"One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began...
- Mary Oliver, Dreamwork

Eating Disorders

Eating Disorders Can Be Helped.

Unhappy with how you look or feel? Feel out of control with food? Secretly trying to cope with behaviors that embarrass or scare you? As you will see in the information that follows, there are many faces to Eating Disorders. However, one of the most common characteristics is that it is something you do in private – trying to go it alone, be strong and suffer in silence.

You are designed to solve your life challenges and problems WITH the help of others. ED is no different. Throughout history, the message is clear, humans recover by sharing and getting help from other people who understand and know how to help.

Help is possible. Most importantly, if you think you or someone you care about is struggling with an eating disorder, read some of the information that follows, to educate yourself about the many types of eating disorders. Most importantly, reachout and talk to someone who knows and understands eating disorders, the patterns and how to help. If you are not sure if help is needed, call for more information or set up an appointment to learn more about options.

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Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder with both physical and emotional symptoms. It is important to recognize that it is characterized by voluntary starvation or fasting and other activities, like excessive exercise, to reduce body weight below normal, healthy levels. It sometimes has characteristics of obsessive-compulsive behaviors.

The causes of Anorexia Nervosa are complex, rooted as it is in physiological, psychological and societal factors. There is increasing speculation in the research that it may have a genetic component in some individuals, while in others it may be caused by some environmental poison like mercury, lead or beryllium. In many cases, there are personal and social factors that suggest and/or reinforce the diseased behaviors.

Anorexia treatment is especially difficult because the person who is ill perceives that they are “fat” in some way even when they are not, and this emotional belief is resistant to change even when the rational mind “knows” the truth. These false perceptions are often reinforced by social norms that castigate overweight individuals or hold thinness as a desirable condition.

Though difficult, Anorexia Nervosa treatment can be successful in helping a sufferer return to a healthy body perception and therefore a healthier body.

The main characteristic of Anorexia Nervosa is where the person refuses to maintain a normal body weight by severely limiting food intake. The person has a distorted body image and has an intense fear of becoming fat even though they are not maintaining a minimal body weight.

Individuals with the anorexia eating disorder often know that they are thin but have concerns that a particular part of their body is fat. They often have much of their self esteem connected to how they look – often spending inordinate amount of time checking, viewing and evaluating their body appearance. For an Anorexic, weight loss is considered a victory, a sign of successful control – and may often be tied to a brief improvement in mood. Conversly, any weight gain may be seen as a failure or loss of control and trigger a period of irritability, sadness or even depression.

Behaviors of the anorexia eating disorder often include very controlled routines of eating very limited selections of foods. Eating can include chew-spitting and vomiting after eating. Other weight loss behaviors may include use of laxatives, stimulant abuse, and excessive exercise.

In women, the physical symptoms may include loss of the menstrual cycle. In later stages, physical symptoms can include severe medical complications such as hypothermia (low body temperature), heart problems, and gastro-intestinal problems, to name a few.

Anorexia Nervosa is more common in occupations where a low body weight may be viewed as a benefit, including dancers, athletes, models, and related fields. Younger people who aspire to achieve in these fields are also very vulnerable to the pressures for thinness and fitness. In these circumstances, co-workers and classmates could be an anorexia support group or, in some cases, provide the opposite effect of reinforcing a belief in the erroneous perceptions of the sufferer.

Unlikely as it may seem, there are many individuals who are trying to portray the anorexia eating disorder and the bulimia eating disorder as a “lifestyle” choice, and not as a disease at all. These misguided people, and the websites they spawn, may convince some vulnerable younger people not to see Anorexia Nervosa as an eating disorder, and to avoid or delay getting anorexia treatment or anorexia support. In a perverse way, these websites and their other viewers may be seen by a sufferer as a community, especially by young girls who are most vulnerable to this distortion.

Delays in receiving Anorexia Nervosa treatment either through counseling, an anorexia support group, or programs through an anorexia treatment center can be dangerous. If anorexia help is not obtained, the disease can be fatal.

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia Nervosa disorder is an eating disorder in which the individual binge eats (eats large amounts over a relatively short period of time) and perceives being “out of control” with their eating. Bulimia treatment protocols are similar to those for anorexia treatment from a behavioral perspective, but the bulimia disorder is distinct from Anorexia Nervosa in how it is exhibited and how it affects the sufferer.

Bulimia Nervosa is sometimes described as a profound perceived lack of control. The pathology is tied up with psychological issues related to body type, and the sufferer usually has an intense desire to be and appear thin. Most Bulimics are young women or girls, but the condition does occur in both genders at all ages. It is common enough that even though only a small percentage of men are bulimic, they constitute a large number of individuals.

Foods most commonly used for Bulimia Nervosa binging include high caloric foods, often with large proportion of calories from sugars or fats. The binges are sometimes planned in advance and usually in secrecy. However, binges are sometimes impulsive, apparently triggered by mood changes, stress or interpersonal relationship problems.

As in Anorexia Nervosa, the individual attempts to control their weight with a variety of behaviors including vomiting, misuse of laxatives, enemas or other medications; excessive exercise; not eating (fasting) or severe limitations of food intake. Bulimia Nervosa treatment aims to restore an appropriate set of perceptions and expectations so the individual can begin to maintain more normal eating patterns and therefore a more normal body weight and health.

Like the anorexic, the bulimic has based his or her self esteem on body shape and weight in very inappropriate ways. Once a binge cycle is completed, often the individual will be overwhelmed with feeling of failure and hopelessness. In order to compensate for the feeling of failure, the bulimic will often attempt to correct the binge, most often by vomiting.

The bulimic will often be embarrassed by their behavior, and in their attempt to conceal it are slow to seek bulimia treatment or bulimia help like a bulimia support group. Unfortunately, left untreated, there are several medical complications that can result, including cardiac problems, esophageal tears, electrolyte disturbances, stomach or gastrointestinal disorders and dental problems. Medical complications can become severe and life threatening.

There is no simple bulimia cure, as it is a complex psychological condition with strong behavioral and social conditioning, like other eating disorders. However, it is essential for anyone with symptoms of Bulimia Nervosa to seek counseling, a bulimia support group, or some other kind of Bulimia Nervosa treatment immediately. Bulimics may suffer many consequences from the disease, including heart arrhythmia, tooth decay, esophageal irritation, ulcers, and even, ultimately death.

Call SummerSmith today for a confidential and compassionate talk about Bulimia Nervosa and how it may affect you or your loved one.

Binge Eating or Compulsive Overeating

Compulsive Overeating or Binge Eating is often a long-term pattern of overeating, often in secret. The overeating is often triggered by anxiety, emotional distress or relationship difficulties.

For the Compulsive Overeater, binge eating may actually seem to relieve stress temporarily. However, repeated attempts to lose weight with periods of restrictive eating or fad diets are also common.

An important component of most compulsive overeating include a mood disorder such as depression or a variety of anxiety disorders. Recent research by the National Institute of Health, links anxiety symptoms with compulsive overeating and obesity.

The medical complications are common and may be life threatening including Diabetes, High Blood Pressure and Cardiovascular Disease, Arthritis and an increased risk for some forms of cancer.

Treatment of compulsive eating or the binge eating disorder is important to help sufferers avoid these consequence. Binge eating treatment requires recognition by the sufferer that they have this all too common condition, and their participation in helping design the program of treatment of compulsive overeating.

If you or someone you love is losing part of your life to compulsive overeating or binge eating, please call SummerSmith in Tucson today for a confidential and compassionate talk about your issues.

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