Before beginning the journey to recovery, you have to know there’s a real problem. Unfortunately, many people with eating disorders are in denial about the seriousness of their condition, or they may deny having a disorder altogether.
Even if you know there’s a problem, this isn’t enough on its own, as you probably don’t feel able to stop destructive behaviors on your own.
As part of the process of identifying an eating disorder, your Christian counselor or psychiatric care provider may ask you questions such as:
- Do you feel that your relationship with food controls your life?
- Do you feel out of control when it comes to the quantity of food you consume?
- Do you make yourself sick because you feel uncomfortable after eating?
- Do you see yourself as overweight even if other people say you’re too thin?
- Have you lost more than 15 pounds in the last three months?
Types of Eating Disorders
Once a mental health professional has determined you have an eating disorder, you’ll learn more about the type of disorder you have. It’s important to understand the scope of your disorder and its effects so that you can begin your journey of recovery and know you’re not alone in your experience.
Anorexia is a disorder characterized by an obsession with thinness, specifically an overwhelming, life-altering fear of weight gain. This fear leads to compulsive behaviors such as fasting and extremely low calorie consumption.
Someone with anorexia usually has a severely distorted body image. They are often unable to see how thin they are and may be dissatisfied with their weight even when they are at a dangerously low body weight.
Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa include:
- Extreme weight loss
- Fatigue, dizziness, or fainting
- Hair loss or breakage
- Low blood pressure
- Irregular heart rhythm
- Severely reducing calorie intake by fasting, dieting, and excessive exercise
- Preoccupation with food
- Frequent denial of feeling hungry
- Irritability and depression
Bulimia is characterized by episodes of extreme overeating alternating with efforts to purge the body of excess food, including self-induced vomiting, over-exercising, or the use of laxatives and diuretics.
In spite of their misery, people with bulimia are sometimes able to hide their disorder for years because they may never become severely underweight.
Symptoms of Bulimia Nervosa include:
- Lifestyle rituals involving binging and purging
- Swelling in the cheeks and jaw
- Calluses on the back of hands and knuckles
- Stained or discolored teeth
- Irregular bowel movements
- Self-esteem overly dependent on body image
- Frequent trips to the bathroom after meals
- Excessive, strict exercise routine
- Feeling out of control during binging sessions
Binge Eating Disorder
The hallmark of binge eating disorder is consuming large quantities of food in a short amount of time. This behavior is comfort-based and quickly becomes addictive. It’s often accompanied by strong feelings of shame and an effort to keep binges hidden. Just like anorexia and bulimia, binge eating disorder can have serious health complications, so it’s vital to seek help as soon as possible.
Symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder include:
- Eating large amounts of food in a specific time-frame (usually 2 hours)
- Eating in secret due to feelings of shame
- Feeling your eating behaviors are out of control
- Frequently eating until you’re uncomfortably full or when you’re not hungry
- Feeling depressed, ashamed, and disgusted with your eating behaviors
- Frequent dieting, typically without much weight loss
- Weight gain and chronic obesity
Figure 1 Stats taken from www.anred.com (Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorders) and healthyteenproject.com
The counselors at Newport Beach Christian Counseling offer an experienced, compassionate approach to overcoming eating disorders. We want you to know there is hope for a full recovery.