Eating is a necessary part of life, but for a variety of reasons, some people develop unhealthy relationships with food. Eating disorders can affect adults, adolescents, and even children. Although these disorders affect women more often, men are still at risk. Anorexia and bulimia are the most well-known eating disorders, but there is also binge eating, othrexia (obsessive pursuit of a “pure” or “healthy” diet), and even pica (eating non-food items), among others. Because food is a necessary—and normal—part of everyone’s life, it can be very difficult to resolve eating disorders without professional assistance. If left untreated, many of these disorders can become severe and cause irreversible physical damage or even death.
How can therapy help?
Eating disorders are often not about the food itself, but are instead a way to deal with pre-existing trauma, depression, or other powerful negative feelings. A therapist with experience treating EDs will first help the patient by screening for any of these common underlying conditions. Using a combination of strategies that may include Cognitive-Behavioral or Dialectical-Behavioral therapy, the therapist will work with patients to develop healthier ways to deal with difficult emotions. Once a plan is in place for any underlying conditions, the ED sufferer will also learn new strategies to approach food from a healthier place.