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Anorexia and Bulimia

Anorexia nervosa is a psychological disorder that involves a distorted body image and an irrational fear of becoming overweight, even when a person is underweight. Someone with anorexia may diet or exercise excessively in a deliberate effort to lose weight. While considered a “female disease” in the past, latest research shows approximately 1 in 3 cases are male.

Bulimia nervosa is a psychological disorder in which a person experiences regular episodes of compulsive overeating, or bingeing, and feels a loss of control. The binges are followed by a feeling of guilt that leads to purging (deliberately vomiting, abusing laxatives or diuretics, compulsive exercise, restricting food to compensate for the binge) to avoid gaining weight. Recent studies suggest 50-75 percent of service men and women returning from combat experience binge eating, often accompanied by bulimic behaviors.

Body image disorder is a belief that one’s body is unacceptable – something to be disparaged, hated and hidden. When these feelings interfere with social and/or occupational functioning, increase anxiety and depression, or lead to the development of eating disorder behaviors, it’s time to seek professional help.

How Can I Accept, let alone Love my Body?

Research shows that psychotherapy, especially cognitive therapy (also known as cognitive behavioral therapy), is the most effective way for people to overcome body image disorder. Understanding the social and familial roots of body image expectations, learning to challenge these beliefs, and becoming a body-positive advocate the key pieces for recovery.

Tips From Top Experts

Tools recommended by top researchers in the field of body image treatment include the following:

  • Create a self-assessment of how your negative body image developed
  • Keep diaries about events that surround moments of body image dissatisfaction
  • Relaxation training
  • Desensitize yourself to body exposure through imagination and systematic desensitization
  • Identify negative body image thoughts and begin the work of adjusting those errors in judgment
  • Identify and challenge self-defeating and avoidant behaviors
  • Develop new strategies to deal with difficult events and people that provoke negative body image
  • Create and practice relapse prevention strategies, with a professional’s help

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