Posts from 2017

Alcohol Addiction and Alcoholism


Why do people drink?


The making of beverages and concoctions containing alcohol as the result of fermentation can be traced back into prehistory and into current-day primitive societies. While the consumption of differing forms of alcoholic beverages among prehistoric and primitive cultures has often been associated with religious rites and ceremonies, somewhere along the way, it was discovered that intoxicating beverages could be used also for “recreational” purposes.


Thus, a transition occurred, transforming a religious practice into a commonplace, non-religious activity—drinking. While the taste of primitive alcoholic concoctions was only minimally associated with their moving from religious rituals into non-religious practice, the mind-altering effect they produced was probably the source of non-religious drinking. Thus, the mind-altering effects of alcoholic beverages became an end in itself. No longer the means to gain religious insights, the purpose of drinking developed from motives relating to the pleasures of the mind-altering effects of drinking.


It is the mind-altering effect of alcoholic beverages which are the source of common practices of drinking. Many people have a drink for social purposes, to have a drink with associates and friends contributes the conviviality of such social relations making it a kind of non-religious ritual celebrating social exchanges. For other people, the slight elevation in spirit and slight lowering of inhibitions produced by alcohol creates a kind of relaxation which, additionally, in social situations reduces stress and increases social behavior. For some people, wine connoisseurs, for example, certain alcoholic beverages are consumed to experience the pleasures of their taste rather than for the purpose of intoxication.


These forms of drinking motivation and behavior lead people occasionally and often in particular situations to have a drink or two. This is “social drinking,” and, ordinarily, it is relatively harmless.


For some people, however, somewhere along the way, their drinking behavior crosses the line and becomes something more serious. However, people don't ordinarily cross the line from social drinking to alcohol addiction and alcoholism because they like the taste of particular alcoholic beverages. The motivation for this change of behavior from social drinking to addiction and alcoholism is most often the result of elements of the personality of the individual. Consciously or unconsciously, they have some inner psychological needs or motivations for something beyond the pleasure of the mild intoxication of social drinking. They are seeking escape from something, self-medicating, or seeking to numb themselves.


This kind of drinking, therefore, has different causes and effects from social drinking. As we all know, there are many dangers from alcohol addiction and alcoholism, ranging from driving under the influence of alcohol and other legal problems to serious physical violence against property and other people. Therefore, when and if many people come to the recognition that their drinking patterns have changed from social drinking to alcohol addiction and alcoholism, they often seek to avoid the adverse health effects and other serious results by seeking to control and terminate the heavy drinking behavior.


In seeking to change, there are two major perspectives: The first is the extinction of the drinking behavior itself. This is usually accomplished through some form of stopping the drinking—detox. In addition to simply stopping the drinking behavior, and to avoid starting it again at some time in the future, it is desirable and necessary to discover what is at the heart of the motivation to drink to excess. It is in assistance in accomplishing this goal that psychological counseling can be of very real and direct help. What are the underlying psychological motivations that compel you to drink to excess? Why are behaviors that can be learned to “short-circuit” the impulse to drink in excess? What are effective coping behaviors which can mediate the dealing with inner psychological conflicts and problem other than alcohol abuse which can result in healthier, less destructive, and more socially acceptable behavior instead of alcohol addiction and alcoholism?


Thus, psychological counseling can provide effective and meaningful approaches to the termination of problem drinking, alcohol addiction, and alcoholism. Psychological counseling can assist in helping you to ameliorate the psychological-social circumstances leading to drinking and help you to create coping mechanisms to the termination of the need or will to drink.



Risk Factors for Drinking Problems and Alcoholism



The risk factors for alcohol addiction are often interconnected: there may be a genetic predisposition to alcohol. Home environment as a child, past and current social environments, psychological-emotional adjustment, and social adjustment. There may also be some racial component, such as with Native-Americans, which contributes to the predisposition of alcohol addiction. Specific risk factors may be a history of alcoholism in the family, the frequent socialization with heavy drinkers, and mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and bi-polar disorder. Self-medication is often a conscious or unconscious motivation for the use of alcohol that becomes addictive.


