Understanding Eating Disorders
An eating disorder is an illness that causes serious disturbances to your everyday diet, such as eating extremely small amounts of food or severely overeating. A person with an eating disorder may have started out just eating smaller or larger amounts of food, but at some point, the urge to eat less or eat more spirals out of control.
Left untreated, eating disorders can result in severe medical and psychological conditions, affecting not only the person with the disorder, but their relationships with family and friends.
Intense focus, distress or concern about body weight or shape may also characterize an eating disorder. Eating disorders generally appear during the teenage years and young adulthood, though they may also develop during childhood or later in life. Common eating disorders include Anorexia, Bulimia, Binge Eating Disorder, and EDNOS.
At Canopy Cove, we can help you with the underlying issues surrounding your relationship with food and help get you on the path to successful Recovery.
Anorexia is a condition commonly defined as self-induced starvation. This definition can be misleading because a person with anorexia is often hungry but will refuse to eat by denying their own hunger and need for food as a result of an intense and distorted fear of becoming fat.
Other symptoms include excessive calorie and fat restriction, weight loss, as well as obsessive thoughts of food, food preparation and the extreme worry about body shape and size. Read more about our Anorexia treatment approach here.
Atypical Anorexia Nervosa
With atypical anorexia nervosa, the individual falls within or above the normal weight or body fat range for their height and age. The atypical anorexic will present with the intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat, accompanied by a distorted self-image, and may engage in restrictive intake, fasting, or excessive exercise.
Avoidant/ Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)
ARFID is very similar to anorexia without the drive for thinness and does not accompany a distorted body image. Classic signs of ARFID include significant weight loss, nutritional deficiency, and a marked interference with psychosocial functioning. Avoiding food or eating, a lack of interest in food, and a concern about eating food are all signs of ARFID. The condition can also be accompanied by a negative response to food intake including choking or vomiting.
Bulimia is quite often a secretive cycle of binge eating followed by engaging in behaviors such as purging or using laxatives to prevent weight gain.
A binge consists of eating an amount of food that is definitely larger than most individuals would eat under similar circumstances. People struggling with Bulimia will compensate for the binge eating in two ways; Purging and Non-Purging. Purging behaviors include self-induced vomiting and using laxatives and diuretics. Non-Purging behaviors involve excessive exercise and alternating periods of strict dieting or fasting. Read more about our Bulimia treatment approach here.
Binge Eating Disorder
Like those with Anorexia or Bulimia, those struggling with Binge Eating Disorder also suffer from the consequences of a serious eating disorder, though until recently, that was not always recognized to be the case. Until May 2013, there were no official diagnoses for Binge Eating Disorder. Read more about our Binge Eating Disorder treatment approach here.
EDNOS (eating disorders not otherwise diagnosed)
Many people who have eating disorders do not meet all the diagnostic criteria for either Anorexia or Bulimia. For example, if someone is 14 percent below the ideal body and the diagnostic criteria indicate that they have to be 15 percent below to have Anorexia Nervosa, then, they do not officially meet the diagnosis. This holds true for someone who has been binging and purging numerous times a day, but for less than 6 months; which is the duration necessary for the diagnosis of Bulimia.
However, the eating disorder is just as real and serious as when all diagnostic criteria are met. Yet, the official diagnosis will be stated as EDNOS. The tendency to minimize the magnitude of intrusiveness of the eating disorder behaviors and to believe that there is “no real problem” is a position that is frequently, and errantly, held. Read more about our EDNOS treatment approach here.
Eating disorders often present with other conditions that need to be addressed during the treatment process. Although the primary diagnoses treated at Canopy Cove are Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorders, EDNOS, and co-existing diabetes, our treatment team is also experienced in providing professional help to those who are experiencing other physical and psychological conditions. Read more about how we approach Co-existing Conditions here.
