Grief and Eating Disorders

Grief and Eating DisordersA major loss or tragedy can result in grief, which is an intense emotional reaction that can lead to clinical depression. There are several common experiences that result in grief, including the following:

  • The tragic loss of a loved one
  • Discovery of a chronic illness
  • Dissolution of a serious relationship

During a period of grief, some people turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as substance abuse and eating disorders. Eating too much or too little often happens after a major loss, but an eating disorder is a far more serious condition.

Types of Eating Disorders

Eating disorders commonly fall into the following four categories:

  • Anorexia—an extreme and dangerous restriction of calories
  • Bulimia—purging food binges through self-induced vomiting
  • Binge eating—uncontrolled consumption of food in large quantities
  • EDNOS—“eating disorder not otherwise specified”

Eating disorders are a mental health issue, and genetics are widely considered the main risk factor. A traumatic event can trigger the disorder at which point purging, bingeing or restricting food might provide momentary relief from anxiety or stress. This type of coping can be dangerous for several reasons, including the following:

  • Suppresses grief through unhealthy acts, which limits the options to treat it
  • Increases vulnerability to anxiety, depression and obsessive compulsive disorder
  • Diminishes overall health, including decreased blood pressure and body temperature
  • Results in profound physical health risks that are potentially fatal

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, a person with anorexia is 18 times more likely to die earlier than a non-anorexic of similar age. The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders calls eating disorders the deadliest of all mental health issues.

Eating Disorders and Grief Treatment

Professional treatment facilities are fully equipped to deal with co-occurring conditions, including eating disorders, grief and other issues that might be present. Proper care typically starts with various initial treatments, including the following:

  • Mental health screenings to identify the eating disorder and other possible conditions
  • Physical evaluation to check for health issues like organ damage and body irregularities
  • Medically supervised detox for any substance addiction that may have developed
  • Possible temporary use of medications to help with grief and eating disorders
  • Counseling to evaluate grief levels and check for previously unresolved issues

Once the patient is evaluated, a personalized plan is developed to treat the patient’s particular needs. This can include several types of care, such as the following:

  • Integrated treatments for the eating disorder and any mental health issues
  • Behavioral therapies to develop healthier ways to process thoughts and emotions
  • Holistic options to treat insomnia, stress, tension and other discomforts
  • Nutritional care to return the patient to a healthy weight and balance
  • Individual counseling to determine eating disorder triggers
  • Group counseling to express pain and build support
  • Ongoing therapies to assist in the grief process

Grief typically progresses through different stages, including denial, anger, blame, bargaining, sadness and crying, before a person eventually comes to terms with the traumatic event. Removing mental health obstacles allows the grieving process to move forward productively.

Get Help Now

Overcoming grief and an eating disorder is best accomplished with professional help. Speak with one of our counselors to learn about warning signs, treatment options and how to get help for you or a loved one. We are available 24 hours a day, and we can check health insurance policies for treatment coverage. We want to help you through this, so please call our toll-free helpline now.