There are many different types of eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia, binge eating, body image issues, and compulsive overeating. While each of these eating disorders has different causes and symptoms, they can all be potentially life threatening if they remain untreated. For example, individuals suffering from anorexia can become malnourished, which can affect every system in the body, and, if left untreated, may cause death.
It is relatively common for some individuals to progress through different types of eating disorders, or undergo multiple eating disorders simultaneously. This makes treating the cause(s) behind the eating disorder – as opposed to only addressing someone’s physical actions – critical to full recovery. Treatment to help individuals overcome eating disorders is similar to that of treating an alcoholic or a drug addict: people with eating disorders are essentially “addicted” to food or overly obsessed with their body image. Their mindset is similar to an addict’s as well because they channel mental or emotional problems through their eating disorders, just as some addicts attempt to control psychological issues by abusing drugs or alcohol.
Once the root cause of the disorder has been identified, treatment for the eating disorder can progress to addressing the cause and becoming healthy again. Overcoming eating disorders can be extremely difficult, as individuals participate in the disorder to the point where it becomes ritualistic. Breaking the pattern of overeating or compulsively counting calories can present various challenges.
When attempting to overcome an eating disorder, therapists or counselors can provide valuable, objective advice. Because it is common for individuals to return to the pattern of the disorder after overcoming it, treatment is an ongoing process that requires the individual to truly be aware of the causes and triggers of his or her behavior. The support of family and friends is also helpful when trying to overcome eating disorders; a support system can help keep the person on track with his or her recovery program.