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An eating disorder is when someone is locked into unhealthy behaviours around food and eating. Eating disorders can affect people of all ages and gender. There is no single reason why a person develops an eating disorder.
Eating disorders are centred around a problematic relationship with body image and eating, but they are not only about food or weight, and are often linked to underlying struggles with managing emotions and distressing thoughts about the self. Some of the main features of eating disorders can be:
Types of eating disorders include:
Eating disorders can lead to serious physical health problems, such as kidney or heart failure and difficulty getting pregnant, and may lead to a loss of periods or sexual interest. Eating disorders can be fatal.
People with eating disorders may also have struggles with mood, lack of self-esteem or depression, as well as anxiety related to food and eating.
As in all types of CBT, goals for therapy will be set together with the therapist after conversations to understand more about how the eating disorder is presenting and what the person coming for therapy wants to work on. Sessions and work in-between sessions will include thinking about motivation to change and taking a gradual and steady approach to making these changes. Often regular check-ups with a GP or other healthcare practitioner are suggested in combination with talking therapy to ensure that the person is physically safe.
Some of the aims of CBT in treating eating disorders are:
Obesity is not classed as an eating disorder, but can also be helped with CBT.
You can download a pdf version of the information contained on this page here.
National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines for the recognition and treatment of eating disorders