Eating Disorders Treatment
Common features in all the types of Eating Disorders
'Eating disorders' is an umbrella term for a number of distinct types of conditions that are characterised by a disturbed relationship with food, excessive concern about weight and body shape and a variety of harmful food-and-weight-related behavioural patterns. Even though each eating disorder has its unique nature and specific symptoms, they all share a number of common features, such as dissatisfaction with one's body and weight; secretive, ritual-like behaviours; uncontrolled, often irrational thinking about food and weight; experiencing all negative emotions as feelings of ''fatness''; and an onset which is, in the vast majority, related to the effects of dieting.
It's not about food
It is important to understand that eating disorders are really not about food. On the contrary, eating -or not eating- is only used as a coping mechanism, as a way for sufferers to deal with challenging or painful emotions, to ease up their stress and anxiety, and to gain some sense of control over their life, at times when emotions or situations become overwhelming. However, several, often quite serious physical complications occur as a result of the injurious behaviours, creating a critical physical component, which is the first that needs to be addressed in the treatment of any kind of eating disorder.
Multiple causes - One trigger
There is no one single cause of eating disorders. Rather, a combination of a number of predisposing factors, including biological and psychological elements, personality traits, cultural and intra-family influences, as well as significant events in one's personal history, makes one vulnerable to developing an eating disorder. However, the single, most important, consistent precipitating factor, from which every type of eating disorder typically emerges is dieting.
Even though eating disorders are generally considered a female problem, men are not at all excluded and do also suffer from such conditions, which unfortunately tend to often get misdiagnosed.
1 EDNOS, The DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) is the main instrument used by mental health professionals for the classification of mental disorders and, as such, it provides a fixed and tight set of criteria for the diagnosis of the two main categories of eating disorders, Anorexia and Bulimia Nervosa. However, there are many cases of disordered eating, where not all of the criteria are met; for example, anorexia presentation, without the absence of menstruation, or binge-eating without vomiting. These cases fall under the general category of EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified).
Binge Eating Disorder, Night Eating Syndrome and Orthorexia are some of the more 'typical' EDNOS subcategories, even though each case is unique and it is not unusual for sufferers to move from typical to atypical presentations, or from one eating disorder type to another. The most consistent symptoms that characterise all eating disorders and disordered eating cases are the use of food -or starvation- as a way of emotional regulation and control, an extreme concern about weight and body shape and a strong association between the latter and one's self-esteem.