Oxford CBT / Conditions / Eating Disorders

Eating Disorders

The term ‘eating disorders’ refers to a number of mental health problems, all of which involve an unhealthy relationship with food. This may result in people eating too much or too little or becoming obsessed with weight or diet.

What are Eating Disorders?

Common eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder, and can affect individuals of any age or gender.

Eating disorders severely disrupt a person’s daily life and if left untreated can develop into serious conditions affecting physical, psychological and social functioning.

People with eating problems can often feel shame about their symptoms, and this can be a barrier to seeking help. However, many people who receive treatment make a lasting recovery and see great improvements across all aspects of their mental and physical health.

Many people will recognise eating disorders as mainly associated with “anorexia” however there are many other disorders which come under this term. 

The different types of eating disorders

There are three main types of eating disorders in adults:

Characterised by regular binge eating followed by “compensatory behaviours” like vomiting, exercising, and restricting one’s eating and are an attempt to prevent weight gain.

Symptoms can include:

  • Problems with low self-esteem, frequently related to body shape and weight
  • A cycle in which people consume large amounts of food in a short period of time, then taking measures to counteract this (e.g., by vomiting, fasting, exercising excessively, or using laxatives)
  • Feeling ‘out of control’ over eating and experiencing changing food consumption/habits 

Characterised by regular binge eating followed by “compensatory behaviours” like vomiting, exercising, and restricting one’s eating and are an attempt to prevent weight gain.

Characterised by Individuals binge eating (as in bulimia nervosa) but without compensatory behaviours and can cause additional health issues linked to diets, such as high cholesterol levels and diabetes, this is due to the amount of, and type of food consumed. Binge eating often occurs in secret and is associated with significant distress. More in-depth on binge eating disorder.

Symptoms can include:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Weight gain as a result of disturbed eating patterns
  • Finding it difficult to stop eating

These conditions can all experience worries about body image, which could lead to symptoms of BDD.

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD)

Also known as body dysmorphia, is a body image-related anxiety disorder.

Obsessive thoughts and worries centred around physical appearance or minor flaws that can lead to unhealthy behaviour patterns (such as high mirror checking) are present in people experiencing BDD. It’s not a sign of vanity or self-obsession to have BDD. These obsessions and behaviours are emotionally upsetting and significantly interfere with our ability to go about daily activities.

The extent of BDD can differ in each person and day by day. Some of us may find it challenging to interact with others or go out in public due to concerns about our appearance. This can negatively influence our work life, social interactions and personal relationships may be impacted by this.

A condition related to BDD that has seen an increase over the past few years, in particular with young adults is Bigorexia.

Bigorexia, sometimes referred to as muscle dysmorphia, is a form of body dysmorphic disorder that presents some of the same symptoms as other illnesses like anorexia nervosa. This condition may also be linked to other mental disorders like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and disordered eating.

This mental illness can make us continually consider adding muscle to our bodies. On the outset, many bigorexia symptoms might appear to be fairly ordinary. However, it’s possible that there’s more at play than just a desire to be fit when you push your body to meet fitness objectives that always seem out of reach.

signs of an eating disorder and symptoms

If you think you or someone you care about are experiencing these signs, then treatment for eating disorders may be required. Oxford CBT has clinicians who provide specialised treatment for people struggling with eating disorders. 

How are Eating Disorders diagnosed?

In some cases, problems with eating can be caused by other conditions – either psychological or physical – or by some medications. One aim of the assessment is to ensure that you are offered the most appropriate treatment.

What is the treatment for Eating Disorders?

Oxford CBT has a team of professional therapists specialised in CBT-E which is a specialist treatment for eating disorders. CBT-E is a leading evidence-based treatment for many eating disorders, usually delivered 1:1. The treatment is recommended for adults (18 and above) in current NICE guidance and usually lasts around 6-12 months. Sessions can be delivered remotely or in person. 

Most psychological treatments for eating problems focus on disrupting the factors and habits behind it. This might include looking at eating patterns, reducing unhealthy body checking, and dietary rules.

What Questions Will Be Asked During The Assessment?

Clinicians who specialize in treating Eating Disorders

Take a self-assessment for Eating Disorders

Complete screening questionnaire and we will connect you with a therapist according to your needs and requirement criteria.

Consider online therapy

Online sessions are a flexible alternative to in person sessions and have been proven to be equally as effective.

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