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What Causes an Eating Disorder and How Do You Treat It?

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Shernide Delva

Over the weekend, I watched the movie To the Bone starring Keanu Reeves and Lily Collins. The film took us inside the life of Ellen, a 20-year-old woman who has consistently struggled with an eating disorder.  She enters a residential treatment program with several other women struggling with eating disorders.

The film received a plethora of controversy as many thought it was triggering.  However, after watching the movie, I felt it did an excellent job of allowing the viewer to understand the urgent and severe nature of an eating disorder. Often, films only focus on how little the patient is eating or how much weight they have lost. Yet, this is only a small component of having an eating disorder. Eating disorders go much deeper psychologically, and weight is simply part of the problem.

While the movie does an excellent job explaining what it is like to have an eating disorder, it does not explain what causes eating disorders in the first place. Eating disorders are complex with a broad range of variables.

Treatments for eating disorders vary in efficacy. There is no one size fit all treatment. This is elaborated in the movie as we watch Ellen transfer from one treatment center to another. Finally, she ends up at a treatment center she connects to and has a great therapist played by Keanu Reeves.

Often patients deny the severity of their condition at first. The lack of seriousness only progresses the disorder further. For example, in To the Bone, the women struggle to understand why their eating behaviors are considered abnormal. In fact, they believe that their compulsive eating behaviors are necessary to their survival. The idea of eating any other way is difficult to grasp.

Furthermore, patients lie about the severity of their condition which hampers their treatment options.

Most clinicians agree eating disorders stem from a variety of factors:

These factors range from:

Biological Contributors:

It is possible there is a genetic link that causes eating disorder. Significant studies on depression and anxiety allow reason to be hopeful.  Many people had anxiety and depression prior to the development of their eating disorder. Eating disorders can be a reaction to mental illnesses, in an attempt to manage symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Anxiety can be controlled through food restriction and purging. Symptoms of an eating disorder can elevate the mood as sufferers rely on their weight to fit in with society. Since depression and anxiety have a genetic component, there could also be a clear genetic connection to eating disorders.

Neurobiological Contributors:

Neurobiology is a branch of biology concerned with anatomy and physiology of the nervous system. When it comes to eating disorder, individual ones like anorexia nervosa over activate the inhibition control networks and under activate the reward systems. When looking at bulimia nervosa, there seems to be a dysregulation of both the inhibition control networks and reward pathways. These abnormalities are common among eating disorder patients. However, it is uncertain whether these abnormalities are the result of eating disorder behaviors, or if these abnormalities were present prior to the development of an eating disorder.

The Psychology of Eating Disorders

Needless to say, there is a strong psychological component to eating disorders. Most of what we read regarding eating disorders discusses the psychological component. Psychological elements of an eating disorder range from familial, relational, cultural and social. Most researchers agree that eating disorders and psychological disorders are co-occurring.

Some treatment processes focus on behavior and cognitive changes. These treatments include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT,) Family Based Treatment (FBT,) and others.  However, there is more research needed on how to treat the behaviors rather than solely focusing on the cause. In addition, families need to understand the root of eating disorders in order to understand how to best respond to them.

Overall, the reality is there is so much to be learned when it comes to eating disorders. Eating disorders are a result of a variety of factors. Furthermore, just like addiction, eating disorders are not a choice. People with eating disorders need treatment. If you are struggling with an eating disorder, mental illness or addiction, please call now. You do not have to do this alone. 

CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

 

Why Shaming People with Addiction Doesn’t Really Work

Why Shaming People with Addiction Doesn’t Really Work

Author: Justin Mckibben

Does anyone else remember that episode in Game of Thrones when Cersei Lannister (played by the amazing Lena Headey) was marched naked through the streets of King’s Landing for the “walk of atonement”? During this public ritual punishment, the Queen Mother is followed by Septa Unella, who rings a bell to attract the attention of the crowd while repeatedly crying out “Shame!” to encourage the people to leer and jeer at Cersei.

