Monday Mind Talks: Uncovering the true relationship between mental health and unnoticed eating disorders

Ms. Samar, a psychologist, certified holistic health coach, and CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) expert, is here today to discuss the connection between eating disorders and mental and physical health.

Updated on Apr 26, 2022 04:30 PM IST  |  283.6K
Eating disorder
Monday Mind Talks: Uncovering the true relationship between mental health and unnoticed eating disorders
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Eating disorders frequently develop as a result of underlying causes such as low self-esteem, mental health disorders, substance abuse disorders, or a history of trauma or neglect. They are often associated with food, weight, or shape obsessions, as well as anxiety about eating or the consequences of eating certain foods. Ms. Samar, who is a psychologist and a certified holistic health coach and a CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) expert, is here today to provide insight into the relationship between eating disorders and mental and physical health. 

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What are eating disorders?

“Eating disorders are abnormal eating habits/ eating patterns that cause severe disruptions in a person’s everyday diet. They are characterized by irregular eating habits which include inadequate or excessive food intake which can damage individual’s well-being,” explains Ms. Samar. In addition to abnormal eating patterns, there are severe concerns about body weight and shape, these concerns interfere with a person’s happiness and daily functioning and also cause severe psychological distress.

What causes eating disorders?

Because eating disorders are complicated, they are influenced by a variety of factors. “Though the exact cause is unknown, it is generally accepted that a combination of genetic, psychological, socio-cultural and/or environmental abnormalities contribute to the development,” she begins. In Western culture, success and personal worth are frequently associated with physical beauty and a slim physique. The desire to succeed or to be accepted may fuel eating disorder behaviours. “Among socio-cultural and environmental factors, media (including social media) has the greatest influence on people, particularly teenagers and young adults. Slenderness, exaggerated dieting, and weight loss are enthusiastically promoted," she adds.

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How do eating disorders affect mental health?

Many people who have eating disorders also have other mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, or substance abuse. Mental health issues can manifest themselves before, during, or after an eating disorder. When these occur concurrently with the eating disorder, they are referred to as ‘co-occurring.’ “The person might also suffer from poor concentration, problem sleeping, loneliness, dependent self-esteem, low self-confidence. In extreme cases it can lead to suicidal ideation and even death,” reveals Psychologist Samar.

While people with eating disorders frequently exhibit various habits and behaviours, living with an eating disorder means that those behaviours are constantly hidden due to various emotional states such as guilt and shame. This can make it difficult for friends and family to spot warning signs at first. 

She continues to explicate, “The disordered thinking behind the behaviours, the insecurities are already present. It might also mean that the disorder is in its initial stages, and might go unnoticed. When confronted, one might try to explain away or find excuses regarding disordered eating or even avoid such conversations surrounding food and weight. But as the disorder progresses, people in close proximity won’t be able to deny their instincts that something is not right. If eating and weight control your way of life, happiness and satisfaction/contentment, then don’t wait until the disorder has progressed or worsened.”

Certain factors prevent people suffering from eating disorders from seeking help. Some of the most significant determinants are lack of awareness, stigma, societal or familial pressures and expectations, shame, guilt, confusion about one's thoughts, emotions, and associated behaviours, fear of rejection, and isolation.

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Eating disorder treatment: Know your options

Regarding psychotherapy and Ms. Samar's experience in her field, evidence-based psychotherapies such as Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) or Enhanced Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT-E), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), and interpersonal and family therapy could be beneficial.

These therapies typically concentrate on the personal (that is, irrational and exaggerated personal beliefs, thoughts, and feelings about food, appearance, and behaviour) as well as the social and interpersonal factors that may be causing or exacerbating an eating disorder. “CBT may also improve symptoms of depression and anxiety. While DBT aids in the treatment of emotional dysregulation. The emphasis is on people who exhibit extreme behaviour in response to emotional situations. It aids the patient in managing unpleasant or difficult emotions and interpersonal conflicts, thereby encouraging or instilling positive healthy behaviours,” she says.

Taking care of your physical and mental health will go a long way toward assisting you in coping with an eating disorder. Seek support from a trusted friend or family member who can be there for you along your path to recovery, in addition to talking to a therapist or joining a support group.

Also Read: World Malaria Day: Discover dietary tips to help you swiftly recover from Malaria

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