Tips for Disordered Eating

Written by: Dr. Rebecca Leslie

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If you are struggling with your eating it may be tempting to try to figure it out on your own. It can be hard to ask for help. However, if you have an eating disorder or disordered eating patterns meeting with a therapist can be incredibly beneficial. In this post I will talk about the different types of eating disorders and when it is a good time to schedule an appointment with a therapist. 

When it comes to knowing if yourself, a friend, or a loved one has an eating disorder it is important to first know that you can not tell by a person’s body shape or weight. People struggling with disordered eating come in all different shapes and sizes. You do not need to look a certain way to have an eating disorder. So, the question becomes how do you know if you have an eating disorder?

A licensed mental health or medical professional will need to make the diagnosis of an eating disorder. There are different types of eating disorders and they can be difficult to self-diagnosis. According to the Diagnostic And Statistical Manual Of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), “Feeding and eating disorders are characterized by a persistent disturbance of eating or eating-related behavior that results in the altered consumption or absorption of food and that significantly impairs physical health or psychosocial functioning.” 

Below are some characteristics of different types of eating disorders. The descriptions are a summary and do not include everything needed for a diagnosis. One of my hopes in writing this article is that this will help people to understand the complexity of eating disorders. If you are not sure if you have an eating disorder or what kind of eating disorder you have that is completely normal. The important thing is knowing when to ask for help, which I will talk about towards the end of this article. 

Anorexia Nervosa 

Important parts of this diagnosis include persistent energy intake restriction that leads to a low weight, fear of gaining weight or becoming fat; or behavior that interferes with weight gain, and one’s body and weight having a significant influence on self-perception. Anorexia nervosa actually has a restricting type and a binge-purge type. So again, this can be why self-diagnosis is difficult. 

Binge-Eating Disorder 

Recurrent episodes of binge eating. Binge eating is about eating a large amount of food during a short period of time and feeling a lack of control with eating. There is a difference between what objectively meets the criteria for a binge and what might feel like a binge. To meet the criteria for binge eating there needs to be some other symptoms connected with the binge. For example, eating until you are uncomfortably full or eating large amounts of food when you are not physically hungry. These are examples of symptoms and do not include all symptoms, nor do you need to have both of these symptoms to meet the criteria.

Bulimia Nervosa 

An important part of this diagnosis includes binge eating and then doing something to get rid of the food consumed to prevent weight gain. This can look like vomiting, laxities, fasting, or excessive exercise. Self-evaluation is also “unduly influenced by body shape and weight.” 

Other specified or unspecified feeding or eating disorder 

This diagnosis can be used for people whose symptoms do not meet the full criteria for other feeding or eating disorders that are in the DSM-5. For example, meeting criteria for anorexia nervosa but weight is above or within “normal range.” Many diagnoses say there is a certain amount of time you are engaging in the behavior. This category can be used if the amount is lower than what is specified in the category. 

If you are reading this right now and any of the above felt like it could be you, asking for help is important. You also do not need to meet the criteria for an eating disorder to ask for help. If any of the following apply to you, please know that meeting with a therapist can be helpful and important: 

  1. You have a relationship with food that you do not like. 
  2. You spend more time than you want thinking about food 
  3. You feel out of control or over-controlled with food   
  4. You miss out on activities because of eating or your body. 
  5. The way you feel about your body is negatively impacting your life 
  6. You make yourself throw up, spend a lot of time working out, or abuse laxities. 

 

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. My name is Dr. Rebecca Leslie and I am a psychologist and owner of Best Within You Therapy & Wellness (www.bestwithinyou.com). I am passionate about helping people change their relationship with food. If you are struggling right now, please know that therapy can help. More information about stress eating, disordered eating, emotional eating, binge eating, and bulimia can also be found here. https://bestwithinyou.com/eating-counseling/#binge_eat

Want to read more? Here are a few of my related blog posts you may be interested in checking out!

– “7 Tips to Convince Your Teen to Go to Therapy”

– “How To Deal With Your Depression”

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