Eating disorders include a range of disorders, of which all pertain to a common element of unhealthy attitudes toward eating. An eating disorder can express itself as overeating or undereating, however, both extremes can be life-threatening.
What is an eating disorder?
There are in fact four disorders in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders) classified as eating disorders: Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Binge Eating, and Eating Disorder NOS (Not Otherwise Specified). Another Disorder – not recognized by the DSM as an eating disorder but which causes much distress to people suffering from it – is emotional eating.
Although in the past eating disorders were considered to be experienced only by women, today research has shown that a significant percent of people suffering from eating disorders are men. Approximately 9% of women and 3% of men suffer from long-term Anorexia, 1.5% of women and 5% of men suffer from Bulimia, and 3% of women and 2% of men suffer from Binge Eating. Many individuals with eating disorders developed them before the age of 20, most of them in their adolescence.
How do eating disorders like Anorexia, Bulimia and Binge Eating develop?
There are several models explaining the development of eating disorders, ranging from genetic to environmental. The first is the Socio-Cultural Model, which states a culture which idolizes “skinniness” as to blame for causing eating disorders. Idolizing thinness during an era of plentiful food causes internal conflicts, and leads to a lowered self-image and a desire to change ourselves by adopting mechanisms such as those of eating disorders. This tendency is seen often among teens and especially overweight teens.
Another model describes eating disorders as a way for individuals suffering from an experience of lack of control to gain control over themselves and their bodies. According to this theory, eating disorders develop primarily among families with over-controlling or abusive parents. Children in such families use control in eating habits to maintain a sense of control in their own lives and to attempt to defend their self-worth against the barrage of an abusive environment.
A third model postulates that society’s attitude toward its individuals dictates the development of eating disorders. For example, social isolation may lead to an individual’s experience of stress, anxiety and depression, and in order to find comfort the individual may turn to the comfort of emotional eating. In contrast, social or peer pressure to be thin may lead to the adoption of Anorexia or Bulimia.
How do you treat eating disorders?
Due to the fact that eating disorders are life-threatening, early treatment at time of onset (or of recognition of the problem) is critical. In the past, it was common to seek out psychoanalytic family-oriented therapy to resolve diagnosed eating disorders. In recent years, psychoanalytic therapy has failed to prove itself as an effective therapy when compared to other approaches, and research has shown Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to be effective in treating over 65% of patients suffering from an eating disorder.
Since there is a strong comorbid relationship between Bulimia and depression, anti-depressant medications such as Prozac have become an accepted form of treatment, and have proven to reduce symptoms in approximately 60% of cases. Medication is less effective when treating Anorexia, an in general the recommended treatment is to combine medication with CBT in order to decrease the risk of relapse.
Treatment for eating disorders at the CBT Institute
The CBT Institute offers Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for eating disorders. In the framework of treatment, the patient learns to recognize the recurring symptoms of an eating disorder, is instructed to maintain a food journal, learns to overcome negative or intrusive thoughts, improves self-esteem, and adopts better coping strategies to deal with daily stressors.