Pathways to alcohol addiction


While the abuse of alcohol is not 100 per cent predictive of alcohol addiction, it is certainly a high risk factor. Ordinarily, for some people, the addiction to alcohol is progressive over a period of time, for other people, however, it may be rather quick, such as if it is related to some life-changing event, such as retirement, divorce, a death of someone close, or other form of loss, such as the loss of a business.


For “regular drinkers,” the regular consumption of alcohol tends to build up tolerances, meaning that you have to drink more to get the same desired effect. Binge drinking increases the likelihood of alcohol addiction. Daily drinking also increases the likelihood of addiction.


Alcoholics vs. alcohol abusers


There is a distinction between alcoholics and alcohol abusers. Alcoholics ordinarily do not have a significant ability to set limits on their drinking, while, to some degree, alcohol abusers can set such limits.


Common symptoms and signs of alcohol addiction




1) The repeated neglecting of responsibilities: This may occur at home, a work, or at school due to drinking. While adverse effects may occur while the alcohol is still I the system, the problems may also arise from hangovers. This may become apparent through poor work performance, poor academic performance, and/or the neglect of partner and/or children.



2) The use of alcohol in circumstances of potential physical danger. The most common example of this is driving under the influence of alcohol. However, alcohol severely adversely affects the use of all forms of machinery at home or work. Another form of this danger is drinking alcohol in combination with prescription medications.


3) The incidence of legal problems association with drinking, such as drunk and disorderly conduct on the street, fighting while drinking or drunk, domestic abuse, or driving under the influence. Of alcohol.


4) Continuing to drink despite the various kinds of problems that it is causing at work, in personal relationships, or with neighbors.


5) Using alcohol as a way to relax, stress-reduction, or self-medicate. One example of this is to have the urge to have a drink during or after family conflicts, or as a way to de-stress after work.


If any of these behaviors sound familiar to you, you probably have some degree of a drinking-alcohol addiction problem.


Psychological counseling can assist in helping you to ameliorate the psychological-social circumstances leading to drinking and help you to create coping mechanisms to the termination of the need or will to drink.



What are the warning signs for alcohol addiction?


We all may have a drink or two occasionally, but for some people, it doesn't stop with “one or two” or “occasionally.” Having the availability of alcohol and the circumstances or occasions in which to consume alcohol can lead to occasional overindulgence. But, even occasional overindulgence is usually not a problem for most people. That is because overindulgence has a kind of “remedy” which discourages further overindulgence: the hangover. For most people, the hangover is painful enough that it discourages immediate or continued instances of overindulgence.




However, for some people, regular drinking sometimes has the insidious effect of becoming an addiction to alcohol. While steady and heavy drinkers are usually aware that they are having a problem with alcohol, that is, it has become more than “social lubrication” and that it has become a regular habit. Nevertheless, often people with incipient or continuing alcohol addiction problems have a kind of built-in defense mechanism that allows them to overlook and ignore the truth about their addiction. Sometimes, people are simply unaware of the time when regular social drinking becomes alcohol addiction.



To help to identify problems of alcohol addiction, there are a number of warning signs to watch for. Be aware that you may addicted to alcohol if you demonstrate any of these behaviors:



  • Do you feel ashamed or guilty about your drinking?

  • Do you hide your drinking habits?

  • Do you lie to others about the regularity of your drinking or drinking habits?

  • Do you drink when alone?

  • Have friends or family members commented on your drinking habits?

  • Have family or friends commented or complained to you about your behavior while drinking?

  • Do you need a drink in order to “take the edge off,” relax, or “even out”?

  • Have you “blacked out” while drinking; do you often “black out” when drinking?

  • Do you forget what you did when you were drinking or immediately afterwards?

  • Do you dread people telling you what you did while you were drinking or afterwards?

  • Do you often think, “I'll just have a couple of drinks,” but often end up drinking more than you intended?



If any of these behaviors sound familiar to you, you probably have some degree of a drinking-alcohol addiction problem.



Psychological counseling can assist in helping you to ameliorate the psychological-social circumstances leading to drinking and help you to create coping mechanisms to the termination of the need or will to drink.




