Other diagnoses related to disordered eating
Rumination disorder – this involves regularly regurgitating your food (without a physical health reason for doing so). You may then re-chew, swallow or spit out this food.
PICA – this is eating inedible substances which have no nutritional value. This could be potentially harmful.
Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) – a very strong need to avoid food or just certain foods due to their smell, taste or texture. The idea of eating these foods can cause anxiety.
Causes of eating problems
There is no clear cause for eating problems. In most cases the difficulties will arise as a result of a combination of environmental and biological factors. This could include; habits and traits, difficult life experiences, family issues, social pressures, physical and mental health problems, biological and genetic factors or specific triggers or “at risk” times. Sometimes it may be difficult to establish the causes of your eating problems.
Treating eating problems
NICE guidelines suggest that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) or family therapy are best practice for the psychological treatment of eating problems. However, there are also a number of other approaches which can be helpful, particularly when symptoms/behaviours are milder in nature.
If an eating disorder isn’t treated, it can have a negative impact on someone’s job or schoolwork and can disrupt relationships with family members and friends. The physical effects of an eating disorder can be fatal.
Treatment for eating disorders is available, although recovery can take a long time. It’s important that the person affected wants to get better, and the support of family and friends is invaluable. Treatment usually involves monitoring a person’s physical health while helping them deal with the underlying psychological causes. This may involve:
- using self-help manuals and books, possibly under guidance from a therapist or another healthcare professional
- cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – therapy that focuses on changing how a person thinks about a situation, which in turn will affect how they act
- interpersonal psychotherapy – a talking therapy that focuses on relationship-based issues
- dietary counselling – a talking therapy to help a person maintain a healthy diet
- psychodynamic therapy or cognitive analytic therapy (CAT) – therapy that focuses on how a person’s personality and life experiences influence their current thoughts, feelings, relationships and behaviour
- family therapy – therapy involving the family discussing how the eating disorder has affected them and their relationships
- medication – for example, a type of antidepressant called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may be used to treat bulimia nervosa or binge eating