Eating Disorders and Mental Health: What is the Connection?
When discussing eating disorders, it’s impossible to dismiss the psychological aspect of it. Although the experts separate eating disorders from mental health issues, it’s evident that these two go hand in hand. Therefore, treating eating disorders and mental health at the same time is crucial in order to help a patient get better. However, the stigma around the mental aspects of eating disorders is still around and prevents many from getting adequate help. That’s why Consumer Opinion Guide is here to explain the correlation between physical and mental symptoms.
The undeniable intersection between eating disorders and mental struggles
Long-term studies show that eating disorders are mainly resulting from underlying psychological issues. However, that doesn’t diminish the external factors that may trigger negative patterns that enforce a negative relationship with food. Binge eating and undereating are always tied to psychological causes.
It may start with losing ten pounds but end with developed disordered eating as the only coping mechanism. Besides undereating, emotional consumption of food also falls under disordered eating habits. In general, any type of disordered eating stems from various problems:
- Trauma flashbacks
- Personal loss
- Established insecurities about personal appearance (attractiveness)
- Chronic feelings of loneliness
- Rough period, etc
OCD is often connected with Anorexia nervosa
According to International OCD Foundation, almost 70% of people suffering from anorexia also suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder. Anorexia itself is not just about undereating and looking fit. This disorder also involves the constant urge for control and perfection. An anorexic individual sees the control of appetite as personal freedom, while it’s the disease that ends up controlling them. Obsession with control leads to behaviors related to OCD. In that case, therapy for OCD is advised alongside clinical assistance and medications.
Bulimia is often found in patients who have a difficult time coping with emotions
Just like Anorexia, Bulimia is a disorder that has little to do with body image. The first stage of Bulimia is tied to the way a person sees themselves. However, it slowly becomes the only way a person believes they can maintain their body and cope with difficult situations. The inability to regulate emotions or vent out in a healthy way leads to frequent binge eating and purging. The majority of patients report a feeling of immense relief after purging. Hence it’s safe to say that bulimia
Binge eating is also called “emotional/comfort eating”
Binge eating is also an individual issue that leads to an unhealthy relationship with food. The phrase “eating own emotions” was coined to describe unprocessed emotional problems a person tries to numb with comfort food.
Body dysmorphia is attached to eating disorders
Body dysmorphic disorder, or simply body dysmorphia, is a rarely talked-about mental issue. The opinions among the mental help experts are divided. Some believe it’s an underlying condition triggered by external influences, while others claim it starts with a person’s obsession with the way they look. Either way, it’s safe to conclude that body dysmorphia has plenty to do with tampered brain function.
People suffering from body dysmorphia often feel shame or disgust about the parts of their body they don’t deem attractive. In severe cases, body dysmorphia accompanies eating disorders. When asked about what they see in a mirror, individuals visibly suffering from anorexia claim they have humongous hips, bellies, thighs, etc. It’s their brain that distorts their reflection in the mirror.
Depression is commonly associated with any of the eating disorders
One of the signs of depression is a poor relationship with food, one way or another. Rapid weight gain or weight loss is commonly associated with depression. It’s not a rarity that individuals with clinical depression develop an eating disorder. This is where two medical conditions become intertwined so hard it’s impossible not to treat them both at the same time. A combination of innovative treatments is necessary to help patients overcome both conditions and start a new life.
The popularity of online therapy for depression has increased. Struggling individuals find it safer and more convenient to attend therapy from their homes instead of traveling to the therapist’s office.
Scientific studies prove that eating disorders are followed by different mental health struggles
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, eating disorders happen due to psychological, behavioral, genetic, and other key factors. The decision to binge eat or not eat at all isn’t a lifestyle choice. Even if it initially begins as an attempt to drop a few pounds (or more), the problems escalate on a psychological level. In general, eating disorder has a lot to do with unprocessed emotions, trauma, and desire for control. In the mind of an individual struggling with anorexia or bulimia, control of food intake gives a false feeling of control over every aspect of life.
Therapy is needed as much as medical treatment
It’s necessary to include adequate psychotherapy in order to tackle eating disorders in their entirety. The mental aspect is necessary to address and discover what emotional patterns play a role in maintaining an unhealthy relationship with food and yourself. It doesn’t mean something is inherently wrong with you. Like any other human, unprocessed trauma, suppressed emotions, and years of negative self-talk caught up with you. All the symptoms you’re experiencing are signals that it’s time to do something about them.
