Jane Fonda. Lily Collins. Demi Lovato. Elton John. Kesha. Zayn Malik. Zoe Kravitz. Hillary Duff. Russell Brand. Shawn Johnson. These are only a handful of Hollywood’s stars who have opened up and spoken out about their struggle with eating disorders. Bulimia and anorexia are often associated with celebrity culture, but the reality is that they afflict as many as 30 million regular people.
Eating disorders are characterized by a distorted view of one’s own body shape and size along with irregular, compulsive, and unhealthy eating habit. Some may mischaracterize them as a pick or finicky stage in a teen’s life, but they are harmful, possibly even deadly, psychiatric disorders.
Yet, only about 10 percent of people receive the treatment they need for anorexia or bulimia. And these have effective interventions. Psychological treatments and medical treatments can be combined and tailored to individual needs. Getting started may be as simple as asking for help.
If you are struggling with disordered eating, know that the therapists and psychologists at Thriveworks Richmond are ready to help. We have helped many people find the holistic treatment they need to break free from anorexia or bulimia.
Identifying Anorexia and Bulimia
There are many types of eating disorders, but anorexia and bulimia may be the most well-known. Abnormal eating habits and acute anxiety about one’s body weight are symptoms of any eating disorder. They typically surface during teen or young adult years, but people of all ages can have an eating disorder, as can both men and women. PTSD, other anxiety disorders, and depression often co-occur with eating disorders.
Anorexia and bulimia share many characteristics, but they are separate disorders and diagnoses.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) identifies anorexia nervosa (most often called simply anorexia) with the following characteristics:
- Irrational and severe fear of weight gain that leads a person to obstruct healthy weight maintenance and gain.
- Feelings of disgust for one’s body weight and size with an inability to perceive one’s low body weight.
- Intentionally reducing food consumption so that a substantially lower body weight results (in relationship to healthy standards for one’s age, sex, developmental trajectory, and physical health).
The DSM-5 identifies bulimia nervosa (most often called simply bulimia) with the following characteristics:
- One’s body weight and size dominates one’s self-perception.
- Repeated times of binge eating that involve…
- Eating more food than most people could eat during the same circumstances and time period.
- Losing control over food consumption during the binge.
- Repeated behaviors that attempt to compensate for food intake such as self-induced vomiting; misuse of medications such as diuretics and laxative; fasting too long and too often; exercising in an extreme manner.
How Do Anorexia and Bulimia Develop?
The specific causes that may lead to anorexia and bulimia developing in a person are often person and even intimate. Each case is unique. And yet, mental health professionals speak generally about two categories into which these causes fall: environmental causes and biological causes:
- There are many examples of environmental causes, including living in an environment engrossed with unrealistic beauty, thinness, and body type; childhood trauma; peer pressure to appear a particular way; family trauma.
- There are many examples of biological causes, including a genetic predisposition, irregular hormone functions, and nutritional deficiencies.
Co-occurring Physical Health Problems
Just as mental health problems can occur alongside of bulimia and anorexia, so can physical health problems. Cultural values, unfortunately, can confuse the concepts of a slim or sculpted body with a healthy body. Healthy does not always means skinny, and skinny does not always mean healthy. Anorexia and bulimia often come with and cause a host of physical health problems.
Anorexia holds the highest death rate of any psychiatric disorder. A low heart rate, abnormal heart beat, low blood pressure, increased risk of heart failure and disease, infertility, disruptions in the menstrual cycle, disruptions in the endocrine system, premature osteoporosis, low white blood cell counts, anemia, kidney damage, and ultimately death can also occur with anorexia.
Ulcers, gastroesophageal reflux disease, tooth decay, gastric rupture, constipation, kidney damage, electrolyte imbalance, and heart failure can occur with bulimia.
Treating Anorexia and Bulimia
Thriveworks Richmond provides treatment for anorexia and bulimia. Our therapists and psychologists offer holistic care, and we have helped many clients receive the psychological and medical care they need.
Calling to schedule treatment can feel overwhelming, and we want to give each client support, even from the first time they dial our office. If you call to schedule therapy for anorexia and bulimia, a person will answer and find an appointment that is convenient for you. We offer evening and weekend appointments, and many clients see their counselor within 24 hours of their first call. We also accept many forms of insurance.
Effective interventions for bulimia and anorexia are available. You do not have to fight them by yourself. Call Thriveworks Richmond to get started.