There is not one cause of eating disorders, however. It is a combination of genes and environment. This means that there is a genetic vulnerability to the development of an eating disorder, but not everybody with these genes will develop an eating disorder. That is where environmental protectors or triggers play a role (that is, the nature-nurture interaction). As said by renowned eating disorder expert, Dr. Cynthia Bulik, genes load the gun, and the environment pulls the trigger.
Eating Disorders are Not a Choice
If you are considering seeking treatment, congratulations! That is the first step to your recovery. Depending on your own individual situation and needs, your provider will discuss your options which may include hospitalization, residential treatment, day treatment, or outpatient therapy. You may benefit from individual therapy, family therapy, group therapy, and/or dietitian services. Research has shown that if the patient is medically stable, then outpatient therapy is just as effective as higher levels of care.
Below is a page extracted from the National Eating Disorders Association about what to look for and questions to ask when seeking a treatment provider. When you find a therapist that you want to meet, just commit to an initial meeting and see how it goes. It may take a few sessions to know if you will both work well together so don’t give up right away.
Some facts about Eating Disorders (taken from www.aedweb.org):
- Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses. They are treatable, and the sooner someone gets the treatment he or she needs, the better the chance of a good recovery.
- Prevalence of Eating Disorder: Between 0.3 and 1% of young women have anorexia nervosa and 1%-3% have bulimia nervosa. About 3% of the population has binge-eating disorder. Between 4% and 20% of young women practice unhealthy patterns of dieting, purging, and binge-eating. About one in 20 young women in the community has an eating disorder and an estimated 30% to 40% of people seeking weight loss treatments can be clinically diagnosed with BED.
- Anorexia Nervosa can occur in men and women, children and adults, and across various races and ethnicities.
- Treatment guidelines and recommendations can be found here: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ng69/chapter/Recommendations
In Summary: Anorexia nervosa: The critical first step in the treatment of anorexia nervosa is re-nutrition (carefully monitored feeding, often with the assistance of a medical team) and weight restoration back to the healthy weight range. There is no consensus on the best approaches to treating anorexia nervosa, but family therapy appears to be helpful for younger patients who have recently developed an eating disorder. CBT may be helpful after weight restoration. Bulimia nervosa: A review of research studies concluded that bulimia nervosa can be treated effectively with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is a type of psychotherapy that addresses an individual’s thoughts and feelings to make changes in her behavior. Improvement in symptoms over a short period of time are also seen with the only FDA approved medication for bulimia nervosa fluoxetine (i.e., Prozac). Binge-Eating Disorder: Binge-eating disorder also responds to cognitive-behavioral therapy, behavioral weight loss therapy and a variety of medications (e.g., selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, tricyclic antidepressants) have also been shown to lead to improvement.
Eating Disorders can be life-threatening. For women aged 15-24, eating disorders are among the top four leading causes of burden of disease in terms of years of life lost through death or disability.