The Summit Counseling Center
Contact Us (678) 893-5300

The skinny on eating disorders

image1Eating disorders are a prevalent issue among females and males. It’s a type of mental illness that is stigmatized and often misunderstood. In fact, individuals who struggle with eating disorders frequently report feeling judged by peers and feeling scared to talk about what they are experiencing. I can imagine being scared to talk about my experiences if I feared judgement or misunderstanding. So, maybe we should take a moment to discuss eating disorders. What is an eating disorder? Well, there are four different types of eating disorders according to the DSM-V. Here’s a basic overview:

  • Anorexia Nervosa –
    • Restriction of food intake resulting in significantly low body weight (lower than what an individual should be based on their growth chart including height, age, and sex).
    • Fear of weight gain resulting in fear of consuming food despite low body weight.
    • Evaluation of self that is greatly determined by body weight and shape, despite health concerns, rather than self-worth and identity.
  • Bulimia Nervosa –
    • Binge-eating which includes eating a large amount of food in a small amount of time (i.e. maybe a 2 hour time frame) and loss on control over food consumption including how much and what food is consumed.
    • Reoccurring compensatory behaviors to keep from gaining weight such as taking diuretics, laxatives, fasting, or over exercising (a compensatory behavior is anything that reduces or offsets the unpleasant effects of an action which in this case is food consumption).
    • The binge eating and compensatory behaviors occur at least 1 time a week for 3 months
    • Evaluation of self is greatly affected by body weight and shape.
  • Binge-Eating Disorder –
    • Binge-eating which includes eating a large amount of food in a small amount of time (i.e. maybe a 2 hour time frame) and loss on control over food consumption including how much and what food is consumed.
    • Binge-eating episodes are associated with 3 or more of the following:
      • eating faster than normal
      • eating to a point of feeling uncomfortably full
      • eating large amounts of food when not hungry
      • eating alone due to embarrassment about the amount of food being consumed
      • experiencing feelings of disgust, depression, or guilt after eating
    • Binge-eating is causing significant distress to the individual
    • Binge-eating occurs 1 time a week for 3 months
    • Binge-eating is not associated with any compensatory behaviors such as taking diuretics, laxatives, fasting, or over exercising
  • Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder
    • This diagnosis is given when an individual meets some but not all of the criteria listed above to meet diagnosis for an eating disorder, and the individual is experiencing symptoms that are causing significant distress or health/medical problems.

As you can see, eating disorders can be serious health and psychological hazard for growing adolescents. Did you also know that individuals struggling with an eating disorder have an increased risk for suicide? According to the DSM-V, 12 out of 100,000 individuals with anorexia nervosa commit suicide every year. That makes it even more important to do what we can and provide treatment to those individuals who need it. I would also like to point out that the above information is only an overview, and there are other types of feeding disorders that a clinician will be able to recognize, diagnose, and treat if necessary. The above information should not be used for self-diagnosis which is never encouraged.

So what can you do if you think your child or yourself might be struggling with an eating disorder?

  • Talk to your child and express your concerns in a compassionate way and listen to what he or she thinks about your concerns.
  • Contact an experienced clinician who can make a treatment recommendation for you or your child.

An eating disorder is not a fad or a phase; it is a serious mental illness that needs treatment. The longer an individual suffers from an eating disorder, the more it becomes part of their world and prevents them from learning new, more effective ways to manage their feelings. This might be a lot of information to process, but the last thing I will leave you with is to never lose hope! Many individuals have overcome eating disorders; people can and do recover. It might be a long journey, but it will not be a journey you have to walk alone.

The Summit Counseling Center
Back to Top