Jul 182013

By Maria C. Luciani, LMSW

The summer season can inspire dieting and an increase in physical activity for many people. Concerns about appearance and general health vary tremendously among individuals and focusing on food intake can become an unhealthy obsession. Three specific eating disorders include: Bulimia Nervosa, Anorexia Nervosa, and Binge Eating Disorder. Bulimia Nervosa and Anorexia Nervosa are eating disorders accompanied by a terrifying fear of weight gain and utilizing unhealthy means to decrease body fat. Binge Eating Disorder is now recognized as a mental health issue that warrants clinical attention. There are distinctions and similarities among these disorder and the dangers are significant for each.

Anorexia is driven by inaccurate perceptions of one’s own body. People with this disorder think they are fat even though they are typically underweight. The intense fear of gaining weight further encourages weight loss efforts. The primary means used to meet their weight loss goals are through excessive food restrictions.  People with this disorder are starving themselves to be thin, sometimes even to death.

Bulimia includes the excessive fear of gaining weight but it is managed differently than Anorexia.  People with Bulimia engage in binging episodes followed by purging to counteract the inordinate food intake.  These individuals typically have a normal body weight. Excessive exercise, vomiting, and the use of laxatives or diuretics are the means used to rid the body of the additional calories.

Binge eating is considered the most common of the eating disorders. Like Anorexia and Bulimia, Binge Eating Disorder includes distress related to eating but the fear of weight gain is not present.  It includes consuming an exceedingly large amount of food a few times per week for at least a six-months. People report a lack of control over their eating behavior, which follows with psychological distress and a variety of uncomfortable emotions. Those with this disorder are typically overweight or obese and suffer from the serious health issues associated with this physical state.

Treatment can encompass a variety of approaches, which include individual therapy, family therapy, anti-depressants, inpatient and outpatient treatment. If left untreated, the consequences can be dire. If an eating disorder is negatively impacting you or a loved one, consulting with a licensed therapist can determine which treatment approach is most effective and take control of these dangerous disorders.

DSM-V, 2013