel fat," making it difficult to persuade them to seek help. Alternatively, they may know that they are wasting away physically but experience an intense food fear.

There are 2 subtypes: Restricting Type

The person does not regularly engage in binge eating and/or purging.

Binge Eating/Purging Type

The person regularly engages in binge eating and/or purging.

The earlier the appropriate intervention occurs, the more likely the eating disorder will be successfully overcome. The best approach is psychotherapy, which can include counselling for the family, along with group therapy with other people who have eating disorders. Medical treatments are used in severe cases.

Bulimia nervosa

Characterized by frequent fluctuations in weight, with periods of uncontrollable binge eating followed by some form of purging. The individual will rid their body of unwanted calories through self-induced vomiting, laxative abuse, excessive exercising, or fasting. Individuals with bulimia may display frequent changes in weight, and are often plagued with feelings of guilt, failure and low self-esteem.

There are 2 subtypes: Purging Type

The individual regularly engages in self-induced vomiting or the misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or enemas.

Nonpurging Type

The individual uses inappropriate compensatory behaviors, such as fasting or excessive exercise, but does not engage in regular purging.

Psychotherapy, or talking therapy, is used for treatment. It comes in many forms and can take place in individual, group, or family sessions. In general, therapy helps patients learn to recognize feelings that trigger the eating disorder and to learn new ways to deal with these feelings.

Binge Eating Disorder

Also known as compulsive eating where food intake is emotionally driven to the point of discomfort or beyond. Binge eating often occurs in secret and is experienced as comforting to the individual. The amount of food consumed is definitely larger than most people would eat during similar circumstances and a lack of control over eating during the episode. This behaviour is different from bulimia in that it is not followed by any form of purging.

Some individuals with this disorder struggle with feelings of being out of control, distress, and guilt or shame about binging. Sufferers tend to be depressed and overweight with a history of diet failures.

Treatments include cognitive-behavioral therapy which teaches patients techniques to monitor and change their eating habits as well as to change the way they respond to difficult situations, interpersonal psychotherapy helps people examine their relationships with friends and family and to make changes in problem areas. Treatment with medications such as antidepressants may be helpful for some individuals. Self-help groups also may be a source of support.