Wednesday, October 17, 2012

31 Days of Awareness: Eating Disorders

Eating Disorders

Awareness Color: Periwinkle
Awareness Week: 1st week in February

Eating disorders refer to a group of conditions defined by abnormal eating habits that may involve either insufficient or excessive food intake to the detriment of an individual's physical and mental health. Bulimia nervosaanorexia nervosa, and binge eating disorder are the most common specific forms.

Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by binge eating and purging, or consuming a large amount of food in a short amount of time followed by an attempt to rid oneself of the food consumed (purging), typically by vomiting, taking a laxative or diuretic, and/or excessive exercise. These acts are also commonly accompanied with fasting over an extended period of time. Bulimia nervosa is considered to be less life threatening than anorexia; however, the occurrence of bulimia nervosa is higher.


Anorexia nervosa is characterized by emaciation, a relentless pursuit  of thinness and unwillingness to maintain a normal or healthy weight, a  distortion of body image and intense fear of gaining weight, a lack of  menstruation among girls and women, and extremely disturbed eating  behavior. 

Binge Eating Disorder

Binge Eating is characterized by insatiable cravings that can occur any time of the day or night, usually secretive, and filled with shame. Bingeing is often rooted in poor body image, use of food to deal with stress, low self-esteem and tied to dysfunctional thoughts.

Treatment varies according to type and severity of eating disorder, and usually more than one treatment option is utilized. However, there is lack of good evidence about treatment and management, which means that current views about treatment are based mainly on clinical experience. Therefore, before treatment takes place, family doctors will play an important role in early treatment as patients suffering from eating disorders will be reluctant to see a psychiatrist and a lot will depend on trying to establish a good relationship with the patient and family in primary care. That said, some of the treatment methods are:
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which postulates that an individual's feelings and behaviors are caused by their own thoughts instead of external stimuli such as other people, situations or events; the idea is to change how a person thinks and reacts to a situation even if the situation itself does not change. 
    • Acceptance and commitment therapy: a type of CBT
    • Cognitive Remediation Therapy (CRT), a set of cognitive drills or compensatory interventions designed to enhance cognitive functioning.
  • Dialectical behavior therapy Family therapy  including "conjoint family therapy" (CFT), "separated family therapy" (SFT) and Maudsley Family Therapy.
  • Behavioral therapy: focuses on gaining control and changing unwanted behaviors.
  • Interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT)
  • Music Therapy
  • Recreation Therapy
  • Art therapy
  • Nutrition counseling and Medical nutrition therapy
  • Medication: Orlistat is used in obesity treatment. Olanzapine seems to promote weight gain as well as the ability to ameliorate obsessional behaviors concerning weight gain. zinc supplements have been shown to be helpful, and cortisol is also being investigated.
  • Self-help and guided self-help have been shown to be helpful in AN, BN and BED; this includes support groups and self-help groups such as Eating Disorders Anonymous and Overeaters Anonymous.
  • Psychoanalysis
  • Inpatient care

For more information, please visit:
National Eating Disorders
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