Why Eating Disorders Are About More Than Just Food

Last Updated: September 25, 2023

Our society has become one that prides itself on body image and being thin. Everyday we are bombarded with ads for fad diets, fat burners and “get fit quick” methods, along with models and celebrities to compare ourselves with.

Almost everyone is conscientious of their weight to a degree. However, there are sadly some that take food and weight concerns to the extreme, easily developing eating disorders centered around unhealthy habits.

The most common eating disorders include anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder. All three of which occur when a person develops a distorted image of themselves, as well as a dangerous relationship with food. Unfortunately, eating disorders are about more than food and can have major psychological impacts.

The National Institute of Mental Health states that, “Researchers are finding that eating disorders are caused by a complex interaction of genetic, biological, psychological, and social factors.”

Typically, most think that an eating disorder is largely attributable to food and weight obsession. Conversely, those suffering from disorders around food usually begin on that path as a means to control or cope with devastating emotions and events that activate high stress levels. By controlling eating patterns, this can help an individual to feel more in control of his or her life in the short term. In the long term, these patterns can develop into destructive habits that wreak havoc on all areas of well-being.

While most are predisposed to personality traits and psychological dynamics that can contribute to the development of eating disorders, many people with these disorders suffer from low self esteem, feelings of inadequacy or helplessness, depression, anger, anxiety and body image issues.

Among the most common other causes are past traumas, severe negative emotions and outside influences such as bullying, or career paths that have extreme emphasis on weight such as gymnastics, modeling or wrestling. Any life event that causes stress to build can also trigger a disorder.

Usually when someone begins to engage in an abnormal or unhealthy eating regimen to handle these types of stresses and mental states, it can turn into a habit quickly. Whether someone is not eating at all, purging when they do, or binging, these responses to psychological and social influences they are experiencing can become very harmful and damaging.

Unfortunately, just as with other addictions, food addictions and eating disorders can go unnoticed and untreated until the person realizes they need to reach for help. Often someone with an eating disorder can be high functioning in life and does a phenomenal job of appearing normal to others. It becomes a disorder that is riddled with shame and hiding.

Once the eating disorder becomes unmanageable, treatment is an option and should not be taken lightly. Psychologists, mental health professionals, nutritionists and physicians tend to play integral roles in treatment and recovery for eating disorders. Treatment plans are built by diagnosing the issues around the eating disorder as well as understanding the background, history and psychological state of the patient.

Because so many factors can play a role in an eating disorder, a holistic approach is often used in treatment. The goal of creating long lasting recovery from eating disorders is to assess all areas of the patient’s life to include biological, genetic, social and psychological factors and this becomes a long-term approach. The effects from an eating disorder can be very deep and widespread depending on how long it has been occurring, so each patient is different.

Treatment and recovery are attainable and can be successful with the appropriate help, support, and plan.

Contact us today to learn more about our programs and options for eating disorders.

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