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Dr. Beverley Marais  DPsych  CPsychol  CSci  AFBPsS  UKCP reg.  HCPC reg.  FDAP


Eating disorders are a major problem in the UK with an estimated 1.6 million people affected (according to the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence). It is estimated that around 89% of those are female. Whilst many charities and help lines exist to aid those suffering, psychological therapy is recommended to help those with the disorder. Eating disorders come in all different forms and outlined below are the 4 most major.

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia Nervosa is diagnosed when individuals have a body mass index (BMI) of 17.5 and below. Individuals with Anorexia Nervosa do not view themselves as the rest of the world does. Some see themselves as overweight no matter how underweight they are. As a result, some people begin to  develop symptoms such as compulsive exercising, rigid eating patterns and begin to judge their selfworth solely on their ability to control their shape and weight. With Anorexia there is the risk that eventually they may starve to death or risk increased complications with their health if treatment is not sought.

Bulimia Nervosa

As in Anorexia Nervosa, individuals suffering from Bulimia Nervosa also experience and over evaluation of shape and weight and their ability to control this, thereby affecting their self esteem.

Individuals with Bulimia Nervosa, will often experiences periods of binge eating, in which negative emotions will grow. This will be followed by a purging of the food in order to release the negative emotions. Symptoms take many forms, be it excessive exercise, vomiting, laxatives, enemas, or diuretics. Bulimia sufferers tend to have many rules and restrictions around food and therefore, binges often leave them with feelings of loss of control.

Purging and dietary restrictions result in nutrient deficiency. There are also the physical effects that come with this illness including (but not limited to), severe dental problems, hormone irregularities, damage to the immune system and organ damage. Bulimia sufferers can be resourceful in keeping their eating behaviours secretive, however, the shame this involves also makes it harder for them to seek help.

Binge Eating

Binge eating is very similar to Bulimia, as the individual will feel out of control whilst eating. However those that binge eat do not purge their bodies of the food ingested. This disorder often leads to symptoms of negative feelings, obesity and low self esteem.

Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS)

EDNOS refers to those eating disorder patterns that do not fit into the aforementioned categories. Often is it only a small but vital difference as to why individuals are not categorised above. Guidelines for Treatment Whilst the various types of eating disorders are classified different, they all share some common features and some people can migrate between the different diagnoses. A very common therapy used is Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT). This aims to help the individual become aware of their feelings, beliefs, and thoughts and the effect these have on their behaviour patterns and actions. It explores the underlying processes that maintain the eating disorder and how this can be effectively changed.

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