When you think of someone with an eating disorder, you may picture someone overly focused on their weight or body image or who refuses to eat anything more than a few bites of food. While this is the picture painted in the media, eating disorders are much more complex and wide-ranging than this; they include any disturbed eating pattern that negatively impacts physical health, mental health and overall functioning.
Living with an eating disorder can be an incredible daily struggle so Banbury Lodge provides effective eating disorder rehab programmes that can help you gain control of your condition and take small and achievable steps to a healthy relationship with food.
What is an eating disorder?
Eating disorders are recognised mental health conditions that involve disordered eating, and obsession over body shape, weight and food. They are classed as behavioural addictions because of the compulsive psychological and physical need to engage in behaviours that can be severely damaging. Eating disorders can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, race or background.
Types of eating disorders
There are many different types of eating disorders, some of which have overlapping symptoms or co-occur, which can make accurate diagnosis and treatment more difficult. The most common eating disorders include:
The extreme restriction of food intake, resulting in dangerously low body weight. People with anorexia have a distorted view of their body shape and size, even if they are significantly underweight.
The avoidance of certain types of food, usually due to fear or dislike of specific textures, tastes, or smells. This can lead to severe malnutrition and requires special nutritional interventions and therapy.
Binge Eating Disorder
Episodes of uncontrollable compulsive eating during which people will often binge on large amounts of food in a short period of time and feel unable to stop.
Frequent compulsive eating followed by compensatory behaviours after bingeing such as self-induced vomiting, excessive exercise, fasting, or laxative abuse.
(Night Eating Syndrome) Uncontrollable food cravings at night. People with this disorder will typically consume large amounts of food after dinner or in the middle of the night.
This eating disorder is defined as a fixation on consuming only ‘healthy’ foods, usually leading to an unhealthy obsession with dieting, exercise and nutrition.
Characterised by various signs and symptoms which do not meet the diagnostic criteria for any of the other eating disorders such as binge eating disorder or bulimia nervosa but still cause significant distress and impairment in a person’s life.
This eating disorder is defined as the consumption of non-food items such as dirt, paper, or paint chips. This disorder is often related to nutritional deficiencies or underlying mental health issues and can be dangerous if left untreated.
This eating disorder is defined as repeatedly regurgitating and either spitting out or reingesting food that has been partially digested. This itself can lead to serious medical complications such as acid reflux and malnutrition.
Characterised by the presence of signs and symptoms relating to an eating disorder, but which do not meet the diagnostic criteria for any specific disorder.
Purging disorder is a serious, yet often underdiagnosed eating disorder that affects both adolescents and adults. This disorder affects 1.25 million people in the UK alone.
What causes eating disorders?
Eating disorders are thought to be caused by a combination of biological, psychological and environmental factors that can all play a role in their development.
Biological causes may include:
- An imbalance of chemicals in the brain
- Genetic predispositions
Psychological and environmental factors include:
- Mental health issues such as depression or anxiety
- A history of abuse or trauma
- Family dynamics
- Cultural expectations or pressures to be a certain size or shape
General eating disorder symptoms
As eating disorders are such a diverse range of conditions, each has its own set of signs and symptoms. In general, people with an eating disorder may:
- Restrict their food intake or engage in compulsive eating
- Have a distorted view of their body shape and size
- Obsess about the nutritional content of food
- Have an extreme view on exercise and fitness
- Be secretive about their eating habits
- Feel overwhelmed by meal times and struggle with feelings of guilt or shame
All of these eating disorder symptoms alongside the specific challenges each eating disorder presents can have a profoundly negative impact on a person’s physical and mental well-being which is why seeking professional treatment is so important.
What are the health effects of eating disorders?
Different eating disorders can cause a range of physical and mental health complications, some of which can have serious long-term effects if left untreated.
Physically, people with eating disorders may experience problems such as:
- Extreme weight loss or gain
- Digestive issues
- Weakened bones or teeth
- Hair loss
- Low blood pressure
- A higher risk of developing serious conditions such as heart problems and diabetes
People may also feel a profound sense of guilt or shame about their behaviour and body image, have difficulty forming relationships and experience depression, anxiety or even suicidal thoughts due to their condition.
Five important things to know about eating disorders
Eating disorders are widely misunderstood and this can lead to sufferers feeling stigmatised and ostracised and prevent them from reaching for help. This is the ideal scenario for eating disorders which thrive when they are able to isolate a person and eat away at them. To help reduce the stigma surrounding eating disorders and increase understanding of these complex mental health conditions, it is important to know that:
1. Sufferers are not just picky eaters…
Eating disorders are serious medical conditions and are not just about being ‘fussy’ or ‘picky’ with food.
2. Eating disorders affect every aspect of a person’s life…
Eating disorders can affect physical health, mental well-being, relationships, social interactions and career prospects. People who suffer from an eating disorder may find it difficult to concentrate at work, interact with family and friends or feel happy in social situations.
3. Sufferers do not all just want to be thin…
Although some eating disorders can manifest in purging or extreme dieting, they go beyond just wanting to be thin. Eating disorders are highly complex and can have a wide range of root causes and motivations.
4. Recovery is not just about eating healthier…
Eating disorders can involve extreme diets, but they are often linked to underlying mental health issues or the need for control in other areas of life. These underlying issues need to be addressed for effective healing to take place.
5. Eating disorders are adept at hiding in plain sight…
The signs of an eating disorder can be difficult to detect and people may go to extreme lengths to conceal their behaviours or feelings. This is why knowing the signs and symptoms of an eating disorder is key for early detection and successful treatment.
What does eating disorder treatment involve?
Due to the complex nature of the condition, eating disorder treatment involves a multi-faceted approach including eating disorder rehab and aftercare.
Eating disorder rehab
Eating disorder rehab utilises a range of therapies which focus on enabling sufferers to work through the underlying issues behind their condition in an environment which is safe, supportive and non-judgmental. Banbury Lodge provides comprehensive inpatient eating disorders rehab which includes:
- Two one-to-one therapy sessions a week
- One group therapy session a week
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
- Dialectical Behavioural Therapy
- 12 Step Programme
- Nutritional guidance and support
- Integrated family therapy sessions
- Mindfulness and relaxation techniques
- EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing)
- Relapse prevention planning
We also have a private chef who will plan and prepare your meals alongside your nutritionist to fulfil your individual nutritional needs.
Banbury Lodge is also one of the only eating disorder recovery centres to treat under-eighteens which is very important because unresolved childhood eating disorders can be carried into adulthood and have serious long-term consequences. We provide a safe and secure environment specifically designed to meet the needs of adolescents and young adults with eating disorders.
Aftercare is an essential part of any eating disorder treatment plan and at Banbury Lodge, we provide a comprehensive aftercare programme which includes weekly group therapy sessions to help you maintain your progress and to provide support during difficult moments
In addition to receiving aftercare, you will also be invited to join our Alumni Network which allows you to stay connected with other people going through eating disorder recovery. We provide exclusive events, messaging groups and forums, and access to free resources and advice, all of which can help you to stay on track with your recovery.
How to get help for an eating disorder
If you are ready to take the first step towards recovery, contact Banbury Lodge today. We can help you to find the right treatment programme for you, and answer any questions you may have.