Have you ever gathered around a table with your family in order to enjoy their wonderful conversation and a great abundance of food? We love these types of gatherings in New Jersey. While this may remind you of a joyous occasion related to life events such as holidays, birthdays, major celebrations, etc, not everyone enjoys moments focused on food. As a collective, we don’t often consider those who struggle around food.
Those with eating disorders often tend to hide what they are doing as they are not willing or ready to seek the treatment that is needed and have their own reasons for engaging in behavior that is not socially accepted. Eating disorders regardless of type, affect several million people at any given moment. Those most susceptible are women who fall between the ages of 12 to 35.
While it may seem that eating disorders are all about the food, the underlying cause is often mental health related and falls closely with an obsession with body image or ultimately body weight. If professional help such as a therapist is not sought out, eating disorders can ultimately lead to death.
Anorexia Nervosa: The most commonly known disorder focuses on how one views themself. They may view themself as overweight even when they are healthy or even worse dangerously underweight. They have a fear of gaining weight. They may limit their food take or may engage in various purging behaviors causing their body to go into starvation mode. Anorexia Nervosa can cause the following:
- Menstrual periods cease
- Osteopenia or osteoporosis (thinning of the bones) through loss of calcium
- Hair/nails become brittle
- Skin dries and can take on a yellowish cast
- Mild anemia; and muscles, including the heart muscle, waste away
- Severe constipation
- Drop in blood pressure, slowed breathing and pulse rates
- Internal body temperature falls, causing a person to feel cold all the time
- Depression and lethargy
Bulimia Nervosa: Another commonly known disorder. An individual who is “bulimic” may frequently overeat within a specific time period, at times causing themself to feel painfully full. Once they are done eating, they may attempt to purge in order to eliminate some of the calories that they have ingested. While it is hard to know who engages in this behavior, there are some signs to observe.
- Inflamed and sore throat
- Salivary glands in the neck and below the jaw become swollen; cheeks and face often become puffy, causing sufferers to develop a “chipmunk” looking face
- Tooth enamel wears off; teeth begin to decay from exposure to stomach acids
- Constant vomiting causes gastroesophageal reflux disorder
- Severe dehydration from purging of fluids
Binge Eating Disorder: One of the most common eating disorders that are slightly different from the two mentioned prior. When an individual is battling a binge eating disorder, they typically eat an unusually large amount of food and often feel a lack of control while doing so. They do not focus on calorie restriction or use any purging behaviors to compensate for overeating. These individuals are often overweight or obese and at risk for type 2 diabetes and other medical conditions. The most commonly observed behaviors related to Binge Eating Disorder include the following.
- Eating more rapidly than normal
- Eating until feeling uncomfortably full
- Eating large amounts of food when not feeling physically hungry
- Eating alone because of feeling embarrassed by how much one is eating
- Feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed, or very guilty afterward
While the three mentioned disorders are all a bit different, they have one major thing in common, treatment is needed.
How to Identify an Eating Disorder Therapist in NJ:
- Reach out to your insurance to find who is within your network
- Talk to a doctor with who you have a relationship with such as your primary doctor
- Do your research. Look for someone who meets your qualifications.
- Read reviews about your potential therapist to see how others feel about them.
- Feel comfortable with their qualifications.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for a meeting with them. The first meeting is the most important in building good relations.
- Make sure that you are comfortable. Therapy is not easy and can be a big step out of your comfort zone.
As eating disorders clearly show a link between emotional and physical health, it is ultimately important to not only treat the physical body but the mental and emotional triggers that lead to these behaviors. This can be achieved by working with a therapist to address the different approaches that can be used. Therapists have specific ways in which they approach eating disorders.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – Is an evidence-based treatment that is the leading framework for therapists to follow for the treatment. CBT is a psychotherapeutic approach that helps individuals understand the interactions between their thoughts and feelings and the behaviors those cause. Therapists then work to help put together strategies to change the negative self-talk in order to ultimately change the thoughts that are occurring.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy – Therapists use this rather than Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, when the focus is more about changing actions as opposed to thoughts and feelings, Those that are working with therapists and engaging in ACT are asked to examine their core values. This is a viable treatment but unlike Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, may not be a form of therapy that provides long-term changes.
Family-Based Treatment (FBT) – This is a therapy method that also includes family members and often most used for those that are younger. Therapists view the family as a system rather than individual parts and use that to help build healthy habits. This is a treatment method that therapists find works best with those who battle Bulimia Nervosa.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) – This therapy method focuses on handling difficult emotions while learning skills to change behaviors associated with the specific eating disorder. Unlike Cognitive Behavioral therapy, therapists use these sessions for learning as opposed to the talk method of CBT.
Working with a therapist is important and each session will help towards the ultimate goal. While there are many forms of therapy that can be done, it is important to focus on the reason and what the desired outcome is. Help someone close to you get the help that they need before it is too late.