Food Addictions Continued: Behaviors to be Alert For:


1) Sneaking food:


When you go to the store, do you buy a lot of “snack foods,” like potato chips, Cheetos, cookies, or other such items? Do you buy other “special” foods that you like to “nibble on” or have as a “midnight snack”? Do you have special places around the house or apartment where you put food so you can find it but no one else can? How often between meals do you eat? Where do you eat? In bed? while working on the computer? while reading? Do you nibble on food while you are shopping. Do you wait until you are alone to pull out the snack foods? What about the evidence of your eating? Do you hide the food wrappers or dispose of them in places no one will or can find them? Based on your answers to these questions, they may indicate a food addiction.


Like a drug addict or alcoholic, food addicts often seek to conceal or camouflage their behavior so it cannot be easily identified by people around them.


2) Food guilt:


Eating in secret and/or hiding the evidence of eating demonstrates conscious or unconscious feelings of guilt focused on food and eating behaviors. However, guilt in regard to food and eating can be expressed in other ways: Do you overeat, but feel guilty afterwards? Do you feel guilty about thinking about or craving food? Do you diet for a while, but then “slip,” and feel guilty about it? Worse, do your feelings of guilt make you feel depressed? But, feeling depressed stimulates more eating, followed by more guilt, in a seemingly unending cycle? Guilt feelings about food and eating have the adverse effect of contributing to food addictions rather than diminishing them. Listen to your feelings. Be aware of the guilt feelings that you have related to food and eating.


3) Health problems:


Food addictions, of course, result in the over consumption of food. That often leads to weight gained. Excessive weight gained and maintained is a significant adverse health problem. While being overweight or obese creates obvious problems such as cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure, many people do not know that these conditions can also result in low energy levels, skin problems, digestive problems, and even poor oral health. An increasingly common problem nowadays is type 2 diabetes which is associated with poor diet and being overweight. Thus, if you overeat and have any of these problems, the food addiction is probably contributing to your health problems. Thus, these health problems may be a warning sign to do something about your food addiction to bring it under control.


Treatment: If you see yourself in this general picture of the food addict, don't despair. Psychological counseling can provide you with coping mechanisms and positive behavioral change: The treatment modalities including cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, crisis intervention therapy often combined with medication treatment and inpatient hospitalization for acute interventions specifically in cases where the patients are not treatment compliant in psychotherapy or lacking family support and are experiencing severe symptoms and/or adverse health issues.



More on Eating Disorders.


Food addicts often eat beyond the point at which they feel they are full, sometime to the point that they know that it will make them sick. Why do they do this when their body tells them they have had enough? While hunger is the physical feeling that most people associate with eating, for the food addict, hunger is really only a secondary motivation. Thus, for the food addict, there is a difference between the need for nourishment and the psychological cravings to eat.


The warning sign of this is that the food addict eats until they are stuffed, but then continues to eat more.


Another warning sign is sneaking food. Like the alcoholic or drug addict who keeps a secret “stash” of the drug to be prepared for their need for it in the future. Food addicts hide food for several reasons: first, they want to be sure they have enough food on hand to satisfy their needs. Second, they are aware that their overeating my draw attention and make other people conscious of their addictive behavior. Third, while food is ordinarily eaten in the kitchen, food addicts do not confine their eating activities to the kitchen, so they want to have food available elsewhere. However, since food looks out of place in other rooms in the house beyond the kitchen, they hide it so that it does not draw attention to itself—and to the food addict who has hidden it.


Therefore, while hiding food is one warning sign of food addiction, another is where you eat: Do you eat in the car, in bed, while watching television, or in other rooms in the house while doing other things? As indicated, food is ordinarily consumed in the kitchen, regularly eating in other locations may indicate a food addictive problem. Further, eating in a multiplicity of locations also indicates some form of constant eating. Meals usually take place at given intervals during the day, not constantly throughout the day.


Another warning sign is focused on what is done with what is left after eating varying forms of food—packaging and containers. Like the alcoholic who carefully disposes of bottles to evade other people discovering his or her drinking, the food addict is careful in disposing of candy bar wrappings, snack packaging, and other tell-tale evidence that food has been consumed. If you feel it necessary to hide the evidence of your eating from other people, you are demonstrating a symptom of a food addict.


If you see yourself in this general picture of the food addict, don't despair. Psychological counseling can provide you with coping mechanisms and positive behavioral change: The treatment modalities including cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, crisis intervention therapy often combined with medication treatment and inpatient hospitalization for acute interventions specifically in cases where the patients are not treatment compliant in psychotherapy or lacking family support and are experiencing severe symptoms and/or adverse health issues.



