What are Eating Disorders/disordered eating?

Eating disorders are a serious illness that impact individuals mentally and physically. They can become extremely severe and can result in medical and social problems that can cause debilitating concern.

Eating disorders can manifest differently for each individual and thus the DSM-5 has outlined various types: (Please note that eating disorders/disordered eating patterns and behaviors exist on a spectrum and the list below is merely an outline of what they might look like)

  • Anorexia nervosa is defined as extreme restriction of calorie intake with an intense fear of gaining weight. Individuals are usually underweight yet view themselves as being overweight (aka distorted body image).
  • Bulimia nervosa is when an individual consumes an extremely large amount of food in a short period of time often with feelings of a strong lack of control. These episodes are typically followed by compensatory behaviors such as restricting, purging, and laxatives. Unlike anorexia, individuals with bulimia nervosa may appear to be at a relatively normal weight.
  • Binge-Eating Disorder is when an individual consumes an extremely large amount of food in a short period of time accompanied by feelings of a strong lack of control but does not engage in any compensatory behaviors.
  • Avoidant Restrictive Intake Disorder is when an individual limits the amount and/or types of food consumed but does not involve any distress about body shape or size, or fears of fatness.
  • PICA is the eating of items that are not typically thought of as food and that do not contain significant nutritional value, such as hair, dirt, and paint chips.
  • Rumination Disorder involves the regular regurgitation of food that occurs for at least one month. Regurgitated food may be re-chewed, re-swallowed, or spit out.
  • Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified occurs when an individual is engaging in disordered eating behaviors that causes significant impairment in daily life but does not meet the full diagnostic criteria for any of the feeding and eating disorders listed above.

Though there are specific types of eating disorders outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (e.g. anorexia nervosa, bulimia, nervosa, etc..) there are other forms of disordered eating that are serious but can go undiagnosed due to perceived societal acceptance and/or lack of awareness of the issue. A few examples are:

  • Orthorexia is an extreme obsession with proper or “healthy” eating. Individuals suffering from orthorexia become so fixated on healthy eating that as a result causes impairment in their daily life.
  • Compulsive exercise is exercise regimen that interferes with daily life. Individuals will continue to exercise despite injury or medical concerns. Individuals will become extremely distressed and irritable when they are unable to exercise.
  • Diabulimia is a dangerous condition where the individual does not properly manage their diabetes in order to lose weight. Individuals will manipulate their insulin dosages and/or restrict certain foods to lower their insulin dosages.

Eating disorders are treatable, but it is important that individuals get the proper care needed to overcome this often challenging disorder. If you or a loved one are concerned you may be suffering from an eating disorder/disordered eating, please reach out to schedule an appointment so I can help you address your specific need and help you determine the level of care that would work best for you.

I specialize in the treatment of eating disorders. I have experience facilitating individual and group sessions specifically for individuals suffering from an eating disorder and have worked with both adolescents and adults as well as men and women. I have worked in an intensive outpatient setting and understand the importance of working with a treatment team to help combat this difficult disorder. I am also a member of the Central Texas Eating Disorder Specialists and routinely attend workshops to ensure that I am up to date on effective treatment approaches as well as resources available in the community.

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