If you struggle with disturbances in your eating behaviour and in the way you think and feel about food and your body, you may have an eating disorder.
Eating disorders can result in severe physical, emotional and social consequences that limit us in our ability to lead happy and fulfilling lives.
On this page, you can find out more about what it feels like to have an eating disorder, factors that can trigger the development of an eating disorder.
You can also learn more about the consequences of eating disorders for your health and wellbeing, and how the different treatments we offer can help you recover and reach wellness.
WHAT DOES HAVING AN EATING DISORDER FEEL LIKE?
Having an eating disorder can feel very lonely and isolating. Many sufferers try to keep their behaviours a secret because they feel shame and embarrassment about what they do, or because they believe other people will judge them.
You may feel that your disordered eating behaviour gives you a sense of control when life gets a little crazy. You may also feel the contradiction of knowing that what you do is not healthy and not what you want for your life, but at the same time you feel your eating disorder gives you a feeling of power and strength.
Or perhaps you have a friend, partner or child who suffers from an eating disorder. You may not understand the best way to support them, and feel helpless watching them suffer from the ravages of their disordered eating.
PSYCHOLOGICAL & EMOTIONAL FACTORS IN EATING DISORDERS
Eating disorders can develop for a wide range of psychological and emotional reasons, some of which are listed below. These factors can cause eating disorders to show up in different ways, and will be unique to you and your personal life situation.
When we find it difficult to cope with stressful emotions, we may turn to food for the answers.
You may find yourself binge eating in an attempt to comfort yourself and escape reality, leaving behind stress and anxiety. You may find that restricting food helps numb feelings of depression and anxiety, giving you a sense of control in a world where you feel you have none.
Guilt and shame are also drivers in disrupting our relationship with food. We may find ourselves internalising these emotions into our sense of self-worth. This can translate into our relationship with food, causing us to restrict our calories, secretly overeat, overexercise or purge after meals.
These emotions can easily keep you trapped in a cycle of self-loathing, making it easy to relapse and reactivate your patterns of disordered eating.
TRAUMA AND NEGLECT
Experiencing trauma or neglect can trigger the development of an eating disorder. Deeper psychological patterns can often get played out in our relationship with food and our body.
Emotional, physical or sexual abuse can leave us with extremely difficult emotions that feel overwhelming. We may find it easier to repress these emotions, and focus our energy on food and eating.
Neglect can leave us feeling empty, rejected and unwanted. We may resort to overeating or overcontrolling our food as a way to fill this hole, even if the effects are only temporary.
EATING DISORDER TREATMENT
There are many factors that contribute to how and why an eating disorder starts, and then becomes maintained in the present day. Eating disorder treatment can either be structured or flexible, depending on your presenting symptoms.
Below you can see an overview of our eating disorder treatment pathway, showing some of the areas that we target in our therapy and nutrition sessions.
Each section offers opportunities to reduce eating disorder symptoms, and build the emotional resilience and life skills needed for eating disorder recovery.
COUNSELLING AND PSYCHOTHERAPY
Our experienced team of therapists will work with you to change your thoughts, feelings and behaviours around your body, food and eating.
We will slowly start to uncover thoughts, beliefs and attitudes that are keeping you stuck in your eating disorder, and challenge patterns of thinking and behaviour that sabotage your efforts to get well.
We will explore the root issues behind your eating behaviour, which may have developed as a way of surviving and coping with challenging situations, relationships or bereavement. Learning new ways to manage life’s ups and downs is essential.
Developing emotional agility is essential, so we will teach you skills to help you tolerate your emotional experience without reaching for food, and support you in developing a robust emotional resilience.
Working with body image, self-worth and the complexities of weight and shape are areas we will explore as part of your recovery.
Our therapists take a person-centred approach – this means that they can use different tools and techniques to support you in your recovery. The approach they take depends on your past experiences as well as your symptoms and presentation.
Below you can find out more about different therapeutic approaches that can be used to support you in your eating disorder recovery.
CBT EATING DISORDER TREATMENT
CBT eating disorder treatment comprises behavioural, cognitive and relapse / maintenance phases. Your therapist will help you identify negative patterns of thinking, emotions and behaviour.
Treatment will target cognitive restructuring to help you develop healthier thinking, and techniques to help you manage and tolerate overwhelming triggers and emotions.
DBT EATING DISORDER TREATMENT
Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) comprises four essential modules that shape the therapy that is provided; mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, distress tolerance and emotional regulation.
DBT eating disorder treatment helps with self-awareness, regulating emotions, control of negative thoughts and improving responses to conflict and stress.
EMDR EATING DISORDER TREATMENT
Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) is a psychotherapeutic technique that supports individuals in healing emotional distress connected to mental health presentations such as trauma, abuse and grief.
Often an eating disorder can develop in response to early childhood trauma or control, meaning EMDR, in conjunction with an integrative therapeutic approach, can be a helpful tool in eating disorder recovery.
Our Consultant Psychiatrist can work alongside your clinicians to develop a treatment plan to support you through your recovery.
Psychiatric support can be beneficial if you are struggling with complex and challenging experiences that can affect your recovery. This can include depression, anxiety, personality disorders, trauma, and others.
Sessions may include assessing and tracking your eating disorder symptoms, as well as reviewing medication and arranging exploratory blood tests. Psychiatric coaching and psychological intervention may also be included to support your treatment plan.
Our mind and body are connected. Underlying imbalances in our nutrition and biochemistry can affect the way we think and feel, and keep us stuck in disordered patterns of behaviour.
It is important to improve your nutritional status to help you feel more balanced and energised, which will help you engage with therapy and produce long-term improvements.
This will include eating disorder nutrition coaching and lifestyle intervention, so you can understand the importance of different foods in helping your body function, and helping you calm your body and mind.
Our dietitians will help you take control of your eating, even if you are scared and unsure of the changes you need to make.
We combine nutritional interventions with behavioural modifications to calm your physiology, and reduce the frequency and intensity of your eating disorder symptoms.
Rebalance is our integrated eating disorder package, combining psychological and nutritional support to help you improve chaotic eating behaviour. It has been developed specifically for people who struggle with food restriction, purging behaviour and bingeing.
Learn more about Eating Disorders
Here are some articles and blogs about eating disorders