Eating Disorders: 1

Do you have an eating disorder?

Eating disorders are adverse relationships with food and eating that go beyond eating to survive or eating to enjoy the food. Eating disorders add a dimension to food and eating that is psychologically disturbing and physically unhealthy.

What are the warning signs to look for in eating disorders?

Overeating” is one obvious sign. How many times do you fill your plate up? How many cheeseburgers or French fries do you get at the fast food outlet? Do you often eat between meals? Is every day just one long continuous meal with interruptions for other activities? Do you think a lot about food when you are not eating? Do you often eat while reading or watching television? Do you eat at established and traditional mealtimes (three per day, breakfast, lunch, and dinner), or do you eat whenever you feel hungry? These are some questions to ask yourself to help you to recognize if you have an eating problem.

Looked at separately, there are a number of warning signs and signals that you may have an eating problem:

As mentioned above, overeating” is a good indicator. Overeating once in a while or at special occasions like Thanksgiving or Christmas is “normal” and nothing to worry about. Overeating at every meal is another matter. When you eat a meal, do you stop at one plate or go on for two? ...or more? When you cook, do you always eat up everything that is left rather then put it into the refrigerator?

Food addicts demonstrate the same addictive behavior as drug addicts. One heavy dose may be followed by the need soon for the next. This means that just because the individual ate a big meal not long previously does not mean that they are not ready to begin the next big meal or snack right away. When you open a box of ice cream, or a bag of cookies or potato chips, do you eat it all? Think about it. These are signs that the individual my have an eating disorder.

Like drug addicts or alcoholics, food addicts also make excuses for their habit. They might make a resolution to control their eating in different ways, but before long, they have broken the resolution and are eating in the old pattern again. In addition to these broken resolutions, there may also be the use of “valid excuses” for the overeating: “I was too upset to know what I was doing.” “You know, I wasn't really aware of what I was doing. I was thinking about something else.” “After tonight, things are going to change.” These are typical excuses used by food addicts. So, the meaning of these excuses is to go on doing what you want to do right now because you have a good reason for it, and things will be different tomorrow.

Addicts often set themselves up to fail. While saying that they will stop eating snacks between meals, when they go to the store, they will, nevertheless, buy snacks (just to have them on hand).” When they cook, instead of cooking planning only for the needed portions, they will cook much more.. Later, eating the leftovers, the individual thinks, “Oh, there really wasn't any more room in the refrigerator, so I decided just to eat it.” These are forms of addictive behavior that one should be aware of.

Often times Eating Disorders, as many other Addictions, can be accompanied by one or more Personality Disorders particularly Borderline Personality Disorder and Mood Disorders such as depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder.

If you see yourself in this general picture of the food addict, don't despair. Psychological counseling can provide you with coping mechanisms and positive behavioral change: The treatment modalities including cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, crisis intervention therapy often combined with medication treatment and inpatient hospitalization for acute interventions specifically in cases where the patients are not treatment compliant in psychotherapy or lacking family support and are experiencing severe symptoms and/or adverse health issues.

Next:  More on Eating disorders.




Love Addiction, Part 2


America’s “instant gratification” culture is a causative factor:

Public awareness of the problem of love addiction has been increasing in recent years. In part, this has been the result of a number of celebrities that have “come out of the closet” about their problems with love addiction. Margaret Cho has stated that her obsessive relations with men are an addiction. On Sex Rehab with Dr. Drew, supermodel Amber Smith admitted to being a love addict. In fact, she has now become a lecturer on love addictions.



While women seem particularly vulnerable to this problem, it also affects men. A number of men have been identified as love addicts as an element of their sexual misbehavior, such as Anthony Wiener, Harvey Weinstein, and others. To some degree, their serial sexual misadventures may be related to their love addiction but lack of success in establishing lasting, meaningful relationship with another person. For example, despite the fact that he was married, Anthony Wiener admitted that he sexted other women because he wanted to feel desired by them. Tiger Woods, for example, did not see himself as love addicted when he had his serial affairs with one-night stands and prostitutes. It can be judged that these men were really looking for love, even if it was only short-term and transitory.



