Many men and women of different ages are obsessed with their body image and weight control. Society and media glorifies an unhealthy body image pressing for women and men to look a certain way. Although being overall conscious and fit about ones body is healthy, excessive dieting, exercise, etc. can result in eating disorders. These disorders can also depict a way of showing control and are also used as a mechanism of coping with anxiety and stress.
Eating Disorders are characterized by severe disturbances in eating behavior. There are four main types of eating disorders:
- Anorexia Nervosa - characterized by a refusal to maintain a minimally normal weight. They either fall under the restrictive type where the weight loss is primarily accomplished through dieting, fasting or excessive exercise. In addition they may or may not binge-eat and purge (or both) for a significant period.
- Bulimia Nervosa – characterized by binge eating followed by an inappropriate compensatory method to prevent weight gain such as self-induced vomiting, misuse of laxatives, diuretics, enemas and over exercising at least twice a week.
- Binge eating – characterized by binge eating at least twice a week without any compensatory behavior. The food typically is sweet and high caloric.
- Muscle dysphoria (also known as bigorexia) – characterized by an obsessive preoccupation to believe that their body is too skinny and not muscular or lean enough. This disorder is extremely common in men and involves excessive exercise, dietary regimes, nutritional supplements and other drugs including anabolic steroids.
These eating disorders can affect an individual’s personal and professional life by causing depression, social withdrawal, and obsessive-compulsive tendencies amongst others. They further can cause tooth decay, kidney damage, early menopause, hormonal imbalances, bone density loss, cardiovascular problems, etc. Counselling and psychotherapy therefore provides a safe environment to discuss issues regarding preoccupation with weight, excessive dieting, comfort/binge eating, negative body image and other factors related with eating disorders. The therapist primarily uses cognitive behavioral techniques to help the client process and understand the underlying cause of their problem. They together examine and then challenge the irrational thoughts, feeling and beliefs that maintain this cycle. They further gain insight on any triggers and precipitators. The therapist then by using various cognitive strategies and behavioural techniques helps the client improve their eating habits, self image, etc. The client is also taught various alternative behaviours to replace their compensatory behaviors. They are eventually also provided with various coping strategies in order to deal with their problems better and to avoid the possibility of a future relapse.