Beyond The Stereotypes of Eating Disorders

Publication Date: January 8, 2023


When Princess Diana was candid about her struggle with Bulimia, at the time, her honest, bold statement caused shockwaves around the world—eating disorders were rarely discussed openly. On such a grand scale, having a global idol do so defied a major societal stigma.

Sometimes we tend to have a love/ hate relationship with food, however  eating disorders impact at least 9% of the world’s population. Eating disorders are behavioral problems marked by significant and persistent changes in eating habits, as well  as disturbing thoughts and emotions, many related to body image.  Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, avoidant restrictive food intake disorder, other specified feeding and pica, and rumination disorder are examples of eating disorders.

If you are facing difficulties related to the consumption of food,  therapy will guide you throughout. Therapy connects you with qualified counselors who will enable you to start the journey of healing. Talktime connects you with experts, allowing you to receive the emotional and mental health support you require when you need it.

Understanding Eating Disorders

Control is frequently regarded as a positive attribute. People tend to believe that everything is alright when our lives are “in control’’. Our sense of identity is shaped by our habits, ambitions, and achievements. Unfortunately, attempting too much control might backfire, producing disaster rather than delivering peace.

Controlling traits are frequently acquired as a result of interactions with caregivers while children are young. When children believe that their parents love them solely for their achievements, such as grades, or for external criteria, such as appearance, they learn that they are not as valuable as others, leading them to believe that love is conditional and that only external factors matter.

Moreover, individuals with EDs are prone to obsess over certain thinking patterns or negative thoughts over and over again. Feelings of insecurity and failure are common themes in these beliefs. This way of thinking is difficult to manage, and as the situation worsens, it becomes even more chaotic and troublesome. For example for individuals with Anorexia, when they adopt unreasonable, unrealistic standards and habits around eating or when exercise becomes more restrictive, they find it dense to eat any meal without detailed planning as they try harder to control their exercise and food intake. Excessive exercise also takes time away from other activities, causing critical things to be neglected. When life becomes out of balance, disaster occurs.

We all need aims and routines, but eating disorders become more likely when control leads to perfectionism, stress, and self-doubt. In fact, research has shown that perfectionism is not only linked to an increased risk of EDs, but it also makes them more difficult to treat.

Two Scenarios With Subtle Signs

Mentioned below are two scenarios where subtle signs persist.

  1. Depression and Anxiety with subtle signs

The client sought therapy first to cope with anxiety and despair that came and went. During the sessions, they discussed how nervous they get when they are invited to a gathering. In these conversations, they expressed how tough it is for them to eat in front of others. The client stated that their anxiousness grows, and it becomes unable to understand what is going on.

Further, the client explains that when they speak, the client loses their stream of thought or finds it difficult to carry a meaningful conversation with other individuals. The client mentions that this situation leaves them feeling alienated and depressed after leaving the event.

  1. Confusing a ‘Lifestyle Change’ with Something Else

A client seeks counseling because she has trouble believing in herself. She claims she needs to make a few modifications in order to feel more optimistic.

The client begins by stating that she has tried a variety of diets but that none of the diets appears to work long-term. The client expresses that while she is on the diet, she feels great. Then the client explains how she blew the diet at some point, and how it resulted in returning to believing that she will never be able to reduce weight and feel good about herself. The client is currently working with an online health and wellness coach to try a “lifestyle” transformation. She has shed some weight and is pleased with herself. During their appointments, she reports how well she is adhering to the diet and how good it feels as a result.

The client also mentions that she has attended a number of social gatherings and has always brought her own food because the prospect of not knowing what meals will be available makes her nervous. She couldn’t take the chance of ruining her day by eating any “poor” dishes that were being served.

Unless you are looking for eating disorder red flags, you would likely only see the first client as someone who is battling anxiety, which could then lead to depression. In the second case, the client could be viewed as a woman who has been struggling with confidence and simply could not find a diet that worked for her. Through the lens of an eating disorder therapist, you see each client’s story differently. Eating disorders are deceptive. It is easy to miss their unspoken signs.

Beyond The Stereotypes

Individuals with eating disorders are frequently associated with excessive weight loss or symptoms such as binging or purging. However, eating disorders can appear or act very differently. Family, friends, the general public, the media, and health care providers are all sources of misinformation about eating disorders. Young people indicated how having the wrong concept about ‘what eating disorders are’ can aggravate their symptoms.

Contrary to popular opinion, developing an eating disorder is never only driven by a desire to look like celebrities in glossy magazines. The most prevalent misconception is that eating disorders were solely concerned with weight and attractiveness. Many individuals had picked up on unhelpful stereotypes such as people with eating disorders were usually underweight and obsessed with their image, or that eating disorders could only affect “thin,” “emotional young girls.”

It is a common and false misconception that eating problems only affect teenagers. Although eating disorders are most often diagnosed in youth, one-third of eating disorder cases are long-term, lasting well into middle age and beyond.

How Therapy Can Help

While EDs are complex issues with many contributing factors, it’s simple to understand how the sense of control may lead to turmoil for the victim and their families.

Treatment for eating disorders depends on the nature of the disorder and the symptoms you are experiencing. It usually consists of a mix of psychological counseling (psychotherapy), nutrition instruction, medical monitoring, and, in certain cases, medication.

Other health problems caused by an eating disorder must also be addressed as part of eating disorder therapy, as they can be significant or even life-threatening if left untreated for too long, but with the assistance of therapy, you could always step in the direction of healing.

If you sense you may have ED symptoms, talk to a licensed therapist who specializes in treating EDs. While you focus on your mental health, your therapist will need to collaborate closely with your physician to treat the complex physical consequences of EDs. Healing is possible with proper therapy.

Taking a systematic approach to eating disorder treatment can help you manage symptoms, regain a healthy weight, and keep your physical and emotional health in check.

At TalkTime, we provide you with the best online therapists to guide you through your healing process. Online therapy, like in-person psychotherapy, provides a nonjudgmental, safe, and confidential space in which you can talk to a skilled licensed therapist about any distress you might have.

If you believe you require therapy, please contact us to begin online therapy sessions with one of our licensed therapists. At Talktime, you will be matched with an ideal therapist after taking an initial assessment. Sign up with Talktime today  to begin your healing journey..

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