Many of those suffering from anorexia and bulimia are high-functioning adults coping with stress, anxiety, and depression. They may have tried many different solutions to their problem. This article explores the typical experiences of a few people suffering from such eating disorders. Most therapists today deal with these disorders by first treating the underlying causes of the body-image problems. These causes are assumed to be past experiences and how they may have affected us.
Women and men who suffer from these illnesses may have to overcome deeper issues ranging from poor self-esteem to childhood abuse. Effective therapy can help improve their professional and family lives as well.
Therapy for anorexia and bulimia
Anorexia, bulimia, and eating disorders are a way of coping when stress and anxiety seem unbearable.
With the encouragement of a therapist, an anorexic or bulimic client can learn to face the sources of her stress or anxiety, and find healthier means of reacting to stressful situations.
One woman who had overcome eating disorders several years earlier consulted a psychotherapist in Austin when her problems recurred. This woman had recently moved into Austin, and she was without the support of family and friends while working at a new job. She had reverted to her old methods of coping with stress, namely food. Food is a form of self-treatment for many people, as it was in this woman’s case.
Her therapist helped her to see her need for developing new relationships, and she also participated in group therapy to meet people.
By the end of therapy, she made new friends and was excelling in her new job. Her eating disorder no longer affected her.
Eating disorders and treating depression
Depression can be another cause of eating disorders too. Of course, eating disorders can cause someone to be depressed, so determining cause from effect is difficult.
A depressed person may overeat, or not eat enough, and so either gain or lose a lot of weight. This will affect their physical health. A therapist will help her concentrate on her strengths and regain her sense of balance.
One woman in Houston was depressed because her husband had had an affair and left her. She blamed herself and her recent weight gain for this, but was not able to lose weight. She tried everything she could but the weight remained. Therapy helped her see several other contributors to her depression. She explored some of the events in her past that were causing her a great deal of distress.
She was able to take responsibility for her eating habits, and find a warm and supportive relationship.
Eating disorders, PTSD and victims of sexual abuse
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder may happen because of one-time traumas likes being the victim of an accident or a crime, and also because of long-term abuse like childhood sexual or physical abuse.
PTSD often goes hand in hand with eating disorders.
Victims of childhood abuse sometimes keep the abuse secret, and the therapist may be the first person they confide in. Sometimes when childhood abuse has been blocked out, a reaction may be triggered in adult life by seemingly unrelated events. And lots of times, bulemia or overeating is a symptom. One therapist in Denver helped her client work her way through traumatic memories by giving her art and journaling exercises. These gave the victim a sense of perspective and she was able to stop blaming herself. She also became better connected with others emotionally. Her eating disorder markedly improved.
Eating disorders and counseling for couples
Eating disorders may affect someone who is married or in a committed relationship.
Counseling can benefit married, engaged, or lesbian and gay couples, if one has an eating disorder. The partner with the eating disorder may feel guilty for what he thinks he is causing his partner to feel. And the partner may feel guilty for feelings of resentment towards the partner with the disorder.
That is why couples therapy helps so much.
The most common problems that bring partners into therapy are poor communication, or upheavals like illness, death of a family member, or an affair. Any of these can plunge partners into depression and conflict and often make the eating disorder worse.