Psychological Factors in Eating Disorders

Psychological factors in eating disordersEating disorders are marked by disruptions in eating habits and obsession over body weight or image. While tied to poor body image and low self-esteem, eating disorders are often related to psychological factors that go deeper.

Dangers and Side Effects of Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are typically categorized as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa or binge-eating disorder. Each of these comes with its own health risks. Anorexia nervosa can result in death due to the following:

  • Cardiac arrest
  • Fluid imbalances
  • Electrolyte imbalances
  • Suicide

Bulimia nervosa can result in gastrointestinal problems and oral and tooth-related problems. Binge-eating disorder is linked to obesity and cardiovascular disease.

The Psychological Side of Eating Disorders

Even if individuals suffering from eating disorders are aware of their condition and the damage they are doing to their health, they are often unable to stop their behavior without professional assistance. This is because eating disorders are illnesses; they are tied to underlying psychological factors and are often accompanied by co-occurring mental health disorders. Depression and anxiety are particularly common among those suffering from eating disorders. These illnesses may contribute to the start of an eating disorder or may appear or worsen during the course of the disorder. Other psychological factors contributing to eating disorders include the following:

  • Impulsive behavior
  • Perfectionism/need to control surroundings or emotions
  • Trouble expressing emotions
  • Trouble with anger management
  • Past physical abuse
  • Past sexual abuse
  • Troubled family relationships
  • Troubled personal relationships

Sexual abuse is a common contributing factor to eating disorders. As many as thirty-five percent of women struggling with bulimia have also experienced sexual abuse. Ninety percent of adolescents with eating disorders have co-occurring psychological problems, and seventy percent of these individuals continue to struggle with these issues into early adulthood.

Treatment and Therapy for Individuals with Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are more than an obsession with food. They require treatment that will address all aspects of the illness. Treatment begins with physical care, ensuring that patients get the nutrition they need and are on their way to regaining a healthy weight. During this time, patients will receive counseling to address the psychological aspect of eating disorders. Psychotherapy has proven effective, as has Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. However, both of these therapies are most effective if they are specifically designed for the eating disorder they are meant to treat. No one therapy is effective for all individuals and all eating disorders, and patients shouldn’t be discouraged if one treatment doesn’t seem to work.

Need Help with Eating Disorders?

Are you or a loved one struggling with an eating disorder? Let us help. We offer a 24 hour toll-free helpline that will connect you to experienced counselors. These counselors can provide information and recovery resources that can help you make the change. Don’t let eating disorders control your life; call now and get the help you need.