Food is one of the most important elements of both health and culture: it’s required to keep us alive, but it’s also a symbol of togetherness, celebration, and often an activity in itself.
This is why eating disorders are particularly challenging for those who suffer from them. Approximately 9% of the US population suffers from some kind of eating disorder. And it’s a serious problem: 26% of those people attempt suicide.
Today we’d like to talk about some of the most common eating disorders and how they can come out of a toxic relationship with food and self-image.
Underlying Mechanisms of Eating Disorders
This is an oversimplification, but eating disorders are often linked to two things: coping skills and body image.
Consuming food – especially good food – releases endorphins in the brain that cause feelings of happiness. This is part of where the term “comfort food” comes from, and is why food is so inextricably linked to important cultural celebrations. However, this means food can also be abused as a coping mechanism for depression, anxiety, and other mental problems.
Eating disorders are also connected to body image, especially so (but not exclusively) in women. The extreme prevalence of diet culture and unrealistic – sometimes Photoshopped – world of models and Instagram plants deep, deep seeds of low self-esteem in many people. People with eating disorders often struggle with body image and have a warped relationship with food as a result.
Not all eating disorders are as visible or clear cut as some of the more well-known varieties, such as anorexia or bulimia. For instance, binge eating can occur without purging, especially during times of emotional distress.
How Can Therapy Help?
Cognitive behavioral therapy is an extremely effective method for treating eating disorders. It can help in these areas and more:
If you or someone you love struggles with an eating disorder, whether it’s mild or severe, therapy can help! You deserve to have a healthy relationship with food and your body. Contact Azevedo Family Psychology today and let’s get started.