Eating Disorders - Total Behavioral Health

Eating Disorders

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What are eating disorders?

An eating disorder is a mental health condition characterized by persistent disturbances in eating habits, thoughts, and emotions related to food and body weight. An eating disorder may cause you to have an intense preoccupation with your body shape and weight, leading to unhealthy behaviors. There are several types of eating disorders, and each has its own set of symptoms.


Eating disorders are complex mental health conditions and can be influenced by a combination of factors. Some common causes are:

– Genetic factors such as family history of eating disorders
– Biological factors such as imbalances in neurotransmitters, chemicals that transmit signals to the brain, or hormone irregularities
– Psychological factors such as low self-esteem and negative body image
– Interpersonal factors such as family dynamic, relationships, and social pressures
– Dieting and weight control practices
– Co-occurring mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, or OCD.


Treatment for eating disorders involves a multidisciplinary approach, addressing both physical and psychological aspects. This may include nutrition counseling, psychotherapy, medication, and support groups. Recovery from an eating disorder is a gradual process. Total Behavioral Health will work with you not only to regain healthier eating habits, but will guide and support you through reversing the complications eating disorders bring to multiple aspects of every day life.


Anorexia nervosa, often simply called anorexia, is a potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by an abnormally low body weight, intense fear of gaining weight, and a distorted perception of weight or shape. People with anorexia use extreme efforts to control their weight and shape, which often significantly interferes with their health and life activities.

When you have anorexia, you excessively limit calories or use other methods to lose weight, such as excessive exercise, using laxatives or diet aids, or vomiting after eating. Efforts to reduce your weight, even when underweight, can cause severe health problems, sometimes to the point of deadly self-starvation.

Bulimia is a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder. When you have bulimia, you have episodes of bingeing and purging that involve feeling a lack of control over your eating. Many people with bulimia also restrict their eating during the day, which often leads to more binge eating and purging.

During these episodes, you typically eat a large amount of food in a short time, and then try to rid yourself of the extra calories in an unhealthy way. Because of guilt, shame and an intense fear of weight gain from overeating, you may force vomiting or you may exercise too much or use other methods, such as laxatives, to get rid of the calories.

If you have bulimia, you may be preoccupied with your weight and body shape, and may judge yourself severely and harshly for your self-perceived flaws.

Binge eating disorder is characterized by consuming large amounts of food in a short period, accompanied by a feeling of lack of control. Unlike bulimia, individuals with BED do not engage in regular compensatory behaviors like vomiting or excessive exercise. BED may be associated with feelings of guilt, shame, or distress following binge-eating episodes,

Be alert for eating patterns and beliefs that may signal unhealthy behavior, as well as peer pressure that may trigger eating disorders. Red flags that may indicate an eating disorder include:

– Skipping meals or making excuses for not eating
– Adopting an overly restrictive vegetarian diet
– Excessive focus on healthy eating
– Making own meals rather than eating what the family eats
– Withdrawing from normal social activities
– Persistent worry or complaining about being fat and talk of losing weight
– Frequent checking in the mirror for perceived flaws
– Repeatedly eating large amounts of sweets or high-fat foods
– Use of dietary supplements, laxatives or herbal products for weight loss
– Excessive exercise
– Calluses on the knuckles from inducing vomiting
– Problems with loss of tooth enamel that may be a sign of repeated vomiting
– Leaving during meals to use the toilet
– Eating much more food in a meal or snack than is considered normal
– Expressing depression, disgust, shame or guilt about eating habits
– Eating in secret

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