By Judy Blackstone, PH.D.
UW-Eau Claire Counseling Services
What is an eating disorder? A severe disturbance in eating behavior, motivated by a fear of weight gain and other personal hurts and fears. Generally people talk about three variations: anorexia nervosa ( refusal to maintain even a minimally normal body weight), bulimia nervosa (binge eating episodes followed by trying to get rid of the extra calories) and binge eating disorder ( binge eating in response to feelings about ourselves or problems in relationships).
Who gets eating disorders? Mostly adolescents and young adults.
Why is it a problem? Not only does it make us feel worse about ourselves but eating disordered behaviors can cause numerous medical problems like electrolyte imbalance, cardiovascular abnormalities, gastrointestenal disorders, skin problems, hormonal imbalances, bone changes, and neurological abnormalities. Once eating disordered behaviors start in someone’s life, those behaviors require professional counseling and medical help in order to stop.
What causes eating disordered behavior? Many reasons cause people to start.
Some of them include:
- Our society’s emphasis on being as thin as models at the same time that were encouraged to eat fast food and use alcohol (empty calories)
- Low self esteem
- Shame (our secret fears that we are worthless)
- Losses and grief
- Abuse (of any sort)
- Relationship disappointments/conflicts
- Perfectionism (if it makes my outside okay, then maybe everything else I’m scared about will be okay)
- Feeling controlled by others
- Inability to feel feelings/ bottling them up
- Alcohol/drug use/abuse
- Anxiety/panic attacks
How do people get better? Counseling/therapy that helps us change our inner pain and fears to self confidence and that helps us change the eating disordered behavior.
Support groups with other people who understand and also want to become healthy.
If eating disordered behaviors are part of your life, talk with a Counselor or Social Worker who can arrange for help for you.