What are the Signs of Eating Disorders? How Can Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Help?

What are the Signs of Eating Disorders? How Can Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Help?

Did you know that as many as 28.8 million Americans are estimated to have an eating disorder once in their lifetime? So, if you feel you have an eating disorder, you’re not alone. The good news is that help is available. The National Center for Biotechnology Information says that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based treatment that is suitable for all forms of eating disorders. Eating unusually large amounts of food or excessively restricting food intake are both eating disorders and stem from attempts to deal with a deeper issue, which is why cognitive behavioral therapy is regarded as the most effective way to overcome them.

Let’s first understand the signs of the two types of eating disorders.

Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa

Both Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa are caused by the fear of gaining weight. While Anorexia Nervosa makes a person restrict food, at times to the point of starvation, Bulimia Nervosa makes a person overeat and then purge it to avoid adding calories.

Signs of Anorexia Nervosa

  • Intense fear of weight gain
  • Dramatic weight loss
  • Repeatedly weighing oneself
  • Preoccupation with calories and dieting
  • Constipation
  • Cold intolerance
  • Abdominal pain
  • Excessive exercising
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Anemia
  • Low thyroid levels
  • Dizziness
  • Sleep irregularities
  • Thinning hair
  • Poor wound healing
  • Depression and anxiety

Signs of Bulimia Nervosa

  • Fear of gaining weight
  • Patterns of binge eating with no weight gain
  • Compulsive vomiting to control body weight
  • Constant monitoring of weight
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Dehydration
  • Weakness
  • Dental issues caused by intentional vomiting
  • Scars on fingers and knuckles due to induced vomiting
  • Eating abnormally large quantities of food in one sitting
  • Overuse of laxatives or enemas after overeating

Binge Eating Disorder

People with binge eating disorders are unable to stop themselves from eating. This is the most common eating disorder in the US.

Here are some signs of binge eating disorder:

  • Eating more than other people in the same situation
  • No control over how much to eat or when to stop
  • Feeling of guilt after binge eating
  • Eating frequently and secretly
  • Dieting without weight loss

Can Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Help?

Eating disorders can severely impact your physical and mental well-being. If you or a loved one has some of the signs of an eating disorder, it is a good idea to seek professional help as soon as possible.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy that addresses the negative emotions that are the underlying cause of eating disorders. It involves a variety of techniques to help you understand your thoughts and feelings, and how these impact eating habits. CBT is goal-oriented and has proved to be highly effective for people with eating disorders.

Broadly speaking, CBT goes through three phases:

  • Phase 1 – Behavioral phase – Helps identify negative emotions and behaviors.
  • Phase 2 – Cognitive phase – Introducing techniques to challenge negative thought patterns and develop a new perspective.
  • Phase 3 – Maintenance & relapse prevention phase – Focuses on maintaining the skills learned and charts a recovery plan.

Recovery from any disorder is a process and requires active participation by you and your therapist. So, remain patient and celebrate every milestone you achieve in the path of overcoming the disorder.


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