Many of us have times when we turn to food for comfort in times of emotional distress or when we are faced with difficult situations, but for some people, food can represent something much more complex and challenging to deal with.
Many of us are preoccupied with our weight and body image and this is not helped by a rise in the number of images of thin and what are often seen by the media as beautiful people. This has lead some people to question their own view of their bodies and a feeling of unhappiness with their body. For some people, these feelings do not lead to an obsession and unhealthy relationship with food. However, for others it can lead to problems with excessive dieting, calorie counting, fasting, the use of laxatives and purging.
Some people restrict their food intake as a way of keeping control. However, others can often use food as a way of relieving stress or when faced with difficult situations, often binge eating as a way of coping with emotional distress.
The causes of eating disorders are complicated and consist of a number of factors. It may be that someone is being bullied or abused or that they have experienced a traumatic even in their lives. Some people who develop eating disorders have suffered an illness or are facing the break up of a family or relationship.
Eating disorders can create many other physical and psychological health problems. These can include dental problems, bone density loss, weak bones, kidney damage, cardio vascular and gastrointestinal problems, stunted growth (in younger people), depression, guilt, shame and regret.
Anyone can develop an eating disorder regardless of gender, age, religious beliefs, culture or social background.
What kinds of Eating Disorders are there and how do I know if I have one?
There are many ways in which a person can develop an eating disorder, however the most common are:
Anorexia Nervosa: or anorexia, is characterised by a distorted body image and an obsessive fear of gaining weight. People who suffer with this disorder often starve themselves in an effort to lose excessive weight. They may go to extreme lengths to control their intake of food and calories in order to attain a very specific and unhealthy body image. It is a very serious and potential life threatening disorder.
Bulimia Nervosa: also known as bulimia, is characterised by secretive cycles of binge eating which is followed by behaviour that compensates for the over-eating. People who suffer with bulima nervosa will often eat large amounts of food in a short period of time and then make themselves sick or use enemas, laxatives or excessive exercise in order to burn off or get rid of the calories and food they have eaten. Bulima nervosa can also be life threatening and is a serious illness
Binge Eating Disorder: Sometimes referred to as Compulsive Eating, this is characterised by periods of impulsive, uncontrolled, continuous eating to the point at which they are uncomfortably full. People suffering from this disorder do not make themselves sick to get rid of the food or calories they have eaten, but they may choose to fast or go on diets at times in order to compensate for their eating.
Other signs you may be suffering from an eating disorder include:
a preoccupation with food
wearing clothes that hide your shape
making excuses to not eat around other people
hiding or stashing your food somewhere
losing a lot of weight
taking laxatives, making yourself sick or exercising excessively
if others are commenting on your weight or eating habits
How can counselling help me?
Counselling can help you explore the thoughts, feelings and behaviours that maintain your eating habits and help you identify triggers for engaging in those eating behaviours. It can help you understand the underlying causes for your eating issues and support you in developing a healthier and happier relationship with food. Counselling can also help improve your self-esteem and support you in changing the way in which you see yourself and your body image. Another important aspect of eating disorder counselling is supporting you in finding alternative ways of dealing with difficult situations and emotional distress.
We understand that accepting you have an eating disorder is hugely difficult and often taking steps to recover is an incredibly painful and challenging journey. We are trained and experienced in providing a safe and confidential environment where you can talk about your relationship with food and get the support you need.