What are eating issues?

Food is crucial to our overall wellbeing. However, sometimes people can develop a challenging and painful relationship with it.

For instance, some people have an emotional relationship with food and eat to help soothe uncomfortable feelings. Others restrict it to give them a sense of control over their bodies and lives. Restricting food can also be a way of communicating distress that the person can’t put into words. Eating issues also often come hand in hand with other body image issues such as body dysmorphia.

Here are some different types of eating issues:

Binge eating
People experiencing binge eating can feel out of control around food and eat large amounts in a short space of time, often in secret. They might do this even when they are not feeling hungry and even if it causes physical discomfort.

This can lead to weight gain, low self-esteem and mood issues, potentially leading to even more binge eating.


Bulimia
People experiencing bulimia have a strong fear of putting on weight, yet also go through bouts of uncontrollable eating. After this, they will try to compensate by vomiting, doing excessive exercise, taking laxatives or diuretics, or restricting their food.

One type of bulimia is diabulimia, which is when someone with type I diabetes uses their insulin to compensate for eating.


Anorexia
People experiencing anorexia are preoccupied with keeping their weight as low as possible. They will often do this by restricting what they eat and sometimes by exercising excessively.

People with anorexia usually don’t perceive their bodies clearly and believe that they are bigger than they actually are. As a result, they might rigidly control their food intake, vomit after eating, take laxatives and, in more extreme cases, stop eating altogether. This can have serious and long term physical effects.


Orthorexia
Overall, healthy eating is a positive habit, but some people experience it as an obsession that affects their quality of life and triggers extreme anxiety. This is known as orthorexia.

People experiencing orthorexia often spend a large part of their day thinking about healthy eating, strictly limiting what they eat and even avoiding eating socially. When they do ‘cheat’ and eat something they aren’t supposed to, they can experience feelings of shame and self-loathing. Sadly, they might also find that by cutting out certain food groups, their health is actually negatively affected.


Overall signs of eating issues

  • Change in weight or being underweight
  • Rigidity and control around food
  • Lack of control around food
  • Taking laxatives or diuretics
  • Storing, stashing or hoarding food
  • Avoiding eating with others
  • Obsessive weighing
  • Vomiting after eating
  • Damaged teeth
  • For women, periods may stop


Thankfully, the right therapy can help you to develop a healthier relationship with food. It can also help you to identify and manage the life stresses that might have caused the issue. If you think you have an eating issue, it’s also important to seek help from your GP so that you can get support with your physical health as well.


Help for eating issues

These therapies have been shown to be effective with various eating issues: CBT, DBT, EMDR, Schema Therapy, Psychodynamic Therapies, CFT, ACT, Mindfulness, Systemic Family Therapy, Art Therapy.


Your next step

Need confidential help with eating issues? Our team of compassionate, expert therapists are here for you.

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