For example, the case of “George,” both successful in business and highly educated, who admitted to being addicted to what he called the emotional effects of being “in love,” the pounding of the heart, the anticipation of seeing the loved one, and the exhilaration. However, in a relatively short period of time, usually about 6 to 9 months, the excitement would wear off, and he lost all interest in continuing the affairs. In “dumping” his ex-loved ones, he created emotional problems both for himself and for the other parties in the affairs. In time, he became aware that this was a repeating pattern. He recognized that the brief periods of pleasure and exhilaration he was getting from the relationships were not authentic emotions, but merely stages in a cycle of fantasies.


After consulting with a psychologist, he was led to recognize that the pattern of his love addiction relationships grew out of a deep sense of loneliness within him that could not be permanently filled by another person in a transitory relationship. A deeply-ingrained sense of social isolation is often at the heart of the love addictive behavior. Those feelings, in turn, are accentuated and elevated by images of couples enjoying themselves and glamorized in television commercials. These images demonstrate to the person with the deep-seated feelings of isolation and loneliness that they are “different,” and, therefore, they “create” love affairs in order to satisfy the longing inside of themselves. The problem is that the relationships are not based on meaningful interests and characteristics, so they don't last very long. After the break up, which is a problem not only because the other personal may be missed, but, more significantly, because it emphasizes the fact that the love addict is alone again, deepens their feelings of loneliness. To “fix” the problem of their depressed personal feelings, and to become “normal” again, they enter into another relationship just to be in a relationship, not for other more significant reasons, and the cycle begins all over again.


This love addicted behavior is one factor that drives many people to the social networking websites in the hope of finding a lasting relationship there, but these relationships, also, are often transitory, generating more motivations for the vain search for the next relationship to fill the void.



Texting and email may also be may also be used to fill the void between relationships. Whenever an email or text from a potential love interest comes through, that stimulates an injection of adrenaline and dopamine into the brain, producing pleasurable sensations. This is a form of instant gratification which has become a critical element of modern-day life. The postponement of love relationship until the “right person” is found creates tension within the individual;, and the tension needs a release, and the release is the start of a new relationship. The need for instant gratification overrides logic and reason that indicates that, under the right circumstances, time will produce the desired results. But, that requires patience, so it is sacrificed by the need for immediate results. The love addiction substitutes the intensity of emotional extremes for the values of real intimacy between the members of a relationship. Thus, the love addict needs the relationship, but not the partner who is just a tool to create the illusion of a meaningful relationship. These are mechanical ways of relating to other people, not the creation of authentic, reality-based relationships.



Love addiction can be successfully treated by various forms of psychological therapy: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Psychodynamic therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Gestalt Therapy and Psychoanalysis.



Next: Part 3, Positively dealing with problems of love addiction.




Love Addiction, Part 1


Barbara had fallen in love, so much in love that when she was with her “significant other,” Bob, she felt truly alive and excited. When she was away from him, she was lonely and felt desperate to get back to his side again. In a way, this situation would seem to describe a powerful romance. She was head-over-heels in love with Bob.




In confidence with her psychologist, however, Barbara admitted that she's been in love like this several times before. She has had a history of new loves of her life on an almost regular basis. Time after time, however, the love affair would begin to go bad. Her “loves” would leave her, or, on the other hand, she would “dump” them. Barbara's life was filled with a strong alternating emotional highs and lows. It was beginning to worry her. “I was getting nowhere in my life but just getting hurt on a regular basis.” She would have a relationship for three weeks, but she would worry, fret, stew, and obsess over it for three months. The love affair was a high, but when it fell apart, there would be deep depression. She began to see her situation as similar to that of an alcoholic: the affair was the drunk, but the depression afterwards was the hangover. The “hangovers” were getting harder and harder to take.



Finally, at the age of 30, Barbara went to a psychologist. A friend had told her that she was suffering from a “love addiction.” Thinking about it, Barbara began to realize, through the adrenaline highs and lows, her romantic affairs was a kind of addiction.



