How to Find Help For a Suspected Eating Disorder
Eating disorders are serious, and they can have serious consequences on your physical health and well-being if left untreated. In fact, the mortality rate – that is, how many people suffering from this disorder who die – is higher for eating disorders than for any other psychiatric conditions. Eating disorder are more common in young women, but a small percentage of young men (10-15%) suffer from these conditions, too.Once you suspect that you have one, it is best to find professional help as getting the treatment you need could save your life.
Inspecting Your Eating Habits
Be familiar with what an eating disorder is.An eating disorder is a serious condition that results in severe disturbances in your eating habits. You may go through cycles of eating too much or too little, along with having an extreme preoccupation with your body or weight. The most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder.
- Researchers believe the roots of an eating disorder involve a intricate mixture of genetic, biological, psychological, social, and behavioral factors.
Look for the symptoms of anorexia nervosa.This type of eating disorder is marked by severe, potentially life-threatening periods of emaciation and obsession with thinness. Warning signs may include losing weight dramatically, losing hair, not having a menstrual cycle, being overly preoccupied with calories, fat, sugar, dieting, and weight, making comments about being “fat” no matter how much weight you have lost, denying hunger, avoiding mealtimes or situations where food will be present, and working out excessively.
- Anorexia nervosa restricting type is characterized by restricting foods or calories without binge eating or purging.
- Anorexia nervosa binge-eating/purging type is characterized by eating large amounts of food and then purging, or vomiting, over a period of three months.
See if you are experiencing the symptoms of bulimia nervosa.This disorder is categorized by dangerous cycles of consuming large amounts of food then actions taken to compensate for the binge, such as vomiting or taking laxatives or diuretics. People suffering from bulimia may feel totally out of control during binges and their self-esteem is strongly linked to their perception of their bodies. There are purging and non-purging types of bulimia. Other signs may include:
- Swelling of the cheeks or jaw area
- Stained teeth
- Trips to the bathroom after meals
- Disappearance of large amount of food
- Calluses on hands or knuckles from self-induced vomiting.
Determine if you can spot the signs binge-eating disorder.This condition involves consuming large amounts of food and feeling unable to stop. You may eat even when you’re already full, consume lots of food in a particular time-period (like over 2 hours), eat alone or in secret, diet consistently even if you are not losing weight, and feel depressed, ashamed or guilty about your eating habits.
- In comparison to a person with bulimia, those with binge-eating disorder may not attempt to compensate for overeating.
Complete an online screening to figure out your risk.Taking an online assessment will not provide a thorough evaluation as consulting with a specialist. However, it is a good way to understand your risk without all the pressure.
Accept that you need help.If notice the signs and symptoms of an eating disorder in yourself, it’s important that you get help immediately. An eating disorder is a life-threatening condition, but proper medical help can help you recover. Are you worried about what to do next or afraid to tell a loved one? You can contact someone for support anonymously by calling the National Eating Disorder Association helpline at 1-800-931-2237.
Confide in a parent, friend, or family member.You may feel scared or embarrassed about needing help, but it can be helpful to start with someone who loves you. Reach out to one of your parents, best friends, or another trusted confidant.
- This person may initially express shock, anger, or disappointment. Try to be patient as they process the information and explain that you need support in seeing a doctor for help.
Visit your primary care doctor for an examination and referral.The first step is meeting with your primary physician for an initial examination. Be sure to write down or be able to discuss at length all the symptoms you are experiencing.
- Your doctor can decide if you need immediate medical care in an inpatient center. He or she will also refer you to eating disorder specialists, such as dietitians, psychiatrists and psychologists.
Know you can get assistance if you can't afford treatment.If you are worried about paying for your eating disorder recovery treatment, don't give up hope. Your insurer may deny coverage of your treatment, but you may be able to make an appeal to have it covered or receive your treatment on a sliding scale from various centers.
- In addition to treatment fees being charged on a sliding scale, you may also be able to receive treatment free of charge at facilities like Mercy Ministries, or you may receive assistance to help you cover the cost of treatment with major scholarships from the Kirsten Haglund Foundation, Manna Scholarship Fund and Eating Disorder Recovery, Inc.
Getting Treatment for an Eating Disorder
See a dietitian.Treating an eating disorder requires a team of specialists who have a background in working with individuals with your condition. A dietitian will help diagnose the exact type of eating disorder you are experiencing. Then, this professional will work in conjunction with a mental health provider and your primary care doctor to monitor your nutrient intake, recommend food and exercise to get you back to a healthy weight, and help you develop a sustainable relationship with food.
Consult with a psychiatrist.Depending on the severity of your disorder you may require pharmacological intervention, such as anti-anxiety meds or antidepressants, which can help with feelings of depression or anxiety that contribute to disorder eating. A psychiatrist can prescribe and help you manage your medications.
Attend psychotherapy.Most people find that seeing a psychologist or psychotherapist for therapy helps them to process their thoughts and emotions associated with their eating habits. Cognitive-behavioral therapy has been recognized as one of the most effective treatment approaches for eating disorders since it addresses the core issue found in all eating disorders, which is being overly concerned with one's shape and weight.
- Depending on your specific diagnosis, the therapist will work with you to identify irrational thought patterns you have about your body and help you monitor and overcome your tendency to restrict, binge, or purge food based on your mood.
- In some cases, it is helpful to conduct family-based therapy for minors so that the therapist can address how unhealthy thought patterns and behaviors are frequently reinforced by family or cultural views on body image.
What if your not sure that you have an eating disorder? What should you do?
- Eating disorders can be fatal if left untreated. Attempt to seek help at the first symptom that you recognize as the start of an eating disorder. The earlier you detect and get professional help, the better chances you have at recovering and preventing life-threatening medical conditions.
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