Eating Disorders

Steps Recovery Center recognizes how vital the mind, body, and spirit are in their connection to the whole person. We take a holistic approach to treating eating disorders that includes treating the whole person, and find that it tends to be more successful, especially since eating disorders can affect every aspect of a person’s life. With a customized and individualized program, a holistic approach just makes sense. It affords an opportunity to meet the patient’s physical and psychological needs and allows them to engage physically, emotionally, and mentally.
What is an Eating Disorder?
An eating disorder is an illness in which people experience severe disturbances in their eating behaviors, related thoughts, and emotions. Individuals who are diagnosed with this disorder become overly preoccupied with food and their appearance. Most people with this condition generally feel bigger than they actually are, sometimes even despite life-threatening semi-starvation or malnutrition. An irrational fear of gaining weight and becoming obese may become all-pervasive. In the primary stages of developing this disorder, patients often deny having a problem.  Disordered eating issues can develop at any stage in life, but they typically emerge during one’s teen years or early adulthood. Even though these conditions are treatable, the consequences can be detrimental and even fatal if not addressed. Moreover, eating disorders usually coexist with other conditions, such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. 
Types of Eating Disorders
Here are the three most common types of eating disorders:
  • Anorexia Nervosa: An individual who suffers from anorexia nervosa usually has an obsessive fear of gaining weight and an unnatural perception of body image. Individuals with this disorder typically limit the quantity of food they eat and view themselves as overweight—even when they’re visibly underweight. Anorexia can result in damaging health effects, such as brain damage, multi-organ failure, heart difficulties, bone loss, and infertility. The risk of death is highest in individuals with this disorder.
  • Binge Eating Disorder (BED): People who suffer from BED will frequently lose control over their eating, often causing obesity and cardiovascular diseases. Individuals who struggle with this disorder may also experience intense feelings of distress, guilt, and embarrassment related to their eating habits, further influencing the progression of their disorder.
  • Bulimia Nervosa: This eating disorder is marked by repeated binge-eating followed by destructive behaviors that compensate for the overeating, such as excessive exercise, forced vomiting, and constant use of laxatives and diuretics. People who suffer from this disorder fear weight gain and feel extremely unsatisfied with their body size and shape. The binge-eating and purging cycle is generally done in secret, leading to feelings of guilt, shame, and loss of control. Moreover, bulimia can have injuring effects, such as gastrointestinal problems, severe dehydration, and heart problems resulting from a lack of electrolytes. 
What Causes Disordered Eating?
Eating disorders are complex and can stem from multiple factors. A combination of biological, psychological, and environmental factors contributes to the development of this illness.  Biological factors include:
  • Imbalanced hormones
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Genetics
Psychological factors include:
  • Poor self-esteem
  • Negative body image
Environmental factors include:
  • Dysfunctional family dynamic
  • Careers that glorify weight loss, such as modeling and ballet
  • Participating in aesthetically oriented sports where an emphasis is placed on having a lean body, such as diving, rowing, gymnastics, ballet, and running
  • Peer pressure
Eating Disorder Treatment
Receiving a diagnosis is only the first step toward recovering from an eating disorder. Treating disordered eating generally involves a combination of psychological and nutritional counseling, coupled with medical monitoring. Treatment modalities must address psychological, biological, interpersonal, and cultural forces that contribute to these disorders. Some people stay at an inpatient treatment facility that can provide them with the personal care and tools they need to turn their life around.