Compulsive overeating is an eating disorder that is not concerned with weight loss or weight gain prevention. A person who suffers from compulsive overeating eats beyond the feeling of fullness, may participate in night eating, eating out of the garbage, and hiding food to eat in excess. Compulsive overeating is often a coping mechanism for underlying emotional stressors and results in severe weight-related medical problems and body image issues that may trigger other forms of eating disorders.
Diabetes and Eating Disorders
For starters, both can be life-threatening – but the risk of death is even greater when they co-exist. There is a high focus on “control” in the management of diabetes and it becomes familiar to make control a priority in its’ day to daycare.
Controlling blood glucose, controlling food intake, controlling urges, controlling the timing of testing and injections, and adding exercise to the daily routine for diabetes is recommended for most who have this disease. Likewise, control is also a primary issue for those who struggle with Anorexia, Bulimia, and Binge Eating Disorders.
Often believing that controlling food and weight is the one thing that can be controlled in their chaotic world seems to bring about a sense of stability. So it becomes an easy transition for many women and men who have developed diabetes to fall into the trap of an eating disorder. Read more about how we approach Diabetes and treatment of Eating Disorders here.
Diabulimia is an eating disorder that is exclusive to those who suffer from type 1 diabetes. This eating disorder occurs when people who are insulin-dependent omit or delay the administration of insulin or intentionally underdose themselves to maintain a hyperglycemic state after eating or binging in an attempt to induce weight loss or prevent weight gain. The misuse of insulin is a form of purging — maintaining a hyperglycemic state essentially forces the body to release ketones into the urine rather than the body storing it as fat.
Celiac Disease and Eating Disorders
Although an eating disorder is about more than just food, we cannot neglect the damage it has on the body, specifically with regard to the malabsorption of nutrients and damage to many organ systems. It is for this reason that an eating disorder can often be masked by a medical diagnosis addressing a physical abnormality that presents with similar signs and symptoms.
A person suffering from untreated Celiac Disease often experiences rapid weight loss, nausea, vomiting, bloating, and abdominal discomfort. These same symptoms could also be observed in an individual struggling with an eating disorder. Although there is very little research that has been conducted on the correlation between Celiac Disease and eating disorders, we believe that there are elements of both disorders that could provide a potential link between the two diagnoses, therefore requiring an individualized therapeutic and nutritional approach to recovery. The treatment team at Canopy Cove is equipped to provide the nutritional support necessary for the dissolution of Celiac symptoms, thereby allowing the client to focus on the underlying issues instead of food. Read more about how we approach Celiac Disease and treatment of Eating Disorders here.
Orthorexia is not yet recognized as a formal eating disorder by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), but is considered a serious eating disorder. A person who suffers from orthorexia becomes so fixated on only eating what they consider healthy to a compulsive or excessive state in a way that becomes damaging. Dieting, clean eating, and other forms of heavily modified nutrition regimens are not considered a disorder unless the fixation becomes damaging to the individual’s well-being. Signs of orthorexia include:
- An inability to eat anything but a narrowed group of “healthy” or “pure” foods.
- Compulsive checking of ingredient lists and inability to eat foods that cannot be checked.
- Cutting an increasing number of food groups — sugar, carbohydrates, gluten, dairy, all meat, etc.
- High levels of distress when these foods are not available and avoidance of events to prevent the distress.
Purging disorder is similar to bulimia only in the fact that it involves purging or attempting to rid the body of food — either by intentional vomiting or use of laxatives. A person who suffers from purging disorder does not binge eat and may purge any food eaten or without the intake of food in an attempt to lose weight or change the shape of their body.
Vegetarianism and Eating Disorders
In today’s society, choosing to be vegetarian is often viewed as a healthy lifestyle change complete with many nutritional benefits. However, vegetarianism can also be used as a socially acceptable way to mask food fears. Because the nature of this nutritional approach is the avoidance of certain foods, individuals with eating disorders are often drawn to this lifestyle as a means to continue more restrictive eating behaviors without attracting suspicion from others. Read more about how we approach Vegetarianism and treatment of Eating Disorders here.