Eating Disorders

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Eating Disorder Treatment: San Diego

Contrary to popular belief, eating disorders are not a lifestyle choice; these are serious and often fatal illnesses that cause severe hindrances to a person’s nutrition intake. An unhealthy obsession with food, body weight, and a low self-esteem are the typical red flags that signal towards an eating disorder. Eating disorders frequently appear during the teen years or young adulthood. However, they may also develop during childhood or later in life.

These disorders affect both genders, although rates among women are higher than among men. Like women who have eating disorders, men also have a distorted sense of body image. For example, men may have muscle dysmorphia, a type of disorder marked by an extreme concern with becoming more muscular. Researchers have found that eating disorders are caused by a complex interaction of genetic, biological, behavioral, psychological, and social factors.

The specialists at our treatment center provide multi-modal, integrative, evidence-based remedies along with recovery programs that address various levels of care.

  • Individual Therapy, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
  • Mindfulness
  • Family Therapy, including the Maudsley approach
  • Equine Assisted Psychotherapy with a clinical psychologist and and EAGALA certified specialist
  • Motivational Interviewing
  • Medical Services with prescriptions and lab work
  • Nutritional Counseling
  • Group Therapy

Our eating disorder treatment program is easily accessible to residents of San Diego, California.  While our recovery programs are tailored to every individual’s specific needs, if our ongoing assessment indicates that your condition is severe, we’ll make arrangements to transfer you to a more appropriate intensive outpatient program.

There are several different types of eating disorders out there and they all require different levels of care. Our team of specialists provides comprehensive treatments for the following mild-moderate eating disorders:

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is a potentially fatal eating disorder that has some of the highest recorded mortality rates among curable psychological illnesses.

Patients suffering from this disorder tend to see themselves as overweight even when they are dangerously underweight. They typically weigh themselves repeatedly, severely restrict the amount they eat, and consume very small quantities because of the social stigma attached to being overweight.

This has a lot to do with self image issues that are heavily influenced by perceptions of body weight, shape accompanied by a strong denial of being underweight. 

Symptoms include:

  • Extremely restricted eating
  • Extreme thinness (emaciation)
  • A relentless pursuit of thinness and unwillingness to maintain a normal or healthy weight
  • Brittle hair and nails
  • Dried, pale skin
  • Severe constipation
  • Weak bones as a result of osteoporosis
  • Low motivation, lethargy and weakness 
  • Ceased menstrual periods due to lack of nutrition

Bulimia Nervosa

People with bulimia nervosa have recurrent and frequent episodes of eating unusually large amounts of food and feeling a lack of control over these episodes. This binge-eating is followed by behavior that compensates for the overeating such as forced vomiting, excessive use of laxatives or diuretics, fasting, excessive exercise, or a combination of these behaviors.

Unlike anorexia nervosa, people with bulimia nervosa usually hide their binge eating episodes and maintain what is considered a healthy or relatively normal weight. This is among the main reasons why this condition might go unnoticed by friends and  family members.

Symptoms include:

  • Chronically inflamed and sore throat
  • Swollen salivary glands in the neck and jaw area
  • Worn tooth enamel and increasingly sensitive and decaying teeth as a result of exposure to stomach acid
  • Acid reflux disorder and other gastrointestinal problems
  • Intestinal distress and irritation from laxative abuse
  • Severe dehydration from purging of fluids
  • Electrolyte imbalance (too low or too high levels of sodium, calcium, potassium and other minerals) which can lead to stroke or heart attack

Binge-Eating Disorder

People with this disorder experience frequent binge eating episodes wherein they lose control and consume extraordinarily large amounts of food in one sitting.

In this condition, unlike bulimia nervosa, binge-eating episodes are not followed by purging, excessive exercise, or fasting. As a result, people with binge-eating disorder often tend to become overweight or obese which pushes them closer to diabetes and cardiovascular problems.

Symptoms include:

  • Consuming unusually large amounts of food in a specific amount of time even when you’re full or not hungry
  • Eating really fast during binge episodes
  • Eating until you’re uncomfortably full
  • Eating alone or in secret to avoid embarrassment
  • Feeling distressed, ashamed, or guilty about your eating
  • Frequently dieting, possibly without weight loss

Otherwise Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED)

This category was created to include those patients who did not meet the diagnostic criteria for anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa but still had a significant eating disorder that could not be ignored. OSFED accounts for about 30% of all diagnosed eating disorders.

