Psychotherapy & Counselling for Eating Disorders and Eating Distress....
According to current figures, eating disorders may affect up
to 200,000 people in Ireland today. While the figures have previously suggested
that eating disorders affect more teens than any other age category, in 2015,
there was a marked increase in adults seeking support from the Irish eating disorder
charity, Bodywhys. The reason for this increase is unknown, but it is evident
from the figures that eating disorders are affecting people of a wide range of
ages, and further, that those who are experiencing eating distress are likely
to have been struggling for a long time.
An eating disorder is a distressed pattern of eating habits,
in which a person may attempt to restrict food rigidly and excessively, and/or
may over-exercise as a method of trying to control weight; they may binge on
food and purge it afterwards through vomiting, laxative use, or excessive exercise,
or a person’s eating distress may be expressed by binging or overeating
regularly. Others may experience distressing patterns of eating that do not fit
the criteria for any one eating disorder, but they are struggling also, and are
in need in of support. Eating disorders are often experienced alongside other
emotional issues also, such as difficulties with sexuality, obsessions and compulsions, self-harm, excessive
drinking, among others.
The emotional experience behind an eating disorder can be
deeply upsetting for the individual. For example, feelings of shame and guilt about
being unable to control one’s eating are common, as are mood swings, feeling
irritable or snapping at people, feeling alone and isolated, feeling anxious
and/or depressed, having difficulty with conflict or confrontation, and experiencing
low self-esteem and harsh self-criticism. Some of these may have been present
before the person developed a problem with eating, but are compounded by both
the psychological impact of the eating disorder, and the physical effects of
starvation or lack of adequate nutrition.
People who experience eating disorders have difficulty verbalising
and processing their emotions, and so they frequently struggle in developing or
maintaining a clear sense of self. It is likely that they are very sensitive to
other people’s emotions and may tend to take responsibility for these, at the
expense of tending to their own emotional experience. While an eating disorder
appears to be about food and weight, at a deeper level, it is not. An eating
disorder can be seen as a communication of the deeper emotional struggle, an attempt
to cope with the sense of depletion that occurs when unable to process and
regulate our emotions, and a clear sign that support is needed. If you are
experiencing eating problems counselling/psychotherapy can support you in
exploring your emotional life, help you to identify your areas of struggle and problems
with authentic self-expression, and collaborate with you to find more self-supportive
ways of being, so that the eating disorder is no longer needed.