What is an eating disorder?
Eating disorders are an heterogeneous group of pathological conditions, characterized by an alteration in eating habits, excessive
concern about weight and body shapes that significantly harm physical health or psychosocial functioning (DSM-5).
Main eating disorders are anorexia, bulimia and binge eating. Typical behaviors include: fasting, decreased intake of food, bulimics crisis (ingest a significant amount of food in a short amount of time), vomiting, excessive exercise, use of laxatives or diuretics to control weight.
The ratio of females and males is about 9 to 1, but the number of males is increasing especially in adolescent and pre-adolescent age.
What is the most at risk age group?
Recent studies show that there are two million young people, in Italy, with eating disorders. 40% of eating disorders occurs between 15 and 19, but in recent years it has been observed a significant age decrease: the first “signals” may also appear in pre-adolescence, between 8 and 12 years old.
What are the consequences of this disease?
It is a disease that can damage a person’s life and limit their capacity for work, and social relationships. Everything revolves around food and the fear of gaining weight, making it difficult, for these people, to even go out to dinner with friends. Thoughts on “what should you eat to avoid gaining weight” persecute the person at any time of the day, such as at school, at work, when thery are studying, or going to bed …
Also, it can seriously affect the health of all the body’s organs and systems (cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, endocrine, hematologic, skeletal, central nervous system, dermatological, etc..) and even (in extreme cases) lead to death.
What are the red flags?
Constant concern about weight and food, up to think about it several times a day; daily weight control; excessive dieting; always counting calories in eaten food; feeling fat despite having a normal weight; hypersensitivity to any kind of criticism relating to food; excessive attention to one’s look; feelings of guilt and shame; bulimic behaviors; emotional shifts.
What are the causes?
The risk factors are biological, psychological and social. For example, having parents suffering from a psychiatric condition such as depression or substance abuse, increases the probability of developing an eating disorders.
This disorder can cause intense psychological suffering, but may be associated with other psychiatric disorders, such as depression or anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, alcohol abuse or substance abuse, and personality disorders. Besides affecting the mind, this disorder also involves the body with several physical complications, sometimes very serious such as, bleeding ulcers or tooth erosion. Sometimes self-injurious behaviors may occur, such as self harm like cutting, hurting, scratching or burning parts of the body. The lack of menstrual cycle is another of the many possible damage the eating disorder may cause.
What might be the psychological characteristics involved?
The role of the environment around people with eating disorder is essential, precisely because people suffering from this disorder may have a constant need for external confirmation, perhaps because they cannot understand their own emotions, their own desires, the things they want. At the same time, these people may be very insecure and sensitive and each comment may be seen as intrusive.
Often there is a conflictual relationship with the parental figures; they may be people with a strong need for control, and low self-esteem. Their concept of value depends on the performance, they tend to extreme perfectionism. We also note that these disorders lead people to make high demands on themselves and on others, therefore they are easily disappointed.
- Why is the female gender more vulnerable?
In addition to genetic, hormonal and neurobiological factors such as serotonin (involved in the regulation of anxiety, in mood, and in the sense of satiety or hunger), the socio-cultural factors of the last century mainly have a decisive role. The role of women has definitely changed and women’s bodies have become a significant point of interest of the media. Probably even the canons of beauty dictated by fashion and consumerism have an important impact.
- Which are the professionals involved in the treatment?
The most effective approach is a multidisciplinary and integrated one, that involves the following professionals: psychologists, psychiatrists and nutritionists, because this is a disorder that, despite having a deep psychological root, produces disabling pathological effects also medically (physically). Sometimes it is also important to design a psychilogical support also to the family or to the parental figures that is critical to create a therapeutic network around the patient, especially when the patients are adolescents.
- How can I book an appointment?
Our studio is in Milan, in Piazzale Vesuvio 14, just 10 minutes away walking from metro station sant’Agostino.
“Medical and scientific information found in this site are for informational use only and can not in any way replace a medical examination.”
– Psychiatrist Licia Lietti +39 338 5019524
– Clinical Psychologist Martina Larsen Paya: +39 349 169627
– Clinical Psychologist, Martina Trinchieri: +39 393 5564912