Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing explain what eating disorders are and when you should get professional help - click here.
Eating disorders affect millions of people every year.
They happen to people across all socioeconomic levels, all ages, to both genders, and they can vary in intensity and duration. Fundamental to all eating disorders is the presence of unhealthy eating habits that are disruptive to a person’s health.
Eating disorders take over peoples’ lives and become central to how they define themselves. They’re often difficult to detect since they start with small changes that become large problems, and they are usually well hidden – particularly when they start. The chief reason that eating disorders begin and flourish is heavy doses of denial. They come out of nowhere and can become very serious, very quickly.
From my clinical practice, I’ve learned that patients develop their eating issues for a variety of reasons including the following:
Eating disorders can be triggered by a trauma like the loss of a loved one, the loss of a stable life style (like the divorce of parents or the loss of income), or an event or series of events that threatened their safety or even their lives.
The psychological need to be perfect can be overwhelming. These individuals are excessively dependent on the opinions and the approval of others. In their own minds, they are only as good as their last success.
Some people have a relentless need to be admired and an entitlement to being the center of attention. Controlling their weight is a method of controlling others.
In some cases, affective disorders like depression and anxiety are the basis of the eating disorder. An underlying depression can cause abnormalities in many areas of life including eating and self-regulation.
Certain families emphasize performance and weight can become a central focus, especially in females. Issues of adequacy emerge and the eating disorder becomes a defining way to control anxiety.
Eating disorders are very serious conditions, and they can even be lethal. If you think you or someone you know may have an eating disorder, please seek the assistance of a clinical psychologist.
National Institute of Mental Health (www.nimh.nih.gov)
The work of Dr Christopher Fairburn