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Providing Psychological Assessments & Therapy Services to the Macarthur Area

Eating Disorders

What is an Eating Disorder?

Eating Disorders include a range of psychological problems that involve persistent and severe concerns around food, weight and body image. Whilst there is a strong focus on these issues in today’s society and the media, people that have an Eating Disorder find it difficult to control their weight-related worries and thoughts, and this problem impacts greatly on their daily life. Eating Disorders can also impact upon a person’s self esteem, mood and engagement in social situations. Over time Eating Disorders can pose severe health risks.

Anorexia Nervosa

In Anorexia Nervosa, a person’s focus on losing weight leads to extreme weight control measures. In this condition a person’s weight becomes dangerously low, potentially causing significant health problems and in severe cases hospitalisation is necessary.

Individuals with Anorexia Nervosa have very restricted dietary intake, and their thoughts tend to obsess around the issues of food and weight. Other weight control strategies are often employed, such as excessive exercising and use of laxatives or diet pills.

As with other Eating Disorders, individuals with Anorexia Nervosa can bind their feelings of self worth with their weight and body shape. It dominates their life and can impact on their ability to work or study, engage in leisure or social activities.

Bulimia Nervosa

As with Anorexia Nervosa, in Bulimia Nervosa an individual is focused on their weight and body shape, and finds it difficult to maintain their weight. Their weight can vary, and this impacts greatly on their mood and self esteem.

In Bulimia Nervosa, individuals will often fall into patterns of severe dietary restriction followed by episodes of binge eating. Extreme compensatory behaviours may then be employed, such as self-induced vomiting and use of laxatives.

Common Difficulties Amongst Eating Disorders

Individuals with Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa and other weight-related problems not quite meeting these diagnoses, tend to feel quite isolated in their problem. There is much secrecy and possibly a sense of shame regarding the difficulties they have been experiencing. Individuals may not want to share with family and friends how they have been feeling, and many of their behaviours are carried out when others won’t see.

Eating Disorders can be very complex, and individuals can also experience secondary problems including Depression, Anxiety and poor Self Esteem.

Due to the high risk of medical complications, it is important to involve your GP in your care. In addition, Psychological Therapy has been found to be key in helping people understand and overcome their Eating Disorder.

Psychological treatment for eating disorders focusses on understanding the underlying issues that often make people vulnerable to problems with eating behaviours and body image. These may include perfectionistic expectations of the self; unhealthy attitudes towards food, weight and body shape; and a lack of other ways of coping with difficult emotions. Psychologists work with people to help them learn different ways of thinking about themselves, their bodies and food; to develop more healthy ways of relating with food, and to learn new ways of dealing with their emotions.