Eating disorders are often considered to be a physical health issue, but they’re actually a mental health issue that has physical symptoms and consequences. Eating disorders originate in the mind and frequently occur with other mental disorders such as depression, anxiety disorders and substance abuse. Eating disorders and their co-occurring mental health disorders are treatable, but only with the proper diagnosis and treatment. The earlier these co-occurring disorders are diagnosed and treated, the better the chances are for full recovery.
Types of Mental Disorders Co-Occurring with Eating Disorders
It is very common for people with anorexia, bulimia or compulsive overeating disorder to also have a co-existing psychological illness or addiction. In some cases, the eating disorder is a symptom of an underlying psychological disorder, and in other cases the psychological disorder is a symptom of the eating disorder.
Some of the most common psychological illnesses that co-exist with eating disorders are:
* Depression: Many people with eating disorders suffer from some form of depression. Eating disorders often develop as a way to cope with the feelings of low self-esteem that are at the core of depression. It has also been observed that living with an eating disorder can lead to depression.
* Anxiety: A 2004 study found that two-thirds of people with eating disorders have suffered from an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives. Eating disorders often develop as a way to cope with the intense and uncontrollable feelings that an anxiety disorder produces.
* Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD): The most common anxiety-related disorder to co-occur with an eating disorder is obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Individuals with OCD are obsessed with unwanted thoughts and impulses to perform repetitive and ritualistic behaviors that relieve the discomfort or anxiety caused by the obsession. The main symptom of OCD and an eating disorder are compulsive food rituals, such as weighing food, cutting it into tiny pieces, or even binge eating.
* Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD): Another common anxiety disorder found in people with eating disorders is body dysmorphic disorder. People with BDD are preoccupied with one or more “defects” in their appearance that most people hardly notice or don’t even see exist. This obsession with their body causes significant stress, interrupts their life, and can lead to compulsive behaviors such as repeatedly checking their appearance in the mirror and avoiding situations that provoke anxiety. BDD Symptoms of BDD are low self-esteem,
* Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Studies show that people with PTSD are three-times more likely to develop an eating disorder that people without PTSD. PTSD can occur after an individual experiences a horrific event or series of traumatic events. PTSD from sexual abuse is very common in women with eating disorders, especially in women with bulimia.
* Bipolar Disorder: Eating disorders are very common among people with bipolar disorder, especially binge eating disorder and bulimia. Bipolar disorder, or manic depression, is a mental health condition that causes extreme shifts in a person’s mood, energy and ability to cope with daily responsibilities. People with bipolar disorder will shift between episodes of mania and depression that can last from days to weeks to months. Patients with bipolar disorder sometimes turn to food as a way to cope with their illness.
* Substance Abuse: Some people with eating disorders also exhibit other addictive or self-destructive behaviors such as alcohol and drug abuse. This is because both an eating disorder and addictions serve the same purpose: they help a person (negatively) cope with life, stress and low self-esteem.
Eating Disorder Treatment
Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. Combine this with other co-occurring mental disorders and the risk of fatal complications is even higher. If you or someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder it’s important to reach out for help. Dual diagnosis eating disorder treatment can treat the mental and emotional issues that have led to the eating disorder and treat the physical issues the eating disorder has created.
At Casa Palmera, we believe in treating the entire person, not just the illness. Our residential eating disorder treatment program will provide individual therapy, group support, nutritional counseling and holistic treatments to reconnect your body with your mind and spirit.
Don’t let your body and mental health suffer at the hands of an eating disorder any longer. Call Casa Palmera today.