Anorexia, Bulimia and Compulsive Overeating
Eating disorders are recognised as a form of addiction.
In Anorexia the sufferer has a distorted view of their body image and as a result restricts their intake of food because of an extreme desire to be thin. Weight loss often helps the sufferer to feel in control when they perceive everything else in their life to be out of their control.
Anorexics are addicted to the "buzz" that come from weight loss and starving also creates a dizzy high which is also addictive. A sufferer of Anorexia is identifiable by being underweight or extremely underweight.
Bulimics like anorexics also have a distorted view of their body image. It is common for sufferers of Bulimia to have started off as anorexic.
Most Bulimics are often addicted to certain food types, once they take one bite of their "trigger food" the bulimic develops a physical craving which leads to bingeing on vast amounts of food. Then follows a period of remorse and shame and the bulimic seeks to rid their body of the food by means of vomiting, laxative abuse and/or over exercising. It can be difficult to identify Bulimia in a person as they can often maintain a normal body weight.
Compulsive Overeaters are often overweight or obese. As with the Bulimic sufferer the Compulsive Overeater can be addicted to particular food types which create a physical craving for more food. The excess weight then builds and acts as a "protective barrier" between the sufferer and the outside world.
With all eating disorders, sufferers use food and compulsive behaviours around food to medicate the pain of underlying issues. Like an alcoholic, an eating disorder sufferer will lie to friends and family to attempt to hide their disease.
It isn’t uncommon for a person to swing from one form of eating disorder to another.
Recovery from eating disorders begins with devising a food plan specifically for the individual. Eating patterns have often been chaotic for a considerable amount of time, therefore establishing a structure around food is very important. We also help the individual to identify personal "trigger foods" (those which set up a physical craving) and make a list of foods that they need to abstain from eating.
When the individual is abstaining from the food and behaviours to which they were addicted, feelings that were being suppressed begin to emerge. Through the use of group work, counsellors will help to explore and manage the feelings and teach them tools to use so that a return to addictive behaviours around food to cope is unnecessary.
A counsellor at the Clifton Clinic has personal experience of suffering and recovering from eating disorders.
Once a week we have a visit from a Naturopath who holds workshops on healthy eating.