Eating Related Disorders
In the 1980s anorexia nervosa and bulimia became recognized as eating disorders, which classified them, along with compulsive overeating and obesity, as psychological as well as medical problems.
Human beings contain a psychological drive to consume food. Scientists have discovered appetite receptors within the hypothalamus of the brain that respond to hunger messages conveyed by neurotransmitters and hormones, including insulin and adrenaline. Relief from hunger, satiety, is established by a predetermined "set point", and is triggered by the amount of fat that is stored, serotonin and dopamine.
Obesity is characterized by the excessive accumulation of fat in the body, usually 20% or more above the normal weight for the body type. Heredity, metabolism, developmental factors, environment, activity level, and lifestyle all play a part. Emotions also play a roll.
Compulsive overeating - loosing control over what, when, where and how much a person eats - is not uncommon. It is not a mental illness, but can often cause emotional feelings such as depression, guilt, and shame. Compulsive eaters often crave sugary foods finding them a source of comfort. Sugar can create a similar chemical rush as alcohol. Sugar "addicts" experience a feeling of tranquility similar to that of an alcoholic.
Anorexia nervosa - is described as a disease of starvation. The individual refuses to maintain a normal body weight and fears weight gain. They picture their body in a distorted way and may weigh themselves numerous times in one day. They may fast, diet, exercise, or use laxatives or diuretics to loose weight.
Complex neuro-chemical abnormalities may be involved in the development of anorexia nervosa. Disturbances in the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that regulates hormones and appetite may be partially responsible. In addition, the psychological profile points to a perfectionist who is a high achiever with unwarranted fear of failure. There is little ability for insight or awareness of feelings.
Bulimia nervosa - is characterized by rapidly consuming (bingeing) large amounts of food, stopping only because of severe abdominal pain, need to sleep, or an interruption from an outside source. Self induced vomiting, excessive exercise, the use of laxatives, enemas or diuretics are then used in an effort to decrease the number of calories (stored fat) that remains in the body. The bulimic individual is left feeling guilty and ashamed, as well as fearing increased weight gain after a binge episode.
Obesity in childhood - may increase the likelihood of bulimia in adulthood. Biological abnormalities also play a role. The bulimic does not feel satisfied after a meal and may binge to reach satiety. It may also be linked to difficulties in making the transition from adolescence to adulthood. Other problems often found in the bulimic person include alcohol abuse, low frustration level, poor interpersonal relationships, and depression.
Treatment for eating related illnesses is difficult, at best. Most individuals are forced into recovery either through failing relationships, failing health or emotional problems. A combination of interventions such as psychotherapy, medication and support groups work best. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, such as Prozac, have shown to work on both the depression, as well as allowing for a more normal functioning brain and nervous system.
Some individuals need hospital-based treatment to break the addictive cycle of the disorder. It is a known fact, however, that recovery from an eating disorder is a life long pursuit
Some symptoms of eating disorders are:
- Refusing to eat and denying hunger
- An intense fear of gaining weight
- Flat mood or lack of emotion
- Preoccupation with food
- Social withdrawal
- Menstrual irregularities or loss of menstruation (amenorrhea)
- Abdominal pain
- Irregular heart rhythms and low blood pressure
- Eating until the point of discomfort or pain, often with high-fat or sweet foods
- Self-induced vomiting
- Laxative use
- Excessively exercising
- Unhealthy focus on body shape and weight or negative or distorted self-image
- Feeling that you can't control your eating behavior
- Damaged teeth and gums
- Sores, scars or calluses on the knuckles or hands
- Constant dieting or fasting
- Possibly, drug or alcohol abuse
- Eating much more food during a binge episode than during a normal meal or snack
- Feeling that eating behavior is out of control
- Frequently eating alone
- Feeling depressed, disgusted or upset over the amount eaten
- Social withdrawal that increases over time
- Levels of anxiety that increase over time
- Difficulty focusing or concentrating
- Loss of interest in once cared about activities
- Significant weight loss or weight gain
- Panic attacks or phobias
- Low energy levels/lack of motivation
- High level of irritability/on edge
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- We understand that other people's feelings are central to emotional well-being. Modeling this philosophy is essential for success. Our treatment programs focus on social awareness - the ability to understand and respond to the needs of others.
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Inner Wisdom has a Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) where patients meet in groups with a therapist on a daily schedule. Patients have a variety of mental illness diagnoses, including Bipolar Disorder, Schizoaffective disorder, Schizophrenia, and substance abuse, which interfere with their ability to live a full and productive life. Students will have the opportunity to shadow therapists, facilitate therapy groups and Psychoeducation groups, meet individually with patients, and understand the case management required by Medicare and private insurance companies. Students work under a variety of therapists and can observe different styles and strengths. A strong team approach is encouraged. Students have the opportunity to get direct experience with patients and to use their skills creatively in offering therapy.
Former Student Intern 2014