However, those who have eating disorders and unrecognized mental health struggles find it difficult to accept. Is this the case with you? Is it hard to recognize what stops you from getting help? Take a look at the list of common reasons:
- If you happen to be a prideful person that does everything on their own, admitting that you need help seems like a weakness to you. However, it’s the opposite. Those who aren’t afraid to seek help are the strong ones.
- Do you feel like your career and reputation are at stake if you get the help you need? Are you afraid your business might suffer? Rest assured that nothing should come between you and your health.
- Toxic and conservative family members who don’t believe mental health struggles exist can surely hinder your health progress. However, remember that it’s not them who matter in this case. Stick to friends and family members who don’t judge you and want you to get better.
- An overpowering fear of abandonment prevents most people with eating disorders from getting help.
Come clean to your closest ones
Your loved ones want only the best for you and are willing to go the extra length to help you. As much as it seems difficult, do your best to open up about the problem you’ve been hiding for so long. Chances are that some of your closest ones noticed that you weren’t well.
Remember that you’ll need to cooperate with your loved ones once you come to them for help. That means:
- Being honest about what bothers you, what you feel, etc.
- Listening to medical advice and following the instructions from your chosen therapist.
- Making continuous choices towards complete recovery.
Therapy has become way more accessible and convenient
Technological advancement and innovation in psychotherapy made online therapy effective. In addition, people find online therapy way more convenient, especially if they’re on a tight schedule more often than not. They can work with a licensed therapist from the comfort of their homes, which also works for those dealing with clinical depression and/or anxiety. Nowadays, it’s easy to find, for instance, some of the best online CBT therapy for anxiety, facilitated by experienced therapists.
Online therapy is especially handy for people who feel uncomfortable having in-person sessions with a therapist. If you are one of them, then all you need to do is search for online, top-rated companies that have been around for quite some time. That means they developed with the advancement of online services and thus know how to curate a therapy for those who prefer attending it from a home environment.
Look for specific therapy
Before starting your online therapy, you must determine the kind of therapy you need. There isn’t such a thing as one-size-fits-all therapy. An ongoing recovery from an eating disorder must be followed by complementary treatment. First, you must be diagnosed before you officially begin with sessions. Also, you’ll have to mention the struggles with an eating disorder you’re recovering from. The therapist will then come up with a specific strategy and create milestones and measurable goals for you.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is commonly used in most cases involving eating disorders and co-occurring mental health struggles (anxiety, BPD, etc.). It’s a scientifically-proven method that successfully helps struggling individuals overcome negative thought patterns and self-destructive behaviors. The longer the therapy lasts, the better. When searching for CBT online therapy companies provide, focus on the following :
- CBT therapist’s credentials
- Informative reviews written by past patients
Therapy can help you mend partnerships
An eating disorder also impacts relationships with friends, family, and partners. Intense events, projections, and an array of complex scenarios often take place during the development of a disorder. Partnerships especially suffer due to constant conflicts. A struggling partner refuses to get help and treats a partner that wants to help them as an enemy.
Even after you admit that you need help, it will take time to mend broken relationships with people you’ve cut from your life. It’s a process that takes effort from both sides. Be the one who will make the first step. Acknowledge the fact that your loved one wanted to help you all along. An open conversation and the decision to seek therapy are enough for a start. You can propose to your partner the best online couples therapy you’ve discovered. Or, you can go online and decide who to consult regarding relationship issues.
Should you continue with psychotherapy after recovery?
One of the goals of therapy is to re-learn healthy coping mechanisms and get used to making healthier choices for yourself. That being said, recovery depends on the way you go about your daily life after medical therapy. Although you don’t struggle with physical symptoms and urges related to a particular eating disorder, you should do your best to maintain your health and well-being. So, should you leave therapy after you get better? The answer is – no; you should continue with therapy.
The role of continuous therapy is to help teach you how to recognize patterns that trigger eating disorder habits and diminish them in a healthy way. It can be through specific tasks, new hobbies, physical activity, etc. If you happen to feel like slipping into old habits, the therapist is there to keep you accountable.
Seeking help is the first step
The correlation between eating disorders and mental health is undeniable. Therefore, it’s necessary to treat both problems simultaneously. Don’t be afraid to seek the help you need. Also, know it’s nothing you should be ashamed of. The good thing is that you’re still here and willing to take steps to build a new life on healthier foundations.
Therapy is an integral part of the entire recovery process, in addition to medical assistance. For more resources and information about online therapies, refer to Consumer Opinion Guide, and start taking steps towards life on healthier grounds.