A person has an eating disorder when thoughts, feelings and behavior in relation to food, body and weight begin to limit the unfolding of life and impair the quality of life. The person becomes over-concerned with body, weight, appearance and food intake.

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This writes emerges from an article from Kari Anne Rasmussen Vrabel in the magazine Badeliv [Vrabel, 2011][1] .

 

Different types of eating disorders

In the article on Modum Bad's website they further write that there are the following subtypes of eating disorders:  

 

  1. Anorexia nervosa

    • Severe underweight

    • Limits what and how much you eat

    • Intense fear of putting on weight

    • Feels that the body is large and thick, despite being underweight

    • Some people may have excessive exercise, self-induced vomiting and the use of laxatives

  2. Bulimia nervosa

    • Excessive preoccupation with figure and weight

    • Repeated episodes of overeating. Eat much more food than what others would eat in the same situation and an experience of loss of control over food intake

    • The episode is followed by self-induced vomiting, laxatives, fasting periods or overtraining to compensate for the large food intake and avoid weight gain

  3. Unspecified / atypical eating disorders

    Variants of eating disorders that do not quite fit into the diagnoses anorexia and bulimia.

    • Satisfies some of the criteria for anorexia / bulimia without satisfying all, or has mixed symptoms

    • Overeating episodes without the accompanying compensatory action present in bulimia

 

What is an eating disorder about?

On the surface, eating disorders are about food, body and weight. The underlying causes of a person developing an eating disorder are often more difficult to spot. The eating disorder is not incomprehensible, but can be difficult to understand. Low self-esteem is a hallmark of many people who develop an eating disorder. The perception of others can govern self-worth. It becomes difficult to like oneself and acknowledge one's own feelings.

Eating disorders are often a way of dealing with emotional chaos. The eating disorder can give an experience of having control and give a feeling of mastery. In transition phases, in case of loss or grief, violations, anxiety or unrest, a solution can be to create an overview of the chaos by taking control of food, body or exercise. The eating disorder acts as a coping mechanism, a protection against the feeling of never reaching, never being good enough, skilled enough or pretty enough.

The line between a strained relationship with food, body and weight and having an eating disorder is slippery. It is normal to have periods where you are dissatisfied with your own body, sloppy with your food or are extra focused on the "right" diet. We first talk about eating disorders when thoughts, feelings and behaviors related to food, body and weight overshadow everything else, and degrade the quality of life.

 

Can give a feeling of mastery

The interest organization for eating disorders, ROS, writes [Nettros][2] :

The eating disorder is not incomprehensible, but can be difficult to understand. Low self-esteem is a hallmark of many people who develop an eating disorder. The perception of others can govern self-worth. It becomes difficult to like oneself and acknowledge one's own feelings.

They point out that an eating disorder is often a way of dealing with emotional chaos.

The eating disorder can give an experience of having control and give a feeling of mastery. In transition phases, in case of loss or grief, violations, anxiety or unrest, a solution can be to create an overview of the chaos by taking control of food, body or exercise. The eating disorder acts as a coping mechanism, a protection against the feeling of never reaching, never being good enough, skilled enough or pretty enough.

 

Some common signs of eating disorders

The following symptoms may be common in an eating disorder:

 

  1. Weight loss or large weight fluctuations
  2. Over-obsession with weight and body
  3. Stress and guilt after eating
  4. Development of abnormal eating habits, such as avoiding meals or consuming large amounts of food
  5. Compulsory training
  6. Contempt for one's own body, shape and appearance
  7. Mood swings and difficulty concentrating
  • Source: [Nettros]

 

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What helps with eating disorders?

Most people who have an eating disorder recover, but not without expert help and / or treatment. Both experience and research indicate that the relationship between patient and therapist can have an impact on how and how quickly the treatment reaches the goal. 

Getting well is not something you have to do on your own. Many people need treatment, but not everyone has a treatment offer.

Guided self-help is an offer that may be suitable for those who want to take on their own process and work with someone structured over time to get well. 

 

Tips for relatives in the event of an eating disorder

Being a relative or in a close relationship with someone with an eating disorder can be very challenging and demanding. It is often the case that when one in the family is ill, it also affects the rest of the family. Relatives and loved ones often experience great despair and powerlessness over what to do and should do to help the sick.
It is important that relatives have the strength to be the support they are supposed to be, but if they are to manage this, they must also meet support and understanding.

 

Tips for parents and other relatives

 

  1. Anyone struggling with eating disorders needs confirmation in all areas. It is good to feel accepted without conditions. Try to show that he / she is appreciated, whether he / she eats or not.

  2. Be honest. With an open, honest and caring attitude, it is easier to get the role of supporter and not opponent. This helps to break the isolation and prevents anxiety and depression from getting stuck and becoming chronic

  3. If conflicts arise, do not give in for fear that the situation will get worse. It can lead you into vicious circles and destructive patterns of action.

