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Do I Have an Eating Disorder?

Most people can understand what an eating disorder looks like in extreme cases – such as those we’ve seen on TV or on documentaries. However what is important to know is that the majority of people with eating disorders do not look like they have an eating disorder. You simply cannot tell by looking at someone if they have anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or binge eating disorder.  The cases we see on the media are one there because they are extreme cases– not because they are typical.

Anorexia Nervosa

There are two types of Anorexia Nervosa:

  1. Restricting Type
  • Losing weight or not gaining as they age in childhood or adolescence
  • Eating less, restricting, fasting, limiting food groups
  • Excessive exercise
  • Fear of gaining weight

2. Binge Eating or Purging Type

  • Eating less, restricting, limiting food groups
  • Engages in purging behavior including vomiting, laxative abuse, diuretics, or enemas
  • and/or binge eating behavior
  • Fear of gaining weight

Common triggers include stress, leaving home for school, being bullied, a breakup, social isolation, family problems such as divorce.  Risk factors include having family members with an eating disorder (especially a parent or sibling), early feeding problems, perfectionism/people pleasing, low self-esteem, and childhood sexual abuse.

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia Nervosa is characterized by the following:

  • Episodes of binge eating and feeling a lack of control over eating during the episode
  • Recurrent inappropriate ‘compensatory’ behaviors in order to prevent or reduce weight gain including:
    • Self-induced vomiting, laxative abuse, diuretics, or other weight management medications
    • Fasting
    • Excessive exercise

*Note that you do not need to vomit in order to be diagnosed with Bulimia, but instead utilize behaviors that eliminate/purge calories such as those listed above.

Common triggers include extreme hunger, depression, stress or trauma, bullying, transitions at school or work, starting menses. Similar to Anorexia, risk factors for Bulimia include close family members with an eating disorder, alcoholism, low self-esteem, emotion regulation difficulties.

Binge Eating Disorder

The fastest growing eating disorder is Binge Eating Disorder is the fastest growing eating disorder and is characterized by the following:

  • Episodes of quickly eating an amount of food that is definitely larger than what most would consume in that period of time
  • A sense that you’ve lost control or cannot stop eating
  • Feeling overly full, guilty, or ashamed once the episode is over

Common triggers and risk factors include depression or anxiety, family members with eating disorders, bullying, trauma or stress, or dieting. Family members can sometimes miss a serious case of binge eating because their child or loved one is in a normal weight range.

If you think you or a loved one may have an eating disorder please reach out to our eating disorder psychologist!  We specialize in treating a wide variety of eating disorders in children, adolescents, and adults. Don’t wait! Call us today!

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Dr. Winton is the owner and clinical director at Integrated Care Clinic. She is a licensed psychologist that specializes in eating disorders, body dysmorphia, food anxiety, body image, intuitive eating, and perfectionism.

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