Eating Disorders and Types
Eating disorders are severe mental health conditions that affect our mental and physical health and quality of life. They often stem from the unrealistic perception of body weight and shape, leading to unhealthy relationships with food and excessive restrictions or food intake.
Unhealthy eating behaviours involve using food as a way to cope with intense feelings, emotions or other situations. Anyone can develop an eating disorder, but the most vulnerable group of people are teenagers between the ages of 13 and 17.
Common eating disorders include:
If left untreated, disordered eating can have a serious impact on a person’s mental and physical well-being, as well as overall daily functioning. Many people tend to hide their challenges and isolate due to feelings of shame or fear of judgement. At Leaf Complex Care, we provide a person-centred approach to eating disorder support, helping the people we serve feel empowered and live a meaningful life.
Co-occurrences with Other Conditions
Eating disorders often accompany other mental health conditions, creating complex challenges for diagnosis and treatment. Mental health challenges like depression frequently co-exist, intensifying feelings of hopelessness. Anxiety disorders, including OCD, can amplify the need for control, a central aspect of eating disorders. Additionally, eating disorders often co-occur with personality disorders, such as borderline personality disorder (BPD), and bipolar disorder (BD). These intertwined mental health challenges necessitate a comprehensive and integrated approach to treatment and support.
Eating Disorders and Mental Health
Eating disorders are not just about food and unhealthy eating habits, they are serious mental health conditions. Scientists found that eating disorders can cause unusual neurological activity across the nervous system, which is associated with a range of psychological symptoms, including:
One of the most common eating disorders, binge eating disorder, is often rooted in difficult family relationships, a history of severe stress and trauma, or an inability to express emotions. Social factors also play a significant role in developing eating disorders. For example, the unrealistic beauty standards promoted on social media can cause a loss of self-confidence and distorted body image, leading to restrictive eating habits and extreme weight loss. Eating disorders can affect everyone, regardless of gender, age or social background.
Eating Disorders and Anxiety
Eating disorders and anxiety often go hand in hand, creating a complex web of emotional and psychological challenges. Anxiety can be a trigger for disordered eating behaviours. The intense fear, worry, and restlessness associated with anxiety can drive individuals toward restrictive eating patterns or binge eating episodes.
Also, the guilt and shame resulting from eating disorder behaviours can intensify anxiety. This co-occurrence highlights the importance of addressing both conditions simultaneously in treatment, as effective management of one can positively impact the other, improving overall well-being and mental health.
Eating Disorders and BPD
Eating disorders and borderline personality disorder often intersect, presenting unique challenges for individuals. BPD appears with unstable moods, self-image, and relationships, while eating disorders involve disordered eating patterns and body image concerns. These conditions can reinforce each other, as the pursuit of control over food intake may provide a sense of stability for someone with BPD.
Similarly, the extreme emotional swings associated with BPD can contribute to developing unhealthy eating behaviours. Addressing both disorders is crucial for comprehensive treatment, as improvements in one area can positively affect the other, improving the overall mental and emotional well-being.
Eating Disorders and Bipolar
Bipolar disorder involves intense mood swings, ranging from emotional (manic) highs to depressive lows. These extreme mood shifts can influence eating habits and body image perceptions. During manic phases, individuals may engage in impulsive behaviours, including disordered eating patterns. Also, depressive episodes can exacerbate feelings of guilt and low self-esteem related to body image, potentially intensifying eating disorder behaviours.
Eating Disorder and OCD
Eating disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder can co-exist together. This can often pose a challenge in determining the precise diagnosis as both mental health challenges involve obsessive behaviours.
OCD involves persistent, intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviours, while eating disorders revolve around distorted eating patterns and body image concerns. These conditions can intersect, as obsessive thoughts about food, weight, or appearance may drive compulsive rituals related to eating. For example, strict calorie counting or rigid meal planning can become obsessions, leading to restrictive eating behaviours.
Eating Disorders and Depression
Depression involves persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a loss of interest or pleasure in activities. These emotions can contribute to or exacerbate disordered eating behaviours. Additionally, the guilt and low self-esteem associated with an eating disorder can intensify feelings of depression.
This dual challenge emphasises the importance of addressing both conditions in treatment. By addressing the underlying emotional distress and fostering healthier coping mechanisms, individuals can work towards improved mental and emotional well-being.
Eating Disorders and Neurodiversity
Mental health professionals have identified a strong link between eating disorders and different forms of neurodiversity, including autism spectrum disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The reason behind this often lies in the sensory processing challenges that many people on the autism spectrum or with ADHD cope with.
For example, people with autism may get over-stimulated by specific smells or textures of some kinds of food, leading to either obsession or extreme repulsion towards eating.
Another example involves challenges with processing internal stimuli such as hunger, thirst or pain in people with autism or ADHD. People may struggle with recognising their hunger cues, which can lead to an eating disorder or disordered eating behaviours.
Eating Disorders and ADHD
Many experts believe that people with ADHD have a greater chance of developing an eating disorder. This is often due to a lack of impulse control and focus of attention, which are common ADHD characteristics. Consequently, this might lead to an increased risk of developing binge eating disorder or other disordered eating behaviours, including intentional purging.
Other eating-related symptoms include difficulty recognising hunger and satiety cues, which may result in avoiding food or binge eating.
Eating Disorders and Autism
People on the autism spectrum are often particularly sensitive to food textures, smells or tastes. This might lead to food aversions due to selective dietary needs, and people might develop an eating disorder due to their challenges.
Additionally, many people with autism struggle with physical difficulties that decrease the pleasures of eating, including gastrointestinal difficulties, or problems with swallowing and chewing.
Seeking Professional Help
Seeking professional help is a sign of strength and an essential step towards regaining control and fostering a healthier relationship with food and your inner self. It is also a crucial step towards recovery and well-being.
A qualified healthcare provider, such as a therapist, nutritionist, or physician, can offer specialised guidance tailored to individual needs. They can assess the severity of the disorder, provide a clear diagnosis, and create a personalised treatment plan. This may include therapy to address underlying emotional issues, nutritional counselling to establish balanced eating habits, and medical monitoring to address any physical complications.
Remember, you don’t have to face this alone-dedicated professionals are ready to support you on your journey to recovery.
Get Support with Leaf Complex Care
People with mental health challenges turn to Leaf Complex Care for our person-centred approach to treating eating disorders and relapse preventing strategies. Our dedicated team of support workers aims to address the stigma surrounding eating disorders and deliver humanised home care services to every individual with complex care needs.
To provide bespoke assistance, the Leaf Complex Care team works closely with the individual, their family members and specialists to assess each person’s needs and personal preferences. Our support workers follow personalised care plans, prioritising the individual’s independence, dignity, and safety.
Contact us, and we will create a tailored care plan catering to your unique needs.