In talking this over with the psychologist, she came to realize that her attachments to her short-term boyfriends were not love so much as they were a response to a addictive need: the addictive need to be :in love.” She also learned that she was not alone in being addicted to love. She was tired of it, however. As she put it, “When I was 22, I could take the ups and the downs, but at 30, after having the same thing happen over and over again for several years, I realized that things were going to have to change.” Otherwise, she realized, the next lover would not be the last, but just the “next” who would, also, before long, be replaced by the next one, and so on and on. She said, “I think that I need to make a change, but I don't know how do it or what a change would be like.” The recurring cycles of love affairs, breakups followed by more love affairs and breakups had become vicious cycle, love addiction.

For various kinds of additions, there have been developed programs to help: Alcoholics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, and Gamblers Anonymous are just a few of them. A common addiction which has been ignored people who are addicted to love relationships. It has been estimated that six percent of the population are love or sex addicts.



The interesting about this is that the effect of being in love creates changes in the body's chemistry having effects like cocaine. Thus, the results are similar—addiction.



Just like, for an alcoholic, the first drink leads to an expectation and desire for the next drink, for a love addict, each affair, despite the fact that it was followed by down period and depression, just like the alcoholic's hangover, does not significantly diminish the desire for the next drink, the next love affair is needed. In time, for the alcoholic, the need for the next drink becomes insatiable. In the same way with love addiction, each “hangover” is not powerful enough to diminish the desire for the next “love” experience.



Love addiction can be successfully treated by various forms of psychological therapy: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Psychodynamic therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Gestalt Therapy and Psychoanalysis.



Next: Love Addiction, Part Two....




Seasonal Affective Disorder




SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder is a form of depression that is caused by the effect of various atmospheric and weather conditions on one's personal psychology. It is a form of depression that typically begins in the fall and winter and goes away in the spring and summer. Although there can be episodes in the summertime, they are most common in the fall and winter.


Signs and Symptoms:


Seasonal Affective Disorder is a particular form of depression, but not a separate disorder in and of itself. Its symptoms are often the result of the character and quality of light and the length of daylight in contrast to hours of darkness, conditions created by the changing of the seasons. The criteria for the depressive disorder is the basic condition, but along with the variable that the depression increases in some seasons and decreases in other seasons for a continuous period of 2 years or more. As such, the seasonal depressions must be recurrent over and above other depressive characteristics.


Symptoms of Major Depression must first apply:


  • Feelings of depression daily and recurring every day

  • Feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness

  • Low energy levels

  • A loss of interest in activities that were previously enjoyed

  • Problems in sleeping, going to sleep, and staying asleep

  • Loss of appetite

  • Loss of weight

  • Feelings of lethargy and reluctance to do anything

  • Feelings of agitation

  • Difficulty in concentrating

  • Frequent thoughts of death or suicide



Symptoms occurring in the winter pattern of SAD include:


  • Low energy

  • Feeling sleepy often, wanting to sleep a lot

  • Weight gains

  • Eating often and overeating

  • Carbohydrates carvings

  • Withdrawal from social contacts




Symptoms that less frequently occur in summer SAD include:


  • Loss of appetite

  • Weight loss

  • Insomnia

  • Feelings of agitation

  • Feeling restlessness

  • Feelings of anxiety

  • Unusual violent behavior


Risk Factors


There are certain attributes and circumstances potentially increasing SAD risk:


  • SAD occurs 4 time more often in women than in men.

  • SAD occurs more often in people that live far, either north or south, of the equator.

  • SAD can occur in family lines, and especially in family lines exhibiting depression.

  • Depressive or Bipolar disorders often predispose SAD.

  • It is more prevalent in the young rather than in older people.



There are also some biological indicators of SAD:


  • Differences in serotonin production in the winter than in the summer.

  • Melatonin may be overproducing. Melatonin affects sleep patterns, and in shorter winter days, more melatonin is produced than in longer summer days. The effect of this is to cause people to feel sleepy and want to sleep more in the wintertime.

  • Vitamin D production is low.


Treatments and Therapies


The starting place is psychological counseling to identify and isolate symptoms and to determine if there may be other causative elements present other than SAD. Other therapies focus on some combination of light therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy, psychodynamic therapy, and learning coping mechanisms.



