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What is an Eating Disorder?

What is an Eating Disorder?

An eating disorder is a complex illness and has different presentations. There are approximately ten eating disorders and subcategories, however, the most seen are:

  1. Anorexia Nervosa, which is categorised by extreme food and calorie restriction, low body weight, and a fear of being or becoming overweight
  2. Bulimia Nervosa, which is characterised by having episodes of binge-eating and purging behaviour either through vomiting, overexercising, or using laxatives or diuretics
  3. Compulsive overeating, which is characterised by “grazing” behaviour or binge-eating, without purging behaviour
  4. Unspecified eating disorders, which are categorised by some of the characteristics of the above, but the behaviour does not fall into one defined category

Eating disorders most commonly start during the early teenage years by restricting food amounts in order to lose weight. Unfortunately for some, this grows into an obsession with food and body image issues. This behaviour can spiral out of control very quickly.

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What Should I Look Out For If I Am Worried About My Loved One?

It is harder to identify someone who has disordered eating habits or other behaviours than it is to identify someone who is under the influence of narcotics. Often, someone with an eating disorder will avoid exposure at any cost, and can become exceptionally dishonest when doing so. The following signs could signify a possible eating disorder:

  • A preoccupation with weight and body image
  • Excessive exercising or exercising in secret
  • Having arguments with people around the amount of food being consumed,either due to overeating or undereating their meals
  • Abusing laxatives or slimming medication. Abuse of any medication should be a concern, as some over-the-counter medications contain Ephedrine, a stimulant found in slimming medications, and are used to lose weight and give energy.
  • Wearing baggy clothing to hide their bodies from family members or friends
  • Often berating themselves or calling themselves unpleasant names
  • A preoccupation with reading food labels and counting calories
  • Refusal to eat certain foods, especially carbohydrates and fats
  • Having large amounts of food disappearing in the house within short periods of time
  • Disappearing to the bathroom soon after meals, often with unrealistic excuses
  • Brushing teeth excessively or constantly eating mints (often done after purging)
  • Scarring on the knuckles (damage caused from the teeth after long-term purging)

Sadly, eating disorders often go unnoticed, as the emphasis on appearance is so publicised in the media, so it is chalked up to a “phase”. Society has an incorrect view of eating disorders, and believes there is only cause for concern if someone is very thin or refuses to eat. 

Left untreated, there are serious medical complications and long-term consequences, particularly to the organs.Tharagay Manor treats co-occurring eating disorders. In other words, we treat clients suffering with an eating disorder alongside a substance use disorder.

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What is a Process Or Behavioural Addiction?

Eating disorders are considered a Process or “Behavioural” Addiction and often go hand in hand with Substance Abuse. Other Behavioural addictions include Compulsive Gambling, Sex or Pornography Addiction, Compulsive Overexercise, Compulsive Video Gaming or Compulsive Spending.

We treat addiction as a disease, and not a sign of weakness or lack of self-will. The solution is simple, but not easy. Complete abstinence from mood- or mind-altering chemicals on a day to day basis is the best solution.

However, complete abstinence of a Behavioural Addiction such as an eating disorder is either impossible or impractical, and therefore more complex. The behaviour needs to be better understood to be managed.

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How Do You Treat A Co-occurring Eating Disorder And Substance Use Disorder?

Treatment for Behavioural Addictions include therapeutic intervention as well as learning practical tools and skills. Clients learn about their triggers and warning signs, and learn healthy practical tools to manage their impulses. 

In order for treatment to be successful, these disorders can not be treated one at a time but must be treated simultaneously. At Tharagay Manor, each disorder is explored and understood to create an individualised plan to continue  a patient’s recovery post-treatment, whilst understanding how the two disorders may interact.

How do I help?

If you notice any of these symptoms in conjunction with substance use, contact us to set up an assessment.

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