Get your life and health back on track with treatment at Alegna Solutions on the Gold Coast.
What are eating disorders?
Disordered eating refers to a range of problems related to food and body image that affect a person’s life and well-being. Many people, especially women, feel unhappy about their bodies, and diet or worry about food. These conditions develop when these worries lead to, for example, an intense fear of fat, an obsession with food and weight, and the belief that a slim body shape is crucial for self-worth. The most serious eating disorders are anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.
On the Gold Coast, eating disorders mainly affect females, with males accounting for around 10 per cent of cases, although the secretive nature of the disorder makes it hard to determine how many people are affected. Unfortunately, some people may continue to deny the problem even after diagnosis by a physician. This is especially the case in anorexia nervosa sufferers. If someone is dangerously thin and malnourished, they may require long-term treatment and/or hospitalisation. Treatment at our Gold Coast clinic can involve a range of different therapies and approaches, depending on the nature and severity of the disorder.
Anorexia nervosa is a life-threatening illness that leads to a dangerously low body weight. It is characterised by dieting, purging behaviours such as vomiting, taking laxatives or over-exercising. People may practice only one, or a number, of these methods.
People with anorexia often see themselves as fat, even when they are emaciated. They are obsessed with eating behaviours, such as strange eating rituals, only eating alone and collecting recipes and preparing meals for others but not joining them to eat. Starvation due to anorexia can be fatal and undertaking professional treatment is crucial as soon as the problem is identified.
Bulimia nervosa is characterised by periods of binge eating, which is eating large amounts of food in a rapid, automatic and powerless fashion. Binges are then compensated for by dieting and purging behaviours, most commonly vomiting.
People with bulimia often feel helplessly trapped in this cycle and ashamed of their behaviour. They can withdraw from social gatherings and are fearful of being found out. Unlike anorexia nervosa, bulimia is generally not fatal and sufferers are of normal weight or above.
Other conditions and related problems
Some people may show several features associated with eating disorders but not fulfil all the criteria for a specific illness. Binge eating disorder is one common example we see at our Gold Coast practice, as it is characterised by bingeing without compensating, often resulting in weight gain.
Eating disorders arise from a complex mix of factors, such as:
- Cultural: Western society’s idealisation of thinness and the ‘perfect’ body as synonymous with beauty and success. This belief encourages dieting, which predisposes an individual towards eating problems.
- Personal: Feelings of inadequacy, depression, anxiety and loneliness, as well as problematic family and personal relationships.
- Genetics: A history of the disorder in the family
Once the pattern has started, eating disorders may become self-perpetuating. Dieting, bingeing and purging help some people cope with painful emotions and gain a degree of control over their lives. However, these behaviours also undermine health, self-esteem and a sense of competence and control.
How are eating disorders treated?
Eating disorder treatment on the Gold Coast, needs to be tailored to the circumstances of the patient, there is no single one-size-fits-all solution. Serious eating disorders generally call for a comprehensive treatment plan, usually involving a variety of health professionals, such as GPs, dieticians, psychiatrists and psychologists, who aim to:
- Normalise weight and eating patterns, structure eating behaviours, focus on dieting patterns and, in the case of anorexia nervosa, set realistic weight targets.
- Target the psychological aspect of the disorder and provide effective therapeutic treatments.
- Build self-esteem and improve self-awareness. Enhance social and family functioning which can be an imperative part of recovery
Contact Alegna Solutions for help
If you live on the Gold Coast and believe that you or a loved one may have an eating disorder, making contact with one of our professional psychologists is the first step towards healing and recovery. For further details on treatment, or to schedule an appointment, either in person at our Gold Coast clinic or online, please call us on 1300 304 385.