  4. Feel free to talk about feelings and general problems about family, friends or the school situation.

  5. Try to divert attention away from food and weight. Rather encourage other interests and activities.

  6. Avoid remarks such as "You are destroying us all" or "You are driving us crazy" It places an unjustified responsibility for family health and well-being on those who have an eating disorder.

  7. Be clear and set boundaries, but avoid threats, coercion and surveillance. Try to understand the anxiety behind the compulsive relationship with food, body and weight.

  8. Try to give, but do not demand care for yourself. Seek help from professionals or talk to others who have been through a similar situation.

  • Source:  [Nettros]

 

Different forms of help

 

  1. Psychotherapy

     

    find-help-mental-health-problems

     

    Psychotherapy / treatment is a process characterized by a time-limited contact between a therapist and a patient / client, in which specific problems are thematized and worked with. Include different therapeutic traditions (for example cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychodynamic therapy, family therapy, and more)

    A useful source that evaluate the effectiveness of specific therapies for different mental health problems is the website to the Cochrane Institute [Cochrane Institute][3] .

     

  2. Online therapy

     

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    Online therapy is similar to traditional therapy or treatment, but is provided by digital means (either phone, video conference, or similar). Digital interventions can include a broader range of options, such as therapist-guided self-help programs online.

    The current research literature provide strong support for the adoption of online psychological interventions as a legitimate therapeutic activity [Barak et al., 2008][4] .

     

  3. Support / self-help groups

     

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    Support / self-help groups can take a variety of forms, from providing a safe and supportive social environment; more or less structured group meetings; information and guidance relating to how to use available help services; and a lot more.

    While it is difficult to know the effectiveness of such services, due to very different compositions of support and self-help services, the research generally show the self-help groups may have important benefits for the participants [Kurouz et al., 2002][5] .

     

  4. Helplines and chats

     

    find-help-mental-health-problems

     

    Different helplines and chats exist. Some helplines are specialized in providing you with information and guidance, while others are more specialized in providing emotional support. Some helplines are highly professional, while others are more based on voluntary workers, that merely wish to be a caring listener.

    It is difficult to evalute how effective such services are, and it probably depends on many factors. For example, while the state of the science regarding the effectiveness of crisis response services remains limited, overall results provide support for such services [Hoffberg et al, 2020][6] .

     

  5. Online communities and forums

     

    find-help-mental-health-problems

     

    Online communities and forums are options to get in contact with other individuals that struggle with something similar to you or someone you know. Some communities are moderated by professional health workers, while most of them are not.

    Online communities is traditionally not understood as a support or health service, but rather a social area - that may have the potential of being supportive for the individual that uses it. Importantly, research has shown that "people with serious mental illness report benefits from interacting with peers online from greater social connectedness, feelings of group belonging and by sharing personal stories and strategies for coping with day-to-day challenges of living with a mental illness. Within online communities, individuals with serious mental illness could challenge stigma through personal empowerment and providing hope. By learning from peers online, these individuals may gain insight about important health care decisions, which could promote mental health care seeking behaviours" [Naslund et al., 2016][7] .

    This seems to indicate that online communites should not be underevaluated as a potential resource to recovery, coping and enhanced quality of life for people affected by mental health problems.

     

 

Find help for eating disorders

Please choose your location to find help for eating disorders where you live:

 

You can also browse from different options of help where you live:

 

References & Footnotes
  1. Vrabel, 2011: Vrabel, K. A. R. (2011). Hva er en spiseforstyrrelse? [What is an eating disorder?]. Badeliv, (4). Modum Bad.
  2. Nettros: ROS. Rådgivning om spiseforstyrrelser [Guidance about eating disorders]. http://www.nettros.no/
  3. Cochrane Institute: Cochrane Institute: "Trusted evidence. Informed decisions. Better health." Retrieved 9th of February 2020 from: https://www.cochrane.org/
  4. Barak et al., 2008: Barak, A., Hen, L., Boniel-Nissim, M., & Shapira, N. A. (2008). A comprehensive review and a meta-analysis of the effectiveness of internet-based psychotherapeutic interventions. Journal of Technology in Human services26(2-4), 109-160.
  5. Kurouz et al., 2002: Kyrouz, E. M., Humphreys, K., & Loomis, C. (2002). A review of research on the effectiveness of self-help mutual aid groups. British Journal of Clinical Psychology33, 198-200.
  6. Hoffberg et al, 2020: Hoffberg, A. S., Stearns-Yoder, K. A., & Brenner, L. A. (2020). The effectiveness of crisis line services: A systematic review. Frontiers in public health7, 399.
  7. Naslund et al., 2016: Naslund, J. A., Aschbrenner, K. A., Marsch, L. A., & Bartels, S. J. (2016). The future of mental health care: peer-to-peer support and social media. Epidemiology and psychiatric sciences25(2), 113-122.