Body Image Concerns & Eating Disorders
Our experienced clinical psychologists can provide counselling therapy for people with body image concerns and eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and binge eating. It’s important to remember that someone with an eating disorder has a serious mental illness, an eating disorder is not simply an extreme diet or a lifestyle choice. It is something that can take over a person’s life, cause serious mental and physiological implications and requires psychological intervention and therapy to recover.
The 3 main eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder.
Anorexia is an eating disorder and mental illness that causes sufferers to restrict their food intake to very low levels. They are often extremely thin and are afraid of gaining weight. Despite usually having a very thin frame, anorexics will believe that they are overweight. Someone with anorexia nervosa will usually combine low food intake with excessive exercise and constant monitoring of their weight. There are several serious physiological implications related to anorexia nervosa such as low iron levels in the blood (anaemia), muscle loss, dehydration and other, more severe consequences.
Bulimia is an eating disorder characterised by the person suffering by binge eating (eating an amount of food that is larger than what is considered normal) and then purging. The person will often eat large amounts of food in a relatively short amount of time and then try to remove the food from their body in any way such as forcing themselves to vomit or taking laxatives.
The majority of people with bulimia actually have a normal weight. Bulimia is also linked with other mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression, which is why bulimia sufferers have an increased risk of suicide.
Binge eating disorder
Binge eating disorder is a mental illness where sufferers binge eat large amounts of food in a short amount of time, whether they are hungry or not. Afterwards they often feel intense guilt and shame. Unlike bulimia, people with binge eating disorder don’t purge (vomit or use laxatives) after bingeing. A person with binge eating disorder may fast sporadically as a response to how they feel after bingeing.
Early signs of an eating disorder
To prevent disordered eating from becoming a full-fledged obsession, it’s vital to be able to spot the early warning signs. Unfortunately, though, someone with an eating disorder will usually do their best to hide any signs of the problem, making it very difficult to detect and confirm. The person may also be in denial about the problem. It is important to keep an eye out for any changes in eating behaviour and psychological reactions to food, as well as changes in physical appearance.
The early signs of an eating disorder can vary greatly, however some common signs include:
- obsessive dieting behaviour (e.g. counting calories and skipping meals)
- evidence of vomiting or laxative use (frequent trips to the toilet, especially after meal time)
- sudden weight loss
- females having no menstrual period
- constant fatigue
- obsession with body weight
- distorted body image (e.g. believing they look fat when clearly they are very thin).
If you believe that you or a family member may have detrimental body image concerns or an eating disorder, contact us to find out how therapy with one of our psychologists can help.