February is Texas Eating Disorders Awareness Month. This month focuses on spreading awareness about the seriousness and reality of eating disorders, but more importantly, spreading awareness that recovery is possible. Eating disorders affect at least 30 million Americans in their lifetime. Within the population of Texas, nearly 900,000 people are affected by eating disorders.
What are Eating Disorders?
Eating disorders are characterized by a persistent disturbance of eating or eating-related behavior that results in the altered consumption or absorption of food and that significantly impairs health or psychosocial functioning. These disorders affect people of all races, genders, ages, socioeconomic status, and ethnicities. While we cannot pinpoint exactly what causes eating disorders, we know that it is a mix of biological, psychological, and social factors.
What are the different types of eating disorders?
It is not unusual for eating disorder symptoms to shift over time in those who struggle. Someone may begin with binge eating behaviors and move into restrictive eating. Those with restrictive eating behaviors may find purging behaviors become more common over time. This is part of the spectrum of disordered eating, and while eating disorders are difficult to fit into categories, these are the primary diagnoses:
Anorexia Nervosa- Characterized by three essential features including persistent food restriction, intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat or behaviors that interfere with weight gain, and a disturbance in self-perceived weight or shape.
Bulimia Nervosa- Characterized by recurrent episodes of binge eating, inappropriate compensatory behaviors to prevent weight gain and counteract episodes of binge eating, and behaviors that are influenced by perception of body image and weight.
Binge Eating Disorder- Characterized by recurrent episodes of binge eating that must occur, on average, at least once per week for three months without regular use of compensatory behaviors.
OSFED (other specified feeding and eating disorder)- This diagnoses encompasses symptoms of disordered eating that cause significant distress and impairment but do not fall within the criteria of another feeding or eating disorder.
What does treatment for an eating disorder look like?
The treatment for an eating disorder requires the approach of a multidisciplinary team of professionals. Regardless of diagnoses, the first step for recovery is stabilizing physical symptoms, stopping purging behaviors, and receiving adequate nutrition. A treatment team may include individual, group, and/or family psychotherapy, regular nutritional counseling with a registered dietitian, medical care and monitoring with a physician that specializes in eating disorders, and medication management.
Treatment should be tailored toward an individual’s needs and is not contained to only the eating disorder behaviors. Comprehensive treatment for an eating disorder should include addressing the physical, biological, social, nutritional, physical, and cultural factors that all contributed to the disorder. With appropriate treatment, people go on to fully recover from eating disorders and live happy and healthy lives, free of disordered eating.
For more information and resources, visit the following resources:
Central Texas Eating Disorders Specialists: https://cteds.org/
Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness: http://www.allianceforeatingdisorders.com/
Eating Disorders Coalition: http://eatingdisorderscoalition.org/
The Elisa Project: http://theelisaproject.org/
National Eating Disorders Association: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/
Find Eating Disorder Help: https://findedhelp.com/
Kate is a Licensed Master Social Worker with experience working within the mental health and substance use field, both in clinical and advocacy roles. Kate received her Master of Science in Social Work and her Bachelor of Social Work from The University of Texas at Austin. She has worked in both inpatient and outpatient settings, treating severe mental illness and co-occurring substance use disorders. In addition to her clinical experience, Kate is an active advocate in the mental health field, working with a multitude of groups including the Eating Disorders Coalition, UT Austin’s Center for Students in Recovery, and Dell Children’s Hospital. Additionally, she currently serves on the Texas Health and Human Services’ Behavioral Health Advisory Committee. Kate specializes in the treatment of eating disorders and concurrent mental health and substance use disorders, treating both adolescents and adults. Kate practices from a Relational Therapy model, with a strong focus on shame resiliency, in order to facilitate a space with her clients that is empathetic, compassionate, and fosters connection. Along with the utilization of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Motivational Interviewing, and trauma-informed care, Kate understands each person is an individual with unique needs and works collaboratively with clients to come up with the treatment plan best suited to their situation.