Eating Disorders During the Holidays

By: Maryellen Van Atter

Eating disorders are psychological disorders characterized by abnormal or disturbed eating habits. There are different kinds of eating disorders, but two prevalent ones are Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa. Individuals with Anorexia Nervosa restrict their food intake with the goal of reducing their weight, and have an intense fear of gaining weight. Individuals with Bulimia Nervosa engage in binge-eating sessions followed by self-induced vomiting, and experience a lack of control over their behaviors and a fear of weight gain. These disorders are very serious and can lead to physical health problems, such as poor circulation and muscle weakness. Eating disorders are also associated with other psychological disorders, such as depression and anxiety.

Eating disorders can be especially difficult during the holiday season. For many, the holiday season puts an additional emphasis on food. Holidays gatherings involve a plethora of food, and this can be extremely difficult for those with eating disorders. The emphasis of food can amplify their concerns and increase their symptom experience, worsening their mental health. This may lead to isolation or feelings of anxiety and guilt. While holidays should be about valuing the positive relationships in your life, this meaning can be lost when there is a focus on food.

There are many treatments that can help those with Anorexia and Bulimia manage their symptoms and establish healthy eating habits. One such treatment is psychotherapy, or talk therapy. There are many variations of this therapy which are successful at treating eating disorders. One is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) which is aimed at changing distorted thought patterns to result in healthy behavior. Another is acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), where patients identify a value or goal and then commit to doing the actions which make that goal possible. When eating disorders are accompanied by symptoms of depression or anxiety, psychiatric medication may be prescribed to assist in the management of those symptoms.

Additionally, there are steps that one can take to prevent the relapse or worsening of disordered eating during the holiday season. If you or a loved one is suffering from an eating disorder, try to shift the focus during the holidays from food to activities, such as decorating, caroling, or playing games. This can ease the negative emotions of those suffering from eating disorders and help them feel more comfortable. It is also important to remind loved ones that it is okay to seek extra help during this difficult season.

If you or someone you know is struggling with disordered eating, Arista Counseling and Psychotherapy can help. Please contact us in Paramus, NJ at 201-368-3700 or in Manhattan, NY at 212-996-3939 to arrange an appointment. For more information about our services, please visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/

Sources:

https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/by-eating-disorder/anorexia

https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/by-eating-disorder/bulimia

https://centerforchange.com/coping-loved-ones-eating-disorder-holidays/

https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/types-treatment

https://www.sedig.org/physical-complications