EATING DISORDERS

At Highlands Recovery we understand that very often co-occuring eating disorders surface in early recovery and we assist with getting our clients into recovery from all their addictive behaviours.

Eating-disorders are best understood as an illness. It can lead those affected to believe that they can solve most of the problems in their life by changing their diet and controlling their weight. When an eating disorder is present, these thoughts usually lead to unhealthy dietary changes, such as overeating or only eating small portions of food, or not eating anything at all.

Eventually this behaviour progresses and the person affected becomes obsessed with this and their life and health spirals out of control.

People with anorexia starve themselves, avoid high-calorie foods and exercise constantly. People with bulimia eat huge amounts of food, but they throw up soon after eating, or take laxatives or diuretics to keep from gaining weight. People with bulimia don’t usually lose as much weight as people with anorexia.

Abstinence from compulsive overeating, starving, over exercising, vomiting and purging is only the first step and not the ultimate goal in itself. The whole purpose of recovery from addictive disease is to be able to rid ourselves of emotional obsessions and their damaging physical consequences. Simply changing an obsession for doing something into an obsession for not doing something (for example going from bingeing into starving or vice versa) is no improvement.

Treatment involves three components:
1. Restoring the person to a healthy weight;
2. Treating the psychological issues related to the eating disorder; and
3. Reducing or eliminating behaviors or thoughts that lead to disordered eating, and preventing relapse.

Anorexia nervosa is characterized by a relentless pursuit of thinness and unwillingness to maintain a normal or healthy weight, a distortion of body image, an intense fear of gaining weight and extremely disturbed eating behavior. Some people with anorexia lose weight by dieting and exercising excessively; others lose weight by self-induced vomiting, or misusing laxatives, diuretics or enemas.
It is typically characterized by a person’s thinness due to their fear of gaining weight (although this is not always the case) and their subsequent refusal to eat.

A person suffering from Anorexia Nervosa will refuse food and embark on prolonged periods of self-starvation in order to lose weight, and will continue to do so even when their weight has fallen below what is acceptable for their height and age. The goal posts keep moving and they never feel thin enough. They are likely to be in denial of the fact they are underweight.

The absence of eating is often coupled with a compulsion to exercise to extremes, placing additional stress on the body. Purging behaviors such as self-induced vomiting, the misuse of diet pills, diuretics or laxatives may also be employed. Eating, food and weight control become obsessions. An anorexic typically weighs herself or himself repeatedly, portions food carefully, and eats only very small quantities of only certain foods.

Symptoms
* Thinning of the bones (osteoporosis)
* Brittle hair and nails
* Dry and yellowish skin
* Growth of fine hair over body
* Mild anemia, and muscle weakness and loss
* Severe constipation
* Low blood pressure, slowed breathing and pulse
* Drop in internal body temperature, causing a person to feel cold all the time
* Lethargy

Bulimia nervosa is characterized by recurrent and frequent episodes of eating unusually large amounts of food (e.g., binge-eating), and feeling a lack of control over the eating. This binge eating is followed by a type of behavior that compensates for the binge, such as purging (e.g., vomiting, excessive use of laxatives or diuretics), fasting and/or excessive exercise. Purging behavior is a compensatory response to the feelings of shame and disgust that follow a binge eating episode, as well as a way to avoid gaining weight.

Unlike anorexia, people with bulimia can fall within the normal range for their age and weight. But like people with anorexia, they often fear gaining weight, want desperately to lose weight, and are intensely unhappy with their body size and shape. Usually, bulimic behavior is done secretly, because it is often accompanied by feelings of disgust or shame. The binging and purging cycle usually repeats several times a week, sometimes several times a day.

Symptoms
* Chronically inflamed and sore throat
* Swollen glands in the neck and below the jaw
* Worn tooth enamel and increasingly sensitive and decaying teeth as a result of exposure to stomach acids
* Gastro esophageal reflux disorder
* Intestinal distress and irritation from laxative abuse
* Kidney problems from diuretic abuse
* Severe dehydration from purging of fluids
* Burst blood vessels in face and eyes

Binge-eating Disorder or Compulsive Overeating involves the consumption of very large amounts of food in a short period of time. During a binge-eating episode the individual does not feel in control over how much they are eating and will sometimes go to extreme lengths to get hold of food, such as scavenging from dustbins. The types of foods consumed will usually fall into the category of highly calorific ‘comfort’ food such as bread, crisps, cakes, biscuits and sweets that can be eaten easily.

Unlike bulimia, purging, excessive exercise or fasting does not follow binge-eating episodes. As a result, people with binge-eating disorder often are overweight or obese. They also experience guilt, shame and/or distress about the binge eating, which can lead to more binge eating.

* Periodically does not exercise control over consumption of food
* Eats much more quickly during binge episodes than during normal eating episodes
* Eats until physically uncomfortable
* Eats when depressed, sad, or bored
* Eats large amounts of food even when they are not really hungry
* Often eats alone during periods of normal eating, owing to feelings of embarrassment about food
* Feels disgusted, depressed, or guilty after binge eating