Eating Disorders




Eating disorders are not, as many people mistakenly think, a lifestyle choice. Eating disorders can be very serious, even life-threatening. They are actually mental health disorders that effect eating behavior. The existence of eating disorders may be signaled by body weight and positive or negative obsessions with food. Binge-eating, bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa are three of the most common eating disorders.


Signs and Symptoms


Anorexia nervosa


Anorexia Nervosa focuses on one's body image. Most often those with this disorder imagine themselves as being overweight, despite the fact that they may actually be underweight. A behavioral characteristic of those with anorexia is repeatedly weighing themselves. Imagining themselves to be overweight, they limit severely the amount of food they eat, only eat small amounts of food, or only eat certain kinds of food. The seriousness of this disorder may be seen in the fact that it has the highest mortality rate of any of the other mental disorders. Those suffering from this disorder most often die from the effects of starvation, although suicide incidence , also, is high, especially with women.


Acute symptoms may include:


  • Highly restricted eating behaviors

  • Emaciation, a state of being extremely thin

  • Constant concern with and focus on being and staying thin

  • Inability to establish and maintain a healthy, normal weight

  • Extreme fear of gaining weight.

  • Distortions in self-image

  • Self-esteem directly related to perceptions of the individual's body shape and weight

  • A denial of the potential problems associated with low body weight.

  • Intense fear of gaining weight




Additional symptoms developing with the passage of time:


  • Osteopenia or osteoporosis

  • Mild forms of anemia

  • Weakness and muscle wasting

  • Hair and fingernails that are brittle

  • Yellowing and/or dry skin

  • The growth of fine hair on the body

  • Regular and obstinate constipation

  • Damages to the heart structure and function

  • Brain damages

  • The failure of one or more organs

  • A decrease in body temperature, associated with feeling cold all of the time

  • Regular feelings of tiredness, sluggishness, and lethargy

  • Lack of reproductive fertility


Bulimia nervosa


Bulemia Nervosa is characterized by frequent and recurring spells of easing unusually large amount of food accompanied by no control over this behavior. The episodes of overeating are followed by compensating behaviors, such as vomiting and the use of laxatives, the use of diuretics, excessive exercise, fasting, and/or some combination of these activities. Bulemics often maintain a normal and healthy body wight, unlike people with anorexia.


Typical symptoms include:


  • Persistent inflamed sore throat

  • Swelling in neck and jaw salivary glands

  • Tooth enamel that is worn along with sensitive and often-decaying teeth demonstrating regular exposure to stomach acid.

  • Acid reflux, GERD, or other gastrointestinal complaints.

  • Intestinal pains and problems relating to overuse of laxatives

  • Dehydration

  • Imbalance in electrolytes leading possibly to stroke or heart attack.


Binge-eating disorder


Binge-Eating is demonstrated by having no control over eating. These episodes of overeating are not followed by any of the characteristics of bulemia, such as laxative use, excessive exercising, or fasting. People suffering from the binge-eating disorder are often fat or excessively obese. It is, perhaps, not surprising than binge-eating is the most common eating disorder in the U.S.


Typical symptoms are:


  • Eating an excessive amount of food within a particular period of time.

  • Eating while feeling full

  • Eating despite not feeling hungry.

  • Rapid eating behavior.

  • Eating until the point of feeling uncomfortable

  • Frequent eating while alone.

  • Eating in secret

  • Eating accompanied by feelings of guilt, distress. or shame

  • Frequent dieting but without significant loss of weight


Risk Factors


The highest time of risk in the life cycle is in the teenage years, followed by childhood, but sometimes later in life. Both men and women are subject to eating disorders, but women are more than twice as likely to develop eating disorders than men. Both men and women have problems in their perception of body image. Women may be focused on loosing weight to become thin, while men may focus on gaining more muscle.


The causation of eating disorders is complex, involving interactions in genetic makeup, biological, social, and psychological factors.


Treatments and Therapies


Critical in therapies for people with eating disorders is assistance in establishing optimal weight levels while, at the same time, developing food and eating coping and management strategies that are effective and long lasting. Treatment plans for eating disorders may focus on one or more of the following:


  • Individual psychotherapy

  • Family psychotherapy

  • Medical intervention and monitoring

  • Counseling in nutrition

  • Cognitive behavioral training

  • Psychodynamic therapy,

  • Crisis intervention therapy,

  • Psychoanalysis”


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