Eating disorders and treatment
Eating disorders can express themselves in many, sometimes apparently opposite, ways. This is because eating disorders, like otherÂ addictions and compulsive behaviours, are caused by underlying emotional problems, rather than by the food itself.
That is why it is not surprising that some people develop disorders such as anorexia while others struggle with binge eating. EitherÂ disorder needs to be treated for the direct harm that misusing food can cause; but effective, lasting treatment requires recognition of theÂ root causes of the behaviours and treatments designed to help overcome these problems.
Most addictive behaviours involve habitual overindulgence in a particular activity. Anorexia nervosa manifests itself in obsessive avoidanceÂ of food. Anorexics have an obsession with avoiding weight gain, owing to an unhealthy self-image. Â Such extreme self-deprivation is itselfÂ dangerous, but anorexia is also symptomatic of a very unhealthy state of mind.
Families of people suffering from anorexia are often alarmed by the obvious damage done to the sufferer's body. Proper treatment willÂ address physical concerns as an urgent priority while paying no less attention to the mental anxieties that cause the damaging behaviour.
Some people suffer from an addiction to unhealthy eating behaviours, like compulsive overeating disorder. Binge eating often, although notÂ always, leads to unhealthy weight gain.
Food addiction and other compulsive eating disorders are characteristic of an emotional need or some other underlying psychologicalÂ difficulty. This can in turn be exacerbated by the feeling of shame felt after overeating.
Food addicts sometimes need education about healthy eating plans and balanced nutrition. But ultimately empowering addicts to control theirÂ eating behaviour will need treatment.
Treatment for eating disorders
Eating disorders, whether anorexia, overeating disorder or other common eating disorders like bulimia, need to be treated by professionals.The first challenge is often to persuade the sufferer that he or she has a problem. Anorexics, for example, may believe they are simplyÂ taking the necessary steps to combat perceived deficiencies in their body image. It is precisely this kind of obsessive thinking that needsÂ to be treated in order to help anorexics in the long term.
People suffering from food disorders will benefit from one-on-one counselling and group therapy. A qualified therapist can help the patientÂ to work through obsessions and compulsions and to directly address the psychological problems underlying these behaviours.
As with other addictions, a 12 Step recovery programme may be incorporated into the treatment regimen. This can be especially helpful withÂ the self-esteem issues that are at the core of many eating disorders.
A diet plan may also be an important part of recovery and a useful way of maintaining balanced eating behaviours. A good diet is also aÂ necessary part of physical recovery for the undernourishment or malnutrition that sometimes accompanies eating disorders.
Physical exercise and a balanced, healthy lifestyle can also contribute to recovery and help sufferers find the confidence and self-esteemÂ to return to their normal lives as productive members of society.
Eating disorders indicate serious psychological problems and can have grave physical health consequences. They may require extended,Â intensive treatment, and for this reason a period of inpatient treatment is sometimes recommended.