Counselling/Psychotherapy Crawley: Eating disorders,  Anorexia, Bulimia, under-eating, Restricted eating and Binge Eating

Who is affected by anorexia, bulimia and eating disorders?

An eating disorder such as anorexia, bulimia or binge eating can be a lifelong and a life-threatening illness if not treated. It would not be uncommon for someone who has an eating disorder in their teens to have this follow them throughout their life.

Historically, anorexia bulimia, under-eating, or restricted eating have been the domain of teenage girls and young women, but recently there has been a trend for young males to suffer from this problem; It is thought that young men are becoming more body image conscious in these days of celebrity culture, social media, and the posting of self-taken photographs (selfies).  There is a perception that only teenage girls suffer from eating disorder such as anorexia, bulimia, this is not correct.

What is an eating disorder?

Broadly speaking there are three categories Anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating.

Restrictive eating (anorexia)

  Anorexia is the obsessional fear of becoming overweight. Anorexia can cause one’s internal self-image to become distorted, bearing no real resemblance to what the world sees. This distortion is not a flattering one. A person with anorexia believes they are fat, unattractive, undesirable despite the increasing evidence to the contrary from loved ones and friends.

Binging and purging (bulimia)

The person with bulimia or who is binging and purging will often use self-induced vomiting, laxatives and diuretics to purge themselves of food once they have gorged themselves, with food. Like anorexia, bulimia is again, built on a distorted self-image, evidence suggests that someone with bulimia is concerned about appearance; with the thought that having a desirable figure gives them a feeling of control over their life; that being slim gives some form of self-esteem and a level of self-worth.

Binge eating:

Binge eating is when a person is eating or drinking to excess when not necessarily hungry for food or needing to drink;  this is normally done secretly, by the person who is binge eating, to avoid embarrassment.   Often somebody who is binge eating would have “special foods” which they will binge on.  Frequently, the person whom binge eats will report that they go into a “trance state” when they are bingeing and often report a feeling of being out of control.

Is having an eating disorder common?

Eating disorders account for the highest number of deaths from a psychiatric illness in the UK. The Eating Disorder Association estimate that around 165,000 people in the UK have an eating disorder with 10% dying from the disease; experts believe this may be higher and believe other medical problems often mask real figures. Most sufferers are women, but, as said above that number is now changing with an increase in men with an eating disorder; it is commonly thought that one in 10 of the people suffering from an eating disorder are male.

Can have an eating disorder damage your health?

Undoubtedly, anorexia has a severe impact on your health; like any form of self-starvation resulting in significant weight loss would have. Officially, major health concerns about body weight start when the person’s body weight drops below 85% of normal body weight for age and height.

If you are a woman and anorexic, there’s a good chance that you will stop menstruating, have low blood pressure, anaemia, and often abdominal pain. In extreme examples, major organ failure can happen; furthermore, because the body has little reserves to pull on a depleted immune system is almost an inevitable part of any eating disorder. Therefore, a person with an eating disorder is more susceptible to infections.

If you are someone who is binging and purging you can cause yourself a great amount of damage in the overuse of laxatives, and self-induced vomiting. A person who is bulimic can often damage their oesophagus and stomach walls. Frequently, someone who is bulimic will often suffer from haemorrhoids, as well as tooth decay because of the stomach acid in the mouth. Very often someone who is bulimic will have blood in their vomit when they binge and purge.

How does one get an eating disorder, and what causes eating disorders?

The cause of any eating disorder is multi-dimensional, like with any form of addictive behaviour, environment, social pressures, and how one view oneself have a great deal to play in the assessment of what causes this illness. Below are some of the possible causes that may have an influence on someone having an eating disorder.

  • Having friends or close relatives who have an eating disorder mental illness or any form of substance misuse.
  • Stress in the workplace school or university.
  • Being criticised or bullied by others for your body image weight shape et cetera.
  • Pressures from peer groups, social pressures, career or implied influence, to conform to a stereotype;  an example of this would be athletes, gymnasts, dancers, and models.
  • Having underlining trait towards an obsessive personality, low self-esteem or wanting to be perfect or perfectionism.

How to help somebody whom you may feel has an eating disorder.

Pick your moment: Before you broach the difficult position of asking somebody if they have an eating disorder, picking your moment would be one of the key things to bear in mind. It is very important the person you want to talk to be emotionally in a good place when you asked them.

Choose the right space or environment: asking somebody if they have an eating disorder when you are both in a crowded space such as a supermarket, classroom or any public space would be ill-advised. Choose a place which is without distractions,  quiet, and private, would be the best possible environment.

Listen before you speak: as much as you love or care for the person, you are to help, asking them whether they have an eating disorder may be a violation of their personal space. They may become angry and defensive. Furthermore, deny that anything is wrong with them. Listening to the anger rather than reacting to it would be one of the ways you can express your concern.

Avoid using shaming statements: The use of “ I statements” to show your concern.  Using “ I statements”  means that you are owning what you are saying. Saying something like “I am concerned about you, and I have noticed that you have lost weight is something wrong?”

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During a recent survey the online forum UK mental health estimated that 9% of the UK population have a mental health problem, some of which is GAD(General Anxiety Disorder) .

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F6 Worth Corner,
Business Centre,
Turners Hill Road,
Pound Hill, Crawley
RH10 7SL

Phone: (01403)217300 or (01293) 882210
Mobile: 07854602050