The severity of OSFED is extremely understated due to the prevalent myth that it isn’t as dangerous as other eating disorders. This has made it increasingly difficult to get insurance coverage for the same.

Because OSFED encompasses a wide variety of eating disordered behaviors, any or all of the following symptoms may be present in people with OSFED. Warning signs and symptoms include:

  • Frequent episodes of consuming very large amount of food followed by behaviors to prevent weight gain, such as self-induced vomiting
  • Evidence of binge eating, disappearance of large amounts of food in short periods of time or lots of empty wrappers and containers indicating consumption of large amounts of food
  • Self-esteem overly related to body image
  • Dieting behavior
  • Expresses a need to “burn off” calories taken in
  • Evidence of purging behaviors, including frequent trips to the bathroom after meals, signs and/or smells of vomiting, presence of wrappers or packages of laxatives or diuretics

Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)

ARFID is characterized by highly selective eating; a tendency to avoid food with a specific type of texture, smell or taste. This condition is common among children and can even persist into adulthood. If left untreated, it will cause serious malnourishment and make it difficult for the patient to gain weight.

Unlike Anorexia Nervosa or Bulimia Nervosa, ARFID is not driven by body image issues or a relentless pursuit of having a socially acceptable body type. Signs and symptoms include:

  • Dramatic weight loss accompanied by an inability to gain weight and nutritional deficiencies
  • Limited range of preferred foods that becomes narrower over time (i.e., picky eating that progressively worsens)
  • Disrupted digestive system and gastrointestinal complications
  • Eating abnormally slowly and having a lack of appetite
  • Being paranoid choking or vomiting when presented with “fear” foods
  • No fear of weight gain or loss

Pica

Pica is a compulsive eating disorder which involves the frequent ingestion of inedible, potentially dangerous substances that have no nutritional value. This condition is commonly found among pregnant women, children and people with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

The health risks of this disorder are largely dependent on what the patient ends up consuming. If it includes metal, chalk, dried paint or any other chemically toxic substances, then it can lead to serious stomach illnesses.

  • The persistent eating, over a period of at least one month, of substances that have no nutritional value
  • Typical substances ingested tend to vary with age and availability. They may include paper, soap, cloth, hair, string, wool, soil, chalk, talcum powder, paint, gum, metal, pebbles, charcoal, ash, clay, starch, or ice

Rumination Disorder

This is a condition where patients involuntarily regurgitate their food and either vomit it, or re-swallow it. It roots from a dysregulation between the brain and the gastrointestinal system. 

There are many other factors that make this condition worse. These include psychological triggers, nerve sensitivity in the GI tract and viral infections. Symptoms include:

  • Repeated regurgitation of food for a period of at least one month. Regurgitated food may be re-chewed, re-swallowed, or spit out
  • If occurring in the presence of another mental disorder (e.g., intellectual developmental disorder), it is severe enough to warrant independent clinical attention

Orthorexia

What starts out as a good intention of eating healthy can sometimes turn into orthorexia — a condition that is characterized by an intense obsession with the quality of food. This eating disorder stems from obsessive-compulsive tendencies that the patient might have.

Typical signs and symptoms of orthorexia include:

  • Cutting out an increasing number of food groups (all sugar, all carbs, all dairy, all meat, all animal products)
  • An increase in concern about the health of ingredients; an inability to eat anything but a narrow group of foods that are deemed ‘healthy’ or ‘pure’
  • Spending hours per day thinking about what might be served at upcoming events
  • Self image concerns may or may not be present

Compulsive Exercise

Compulsive exercise is a condition that is similar to orthorexia, but the patient’s obsession, in this case, is with exercise. This obsession can drive the patient to a point where they feel the need to exercise even when they’re in great pain, at the cost of their own health. They fail to realize that over-exercising is actually counterproductive and has serious health consequences.

Diagnostic criteria for compulsive exercise is as follows.

  • Exercise that significantly interferes with important activities, occurs at inappropriate times or in inappropriate settings, or occurs when the individual exercises despite injury or other medical complications
  • Intense anxiety, depression and/or distress if unable to exercise
  • Exercise takes place despite injury or fatigue

 

We understand why some individuals might feel embarrassed or hesitate to get help for eating disorders. However, we cannot stress enough on how important it is to get these illnesses treated in time. If you’re looking for eating disorder treatment centers, support groups, or intensive outpatient programs in San Diego, feel free to contact our team of experts.