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Body Image & Eating Disorders

1 Your Role
I want to learn about treatment options for:

2 Basic Information
The Person is:
years old

graduated high school

3 Condition Information
Caron Treatment Centers accepts patients aged 13 years or older. For more information on services available to those 12 and under, please learn more about Caron's Student Assistance Program.
Eating disorders cannot be ignored.

Eating disorders wreak havoc on a person's health. The self-destructive behaviors associated with them not only impact physical health, they severely damage psychological health. Because many factors influence the development of eating disorders, treatment and recovery must address the unique needs of the whole person.

What are eating disorders?

Eating disorders are illnesses characterized by abnormal eating habits that adversely impact physical or mental health. Though eating disorders primarily affect females, particularly teenagers and young adults, males can also suffer from them.

Types of eating disorders.

The most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder.

  • Anorexia nervosa, which is characterized by an intense fear of gaining weight, involves very restricted eating and the pursuit of an extremely low body weight (at all costs.)
  • Bulimia nervosa involves recurrent episodes of binging (eating unusually large amounts of food) followed by compensatory behaviors such as vomiting, using laxatives or compulsive exercise.
  • Binge eating disorder involves compulsive episodes of overeating without the compensatory behaviors associated with bulimia nervosa.

Other eating disorders include compulsive overeating, pica (compulsive eating, chewing or licking of non-food items such as paper, cigarette ashes or chalk) and purging disorder (vomiting or other elimination behaviors in the absence of binging behaviors.)

Causes of eating disorders.

While the exact cause of these disorders is unknown, a combination of genetic, psychological, environmental and social factors is thought to play a role. Often, individuals suffering from eating disorders have low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, loneliness or other co-occurring conditions. Peer and cultural factors, including narrow definitions of beauty; the glorification of thinness; and an emphasis on appearance over character, may also contribute to the development of eating disorders. Genetic influences, such as a history of eating disorders in the family, may also be at play. Finally, individuals with eating disorders may have a history of physical or sexual abuse or other childhood trauma.

Effects of eating disorders.

Eating disorders can have serious physical and psychological consequences. Patients with eating disorders are often extremely malnourished. Many suffer from electrolyte imbalances, osteoporosis, constipation, diarrhea and dental problems. More serious complications, such as cardiac arrest, kidney failure, brain atrophy, death and suicide, also result from eating disorders.

Treating eating disorders.

Fortunately, various treatment options are available to those suffering from eating disorders. Treatment varies depending on the type and severity of the disorder, as well as the existence of co-occurring disorders. Typically, cognitive-behavior therapy, nutrition counseling and medical interventions are part of a comprehensive treatment program. In some cases, inpatient treatment programs are necessary.