I work with girls and women struggling with a variety of eating disorders. My belief is that in order to make progress on your eating disorder, you have to look at the underlying factors that are sustaining them. Once you address these, often the eating disorder can be treated much more successfully. For some people this is anxiety, depression, perfectionism, trauma, need for control, or situational stressors. Once you address these, you can often see relief of symptoms. I use a direct approach, addressing where you’re stuck, and utilizing more positive ways of copings with life’s stressors. Outpatient services can help girls and women searching for ways to end this cycle and have peace with their body and mind.
There are several eating disorders, but the most common are Anorexia, Bulimia, and Binge Eating Disorder. Below are descriptions of each, including common symptoms associated with each. If these describe you or someone you know, please contact me for a consultation where I can help you get the specialized help you need.
Anorexia Nervosa is characterized by low body weight and body image distortion with an obsessive fear of gaining weight which manifests itself through depriving the body of food. It often coincides with increased levels of exercise. There are two main sub-types of anorexia:
Restricting type: this is the most commonly known type of Anorexia Nervosa whereby a person severely restricts their food intake. Restriction may take many forms (e.g. maintaining very low-calorie count; restricting types of food eaten; eating only one meal a day) and may follow obsessive and rigid rules
Binge-eating or purging type: less recognized; a person restricts their intake as above, but also during some bouts of restriction the person has regularly engaged in binge-eating OR purging behavior (e.g. self-induced vomiting, over-exercise, misuse of laxatives, diuretics or enemas).
Typical symptoms can include:
- Preoccupation with body shape, weight and/or appearance
- Intense fear of gaining weight
- Preoccupation with food or food related activities
- Negative or distorted body image; perceiving self to be fat when at a healthy weight/underweight
- Low self-esteem (guilt, self-criticism, worthlessness)
- Rigid thinking (‘black and white’, ‘good and bad’ foods)
- Feeling out of control
- Mood swings
- Anxiety or depression
- Heightened anxiety around meal times
- Heightened sensitivity to comments or criticism about body shape/weight/appearance/eating/exercise habits
- Suicidal or self-harm thoughts or behaviors
- Constant or repetitive dieting/restrictive or rigid eating patterns
- Excessive or compulsive exercise
- Changes in clothing style
- Impaired school or work performance
- Obsessive rituals around food
- Changes in food preferences
- Frequent avoidance of eating meals / excuses not to eat
- Social withdrawal / avoidance of social situations involving food
- Repetitive or obsessive body-checking behaviors
- Deceptive or secretive behavior around food
Bulimia Nervosa is characterized by recurrent binge-eating episodes (the consumption of abnormally large amounts of food in a relatively short period of time). Binge episodes are associated with a sense of loss of control and immediately followed by feelings of guilt and shame, which then leads the person to compensatory behaviors such as self-induced vomiting, fasting, over exercising and/or the misuse of laxatives, enemas or diuretics.
A person with Bulimia Nervosa usually maintains an average weight or may be slightly above or below average weight for height, which often makes it less recognizable than serious cases of Anorexia Nervosa. Many people, including some health professionals, incorrectly assume that a person must be underweight and thin if they have an eating disorder. Because of this, Bulimia Nervosa is often missed and can go undetected for a long period of time.
Bulimia Nervosa often starts with weight-loss dieting. The resulting food deprivation and inadequate nutrition can trigger what is, in effect, a starvation reaction – an overriding urge to eat. Once the person gives in to this urge, the desire to eat is uncontrollable, leading to a substantial binge on whatever food is available (often foods with high fat and sugar content), followed by compensatory behaviors. A repeat of weight-loss dieting often follows, leading to a binge/purge/exercise cycle which becomes more compulsive and uncontrollable over time.
Some Typical Symptoms can include:
- Difficulties with activities which involve food
- Loneliness due to self-imposed isolation and a reluctance to develop personal relationships
- Deceptive behaviors relating to food
- Fear of the disapproval of others if the illness becomes known
- Mood swings, changes in personality, emotional outbursts or depression
- Self-harm, substance abuse or suicide attempts
- Sensitivity to references about weight or appearance
- Guilt, self-disgust, self-loathing
- Anxiety and or Depression
- Frequent trips to the bathroom, especially after eating
- Food avoidance, dieting behavior. This may be due to a fear of gaining weight and it may also be to avoid the unpleasant ritual of purging afterwards.
- Fluctuations in weight
- Erratic behavior
- Mood swings
Binge Eating Disorder:
Binge Eating Disorder is characterized by frequently eating excessive amounts of food, often when not hungry. Binges represent a distraction that allows a person to avoid thinking about the real root of their problems. Feelings of guilt, disgust and depression often follow a bingeing episode. Binge Eating Disorder is not the same as overeating, as it is recurrent and more serious.
Binge Eating Disorder is similar to, but not the same as Bulimia Nervosa. Where people experiencing Bulimia Nervosa will partake in purging activities after bingeing, Binge Eating Disorder is characterized by an absence of purging, despite suffering similar feelings of intense guilt, shame and self-hatred after binges. While a lack of purging is evident, a person experiencing Binge Eating Disorder will often participate in sporadic fasts and repetitive diets in response to the negative feelings which follow a binge episode.
Typical Symptoms can include:
- An overwhelming sense of lack of control regarding eating behavior
- Eating more rapidly than normal
- Periods of uncontrolled, impulsive or continuous eating whereby a person may consume many thousands of calories, often to the point of feeling uncomfortably full
- Eating when not physically hungry
- Repeated episodes of binge eating which often results in feelings of shame or guilt
- Eating in secret
- Avoiding social situations, particularly those involving food.
- Eating ‘normal’ quantities in social settings, and bingeing when alone
- Low self-esteem and embarrassment over physical appearance
- Feeling extremely distressed, upset and anxious during and after a binge episode
- Fear of the disapproval of others
- Self-harm or suicide attempts
- Overly sensitive to references about weight or appearance
- Guilt, self-disgust
- Anxiety and or Depression
I offer appointments at a variety of times including nights and weekends to accommodate busy schedules. I am located in historical downtown Huntersville, with easy access to 77, 85, and 485. Contact me for a consultation and let’s begin the work together.