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How Body Dysmorphia Affects the Development of Binge Eating Disorder and Bulimia Nervosa

Binge eating disorder and bulimia nervosa are two different eating disorders that can develop in all races, genders and ages. Both of these disorders are serious and can lead to many unwanted consequences, from physical effects to psychological damage. Like all eating disorders, binge eating disorder and bulimia nervosa can be the result of a variety of contributing factors. For some patients, body dysmorphia plays a role in the development of the problem. In fact, body dysmorphia may be one of the primary bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder causes in the majority of cases.

What Is Bulimia Nervosa?

Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by periods of eating large amounts of food, which is known as “binging”. In most cases, these episodes of binging last for no more than two hours. During the episode, you may feel your eating is out of your control. This is followed by an extreme attempt to eliminate calories consumed during the binge, which is known as “purging”. Purging may take several different forms, including self-induced vomiting, misuse of laxatives, extreme exercise or a combination of these attempts. Some people with bulimia nervosa may also alternate between episodes of binge eating and fasting.

Some of the specific symptoms of bulimia nervosa include:

  • Periods of binging, which means you eat a large amount of food in a short amount of time
  • Loss of control during episodes of binging
  • Rapid consumption of food during episodes of binging
  • Eating until you are uncomfortable or sick
  • Eating even though you are full
  • Hiding your eating from others
  • Engaging in purging behaviors to eliminate calories and avoid weight gain
  • Mental disturbances related to your eating, such as depression or anxiety

While some people with bulimia nervosa may have only a few of these symptoms, others may have almost all of them. However, any combination of these symptoms may indicate bulimia nervosa is present.

What Is Binge Eating Disorder?

Binge eating disorder is an eating disorder characterized by periods of eating large amounts of food in one sitting. Unlike people with bulimia nervosa, however, you will not attempt to eliminate the extra calories through any type of purging.

Many of the signs of binge eating disorder are similar to the signs of bulimia nervosa. Some of the specific signs of binge eating disorder may include:

  • Eating very large amounts of food within a short period of time
  • Inability to control eating behaviors
  • Eating very quickly during episodes of bingeing
  • Eating until uncomfortable
  • Eating despite feeling full or even sick
  • Eating secretly and/or by yourself
  • Attempting to diet frequently with little or no success
  • Feeling upset, guilty or ashamed of eating behaviors
  • Depression related to eating

As with bulimia nervosa, you may have binge eating disorder without having all of these symptoms. Any combination of the symptoms above could indicate the presence of a disorder.

What Is Body Dysmorphia?

Body dysmorphia is a disorder that occurs when an individual develops an unreasonable preoccupation with a perceived defect about their appearance. For example, the individual may be convinced that he or she has a deformed nose, a large forehead or some other highly noticeable defect that is not really present. Among people with eating disorders, these preoccupations usually focus on weight or body shape. For example, the individual may believe he or she is severely overweight even though his or her actual weight is normal or close to normal.

Body dysmorphia can come with a variety of signs and symptoms. Some of the most common signs and symptoms of this condition include:

  • Obsession with a specific feature of the body that is considered undesirable
  • Avoidance of social situations
  • Low self-esteem
  • Camouflaging of the perceived defect, such as by using makeup or wearing specific types of clothing
  • Comparing appearance with other people
  • Excessive grooming
  • Excessive exercise
  • Avoiding mirrors or looking in mirrors obsessively

Does Body Dysmorphia Cause Binge Eating Disorder or Bulimia Nervosa?

Research into specific binge eating disorder causes and causes of bulimia nervosa is ongoing. However, body dysmorphia is a well-known contributing factor. When someone has body dysmorphia, he or she is much more likely to be critical of weight, body shape and fitness levels. If the individual becomes obsessed with one or more of these issues, the development of bulimia nervosa may be more likely.

The relationship between binge eating disorder and body dysmorphia is more complicated. However, even though the link is not as clear, body dysmorphia can still play a role in the development of this disorder. For example, someone who has body dysmorphia may use binge eating as a coping mechanism. Someone with body dysmorphia may also be prone to frequent dieting, which can contribute to the development of binge eating disorder as well. In these cases, the individual restricts his or her food intake on a regular basis and eventually becomes overly hungry and frustrated, which can lead to episodes of bingeing.

How Does Body Dysmorphia Affect the Treatment Process?

When working toward binge eating recovery or bulimia recovery, the patient must areddress each of the factors that contribute to his or her eating disorder so he or she can resolve each issue and overcome the disorder. If body dysmorphia is one of the factors contributing to the individual’s disorder, it will need to be incorporated into the treatment process. For this reason, it is important for treatment professionals to be able to recognize the presence of this issue and structure the patient’s treatment plan accordingly.

