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Eating Disorders

Eating disorders

What is an Eating Disorder?

Eating disorders are a group of conditions marked by unhealthy attitudes and perceptions associated with food, eating, body shape, or weight. These thought patterns often lead to extreme changes in eating and exercise habits that may significantly interfere with a person’s daily activities or cause considerable distress.  There are three main types of Eating Disorders: Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Binge Eating Disorder.

What are the symptoms?

The following symptoms and behaviours are common in people with Eating Disorders:

  • Excessive dietary restriction or overeating
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Excessive physical exercise
  • Vomiting after meals or excessive use of laxatives
  • A sense of low control when overeating
  • Extreme worry and obsession with body appearance, weight or food
  • Loss or disturbance of menstrual periods in females
  • Tendency to judge self-worth according to appearance
  • Mood changes and irritability.
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Faintness, dizziness and fatigue.
  • Withdrawal from friends and family and wanting to eat alone
  • Anxiety and depression.
  • Wearing loose, bulky clothes to hide weight loss
  • Denying that extreme thinness is a problem

What causes Eating Disorders?

There is no single factor that causes the development of an Eating Disorder. It is currently agreed that combination of social, psychological and biological factors are linked to the development of an Eating Disorder.  These factors may include a genetic predisposition, cultural factors, personality, family attitudes and behaviours, social factors such as media representation of body image, and experiences associated with adolescence. In addition, feelings of depression and anxiety, low self-esteem and relationship problems are also thought to contribute to the development of Eating Disorders.

How many people develop an eating disorder?

Eating disorders are estimated to affect approximately 9% of the Australian population. ( Although Eating Disorders are becoming increasingly common in males, the vast majority of people diagnosed with an Eating Disorder are female.

How are Eating Disorders treated?

Eating disorders can be treated successfully. Treatment for Eating Disorders is complex and is largely dependent on the severity and individual presentation of the disorder.  It is often most beneficial to treat people suffering from an Eating Disorder with a team of professionals including psychiatrists, psychologists, dieticians, general practitioners and possibly others.

Effective treatments for Eating Disorders may include some or all of the following:

  • Individual psychological therapy- This may involve Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, which is generally regarded as an effective treatment that addresses distorted thinking and behavioural patterns that contribute to the maintenance of Eating Disorders. Individual therapy may also be focused on education, problem solving, building self-esteem and improving self-awareness
  • Family therapy- This is thought to be particularly effective for children and adolescents with Anorexia Nervosa. It may involve improving family functioning as well as educating and working with family members in order to provide the best support for the client.
  • Medication- Anti-depressant medication has been shown to be a valuable component of treating some cases of Bulimia Nervosa.
  • Hospitalisation- When the condition becomes severe, it may be necessary for the individual to be treated in hospital in the early stages. Alternatively, regular outpatient treatments may be required.

Treating Eating Disorders at Sovereignty Counselling

Your clinician at Sovereignty Counselling will conduct a thorough assessment in order to determine whether you are suffering from an Eating Disorder and identify the severity of your symptoms. We will then seek to determine the most effective intervention and develop an individualised treatment plan based on your particular situation and symptoms.

Based on your assessment and treatment plan, your clinician may offer you one or more of the following interventions to treat an Eating Disorder or associated conditions:

  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
  • Family Therapy
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
  • Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)
  • Mindfulness
  • Solution-Focused Therapy
  • Skills Training

Your therapist may also recommend a referral to another health worker, such as a psychiatrist, dietician, or general practitioner either as an alternative to or in addition to your treatment at Sovereignty Counselling. In some circumstances, your therapist may also recommend an assessment at a hospital.

To find out more or to make an appointment, please contact us.