Anorexia Nervosa is a restrictive eating disorder diagnosis that has two subtypes, Anorexia Nervosa-Restricting Type and Anorexia Nervosa-Binge/Purge Type, that can occur alone or together. Though presentations vary among each individual, the DSM-V includes the following in its diagnostic criteria: a) Persistent restriction of energy intake, leading to low body weight or failure to meet growth trajectories, b) Intense fear of weight gain or becoming fat, and c) Disturbance in how the body is experienced or undue influence of shape and weight on self-evaluation. Anorexia Nervosa, as with all eating disorders, can impact those of all genders, sexes, race/ethnicities, sexual orientations, and ages. A common goal in treating Anorexia Nervosa is establishing consistent and appropriate nutritional intake as well exploring distortions around one’s body and weight. See the link for further information on AN.
People suffering from anxiety may experience some or all of the following symptoms: anxiety and worry (apprehensive expectation), occurring more days than not about a number of events or activities (such as work or school performance). It may feel difficult to control the worry, and the anxiety and worry may be associated with feelings of restlessness, being easily fatigued, having difficulty concentrating, Irritability, muscle tension, and/ or sleep disturbance (difficulty falling or staying asleep, or restless, unsatisfying sleep). Anxiety disorders can be categorized as generalized anxiety, phobias, agoraphobia, panic disorder, separation anxiety, or social anxiety.
In some cases, anxiety may precede an eating disorder. In struggling with anxiety, for instance, being able to control aspects of one’s life, such as food, weight, and exercise, may indirectly give a person a false sense of control, which can temporarily relieve symptoms experienced due to anxiety. However, with time, the disordered eating and focus on food and weight begin to exacerbate and worsen anxiety.
ARFID is a newer disorder in the DSM-5 and was previously called “Selective Eating Disorder”. ARFID involves restriction around variety and volume of food and does not include any body image distress or fear of weight gain. The effect of consistently not consuming enough calories and/or micronutrients can lead to negative impacts on an individuals growth and development. ARFID can affect those who avoid food based on sensory aspects of food, those who fear aversive consequences of eating and/or those with a lack of interest in food. A common goal in treating ARFID involves food exposures and sensory activities to increase variety and volume of nutritional intake daily. See the link for further information on ARFID.
Binge Eating Disorder is a type of eating disorder that includes a loss of control around food in a specific period of time that leads to shame, guilt and possible compensatory behaviors (ex. purging, overexercising). This is the most common eating disorder in the United States and can affect those of all genders, sexes, race/ethnicities, sexual orientations, and ages. Binges can make one feel the need to eat very quickly, feel uncomfortably full, embarrassed, guilty which creates a negative relationship around food and their body. A common treatment goal for BED is establishing a meal/snack routine that keeps one consistently nourished throughout the day with all types of foods to teach one control around food and their hunger/fullness cues. Treatment approaches involve exploring clients thoughts and behaviors around binge food and promote finding balance and permission around them. See the link for further information on BED.
Bulimia nervosa – better known as “bulimia” – is an eating disorder characterized by patterns of bingeing (consuming a large amount of food in a short amount of time) and purging (eliminating calories consumed). The binge-purge cycles may happen several days a week or several times a day.
There is no one cause of bulimia. A number of different biological, psychological and sociocultural factors contribute to the development of this condition. Other conditions, including substance use, anxiety disorders, and mood disorders can co-occur with bulimia.
There are many serious health risks associated with bulimia, including cardiac complications (irregular heartbeat and heart failure stemming from electrolyte imbalances), dehydration, edema (stemming from periods of purging cessation), ulcers, and pancreatitis.
Treatment for bulimia involves a thoughtful balance of medical, psychiatric, therapeutic and dietary interventions. See the link for further information on BN.
Depression is the most common mental disorder, and is treatable. Depression can exist on a spectrum of severity, and diminish quality of life even in mild cases. People with depression may experience a lack of interest and pleasure in daily activities, weight loss or gain, insomnia or excessive sleeping, lack of energy, inability to concentrate, feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt, and recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.
Depression may worsen eating disorders and eating disorders may worsen depression. The malnutrition of disordered eating can affect serotonin production and affect the brain, worsening mood and impairing sleep, concentration, and energy. Patients may struggle with distressing negative body image or persistent thoughts about food and body, further lowering their mood. Depression may diminish motivation for recovery. Despite the combined clinical picture of these coexisting disorders, treating both the eating disorder and the depression can improve both conditions. With treatment for depression, patients may stabilize their eating disorders through improved nutrition, improved energy, strengthened coping skills, and improved insight into the psychological symptoms of their eating disorder. When patients are on track with eating, evidence-based treatments for depression, such as psychotherapy and/or medication, work better, and patients have more energy and emotional space to recover from depression.
Orthorexia, though it is not officially defined in the DSM-5, involves one being overly concerned with eating “healthy” that can lead to restrictive behaviors of foods and food groups. People can also become obsessed with nutrition information, label foods as “healthy” or “unhealthy”, plan daily intake, create food rules, and avoid food at life events or occasions if the food available does not meet their individual criteria for what they can eat. The amount of restriction can lead to significant weight loss and malnutrition. A common goal in treating Orthorexia is exploring one’s food rules and/or knowledge and learning an inclusive approach around all foods which serve one’s body. See the link below for further information on Orthorexia.
Too often individuals, family members, and/or healthcare providers are looking for a formal diagnosis to determine a need for treatment. Eating disorders and disordered eating exist on a spectrum. Given the substantial toll on emotion, physical health, and cognition, we believe in prevention, and addressing any thoughts and behaviors keeping an individual from living their best life. Disordered eating may include emotional, behavioral, and/or physical signs and symptoms.