Body dysmorphia can be treated in different ways. For example, some patients who have this disorder may benefit from specific medications, such as an antidepressant. Other patients with body dysmorphia may benefit more from cognitive behavioral therapy designed to help them identify and change their irrational thoughts and negative patterns of thinking. In some cases, the same patient may benefit from both therapy and medication. A professional will be able to determine what course of action is best for each individual patient.

Pursuing Bulimia Recovery and Binge Eating Recovery

If you have noticed the signs of bulimia nervosa or the signs of binge eating disorder, you may be at risk of developing serious complications. For this reason, seeking treatment as soon as possible is highly recommended. With the right treatment program, you will be able to address all of the underlying factors that led to the development of your eating disorder, eliminate the symptoms of the disorder, learn coping mechanisms and improve your physical health. In time, you may even achieve a full recovery from the disorder, which means it will no longer affect any aspect of your life.

The majority of treatment programs begin with a thorough evaluation of the patient and an effort to understand the individual’s eating disorder. For example, if you have binge eating disorder, the beginning of your treatment process may involve exploring different binge eating disorder causes to determine which factors are contributing to your specific issues. Once these factors have been identified, the eating disorder treatment professionals at your chosen facility will develop a treatment plan. The goal of treatment is to not only help you eliminate the symptoms of your disorder, but also to understand how it developed and how you can avoid relapse after the treatment program is complete.

However, it is important to note that not all treatment programs operate in exactly the same way or offer the same quality of care. For example, while some treatment plans offer therapy only during the day and allow patients to go home when they are not in a session, others require patients to remain in the treatment facility at all times. Likewise, different treatment programs utilize different approaches to help patients recover from their disorders. Some of the different services that may be available in eating disorder treatment facilities include:

  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Exercise education
  • Nutrition education
  • Treatment for co-occurring disorders
  • Psychiatric care
  • Medical care
  • Aftercare
  • Relapse prevention

Most patients will need a combination of these treatment services in order to maximize their chances of a full, lasting recovery from binge eating disorder or bulimia nervosa.

Choosing the Right Treatment Program

Regardless of whether body dysmorphia appears on your list of bulimia nervosa or binge eating disorder causes, choosing the right treatment program for your needs is essential. As you compare different treatment programs, be sure to consider all of the following factors.

  • Program structure: Eating disorder treatment programs are available with different structures. For example, some programs are residential, while some are outpatient. Programs also vary according to their length and the specific schedules patients follow each day.
  • Therapies: Different treatment programs will offer different therapeutic approaches or services. Be sure to review the available services carefully before enrolling in any treatment program to be sure the program you choose is a good fit for your needs.
  • Treatment plan customization: The best eating disorder treatment programs are those that customize each individual treatment plan to meet the needs of the specific patient. Avoid eating disorder treatment facilities that require every patient to undergo the same one-size-fits-all treatment program.
  • Reputation and success rates: An eating disorder treatment program’s reputation and success rate gives you valuable information about the program’s effectiveness. You can learn about the program’s reputation by reading reviews and testimonials from past patients. To learn about success rates, ask the treatment facility to provide whatever information it has available.
  • Practical considerations: Most patients will also consider the location, cost and convenience of the programs they are comparing. However, even though you may need to consider these factors when you make your choice, they should not be your top priorities. Ensuring you receive good quality eating disorder treatment should be your ultimate goal during this process.

Eating Disorder Treatment at Monte Nido

Monte Nido provides effective eating disorder treatment to patients in a variety of locations across the United States. We offer treatment for a variety of different disorders, including binge eating disorder and bulimia nervosa. Our treatment programs can help virtually any patient to overcome his or her eating disorder, including those patients who are struggling with co-occurring issues like body dysmorphic disorder or psychiatric problems. In addition, surveys indicate the treatment programs we operate are effective and continue to improve patients’ lives even several years after they have graduated from treatment.

Living with an eating disorder not only impacts your quality of life, but it can also put your health in danger. Professional treatment is the best way to address the issue and begin on the path to recovery. The experts at Monte Nido believe full recovery from bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder is possible. To learn more about our treatment options, please contact us today at 888.228.1253.

Melissa Orshan Spann, PhD, LMHC, RTY 200, is Chief Clinical Officer at Monte Nido, overseeing the clinical operations and programming for over 50 programs across the U.S. Dr. Spann is a Certified Eating Disorder Specialist and clinical supervisor as well as an accomplished presenter and passionate clinician who has spent her career working in the eating disorder field in higher levels of care. She is a member of the Academy for Eating Disorders and the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals where she serves on the national certification committee, supervision faculty, and is on the board of her local chapter. She received her doctoral degree from Drexel University, master’s degree from the University of Miami, and bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida.