There are many similarities between eating disorders and mental illness conditions such as depression and anxiety. Many people with an eating problem are also diagnosed with a mental illness, and in order to treat one condition, we also need to look at the other. That’s why the team at Asana Lodge includes experts in both mental health problems and eating disorders, giving you a better chance of recovery.
The Definition of Mental Illness
Each mental illness has a long list of signs and symptoms, but there are two factors that most conditions have in common; thoughts or feelings that make it difficult to lead your life and make you unhappy, and a decrease in your quality of life. If you’re wondering, ‘is an eating disorder a mental illness?’ then you’ll notice that these two things also apply to bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa and other common eating disorders.
Those suffering from these conditions may often hide their distress, and will often find it difficult to reach out and seek help, which is why loved ones are often the ones to encourage the sufferer to seek treatment.
Things To Look Out For
There are a number of things that loved ones can look out for when it comes to eating disorders and mental illnesses, and it’s not just their eating pattern that you can keep an eye on
- Poor body image or an obsession with food, body shape or body weight
- Life being taken over by this obsession, leading them to neglect other things
- Excessive exercise, purging through vomiting or laxative use, or obsession with weighing or measuring themselves
- Anxiety around food and body image, for example feeling upset after eating a large amount of food, becoming upset when gaining small amounts of food
- Being unable to focus on anything other than food and body image
- Avoiding eating with others, whether at home or social occasions
- Seeming constantly weak and fatigued, sometimes suffering from constant illnesses due to malnourishment
An Eating Problem Can Affect Mental Health
Your eating habits can often affect how you feel on a day to day basis. If you’ve ever skipped a meal or been too busy to eat properly, you’ll know how difficult it can be to focus and concentrate. Those who have a poor relationship with food risk worsening mental health and may find it difficult to function in day to day life.
Food can often be tied to our emotions and it’s easy for people to associate food with their self-image. Simply being around food can trigger feelings of hatred for their body, leading to eating disorders. This can also be observed in those with binge eating disorders who may see food as an emotional crutch, overeating when their emotions become difficult to deal with.
Eating Disorders & Substance Abuse
At Asana Lodge, we often work with people who have both an eating disorder and an addiction. If you suffer from one of these conditions, you’re much more likely to also suffer from the other, which can put a huge strain on your mental and physical health.
Many substances affect appetite, for example taking marijuana can make someone want to binge, while methamphetamines and cocaine can suppress appetite, which can lead to the addict developing an eating disorder. In some cases, a person with an eating disorder will take drugs in order to deliberately reduce their appetite so they can lose weight. It has also been noted that food deprivation can affect parts of the brain, meaning sufferers of eating disorders no longer get pleasure from food, so seek out drugs instead to give them pleasant feelings.
Alcohol is also related to some eating disorders, most commonly bulimia. This might be because alcohol, like food, stimulates the pleasurable parts of the brain, leading to the sufferer constantly seeking it out.
There are a number of personality traits found to be common to those with addictions and those with eating disorders, which could explain the link between the two.
Novelty-seeking and impulsivity are often seen in both groups, and a health professional may note that the sufferer is always seeking new experiences and making snap decisions without thinking things through. They may be very sensitive individuals, highly attuned to others’ emotions and feelings, while also being unable to regulate their own emotions. Both groups often suffer from neuroticism, which means they suffer from negative moods, depression, low-self esteem and anxiety. They may also suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder and related conditions.
When dealing with people who have a dual diagnosis, such as an eating disorder paired with a mental health condition or addiction, it’s important to seek help from experts who have dealt with both. At Asana Lodge, we have a team who are experts in treating a wide range of conditions, and we offer a tailored treatment programme with individual therapy, support groups, holistic treatments and much more. Because we offer residential treatment, there is time to cover many different issues, allowing the client to get help with various conditions at the same time.