In my regular blog section on English Informer in France, I was recently asked to talk about Eating Disorders, what they are and how to recognize when a person's eating is becoming a cause for concern.
We hear a lot about eating disorders in young women and the role of the media in portraying unhealthy images that people struggle to obtain, but the reality is that eating disorders are a complex mental health issue.
There are three types of commonly recognized eating disorder and these are anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating. Anorexia is a voluntary starvation where a person dramatically reduces their food intake to become underweight. Symptoms of anorexia include:
With Bulimia there are periods of food restriction, interspersed with binge eating and then often attempts to compensate by purging. People with bulimia may not appear to alter their weight drastically, or they may gain some weight, but the symptoms can be as severe as those of anorexia:
In the final category of Binge Eating, there is overeating without attempts to compensate, and so the person tends to become extremely overweight. Symptoms of binge eating include:
So why do these disorders occur? It is important to note that eating disorders are complex; they may start out as an attempt to control your food intake, but at some point, it all spirals out of control and becomes the focus of your life. Eating disorders typically affect younger women, but in more recent years, men have also become more concerned about their body image, and dissatisfaction rates have risen alongside the increase in media images of scantily clad men with abnormally lean and muscular physiques. It is also important to remember that men often don’t have the same levels of emotional support as women, and so may seek solace in food or in over-working at the gym to find something in their lives they can control.
Treatment for eating disorders usually includes individual, group and family therapy, possibly with some medications prescribed to help symptoms such as depression or obsessive thinking. In general, the goals of therapy are:
Treatment for eating disorders is often long-term and can occasionally require in-patient care for more advanced cases. It is important to note that eating disorders can be extremely dangerous, even life threatening, and they are notoriously hard to treat once they become entrenched. Physical complications from anorexia, bulimia and binge eating can include heart problems, kidney failure and death. It is vital therefore, that people with disordered eating seek treatment as soon as possible.
If you think this topic applies to you or someone in your life, counselling can be an important step in starting to move forward. I offer a free 20-minute consultation so we can explore how I might be able to help you, so please call, text or fill out the contact sheet on this site.