Remember how well that worked out… for everyone… especially Septa Unella?

Well, in case you are one of those people who have never watched this show and have no clue what I’m talking about… SHAME!

But seriously, the thought of it drives home a big point about how people try to use shame and disgrace to modify the behaviors they disapprove of. People in modern times, outside of the 7 kingdoms, will say stuff like “shame on you” or “you should be ashamed of yourself” in an attempt to deter someone from doing something they do not agree with. Sometimes, with good intentions, parents use this tactic as an alternative to physical punishment. Other times people will use shame to manipulate and control others.

But does shame really work? In the case of shaming people with addiction, it doesn’t seem to go far at all.

Shame VS Guilt

One thing people first have to understand is the difference between shame and guilt. Some would say that someone who has no shame is someone who lacks humility or a conscience. People may say that if you don’t feel ashamed, you must think you are too good for others or have no consideration of others. However, that is not necessarily the case.

When someone feels guilt, that is something from within that compels us to see the fault in our own actions. Guilt is based on your own view of something you have said or done that has been harmful to others. It is the consciences way of keeping us in check. Guilt and shame are not the same thing.

Shame is how we experience the disapproval of others. It is the adverse emotional response to being singled out and judged by others for being wrong or doing wrong. So guilt tells us that we know something we are doing is wrong, but shame is the outside world telling us it is wrong even if we don’t feel that inside.

To sum it up:

Acting with clear knowledge that a behavior is unacceptable is what typically inspires feelings of guilt. Thus, it is associated with a specific behavior and is not likely associated with psychological distress such as depression.

Shame can relate specifically to one’s entire self. It says “I am wrong” instead of “my choice was wrong”. This can put people at risk of developing unhealthy conditions like:

Why Shaming Doesn’t Work

Shaming someone into changing is manipulating their fear or social isolation or criticism to control their behavior. Our connection to each other is so crucial for out well-being, both psychologically and physically, that it can often be used against us. For some people the level of social rejection from shaming will scare them into avoiding that emotional punishment. Yet there is still an issue with this method at its core.

It’s like in that movie Inception, when Leonardo DiCaprio taught us all how to dream within a dream (I’ve been watching a lot of TV lately). At one point they talk about how an idea implanted in the mind won’t take if the mind knows it wasn’t organic; if it didn’t come from within.

Shame can be like that. If you tell someone that they should be ashamed of themselves for using drugs, they might stop because they need the social connection. However, if they do not themselves see that their drug use is harming themselves and others, then shaming them will drive them into hiding to avoid persecution.

For many who suffer with substance use disorder the addiction itself has an extreme emotional attachment of some kind. If the individual is motivated enough to use drugs, or believes they are capable of control without consequence, the shame will only result in them hiding their problems even more and further isolating themselves.

Shame and Stigma and the Self

The shame of the stigma of addiction can be counterproductive to an addict getting help. Ultimately, shame can drive stigma and further damage the individual’s chances of personal development. People can internalize shame and sabotage their self-worth, which often causes people to care less about their own safety.

If their choices are being dictated by anxiety then the destructive habits can increase as the shame drives them to remove themselves from those who disapprove of them. This isn’t only true for addiction. Shame can influence other adverse actions, such as:

Shaming people with addiction or people with mental health disorders is only supporting the stigma that make them feel separated from us. Telling an addict to be ashamed of themselves for their addiction may force them to do something, but this strategy is vastly ineffective when compared to compassion and support.

Research has shown shame is especially damaging when inflicted by someone who the individual is deeply connected to. Parents, family members, spouses and loved ones who shame each other create lasting imprints on one another. That strong emotional leverage can create an even deeper divide between us and the ones we love by diminishing our self-worth.

So shaming our loved ones who struggle with addiction may be less likely to inspire them to get help and more likely to scare them away from asking us for help when they need it.

No Pain No Shame

So to clarify, shaming someone may seem like it gets the job done, but in reality it is not effective at motivating healthy behaviors. In fact, shaming someone creates social withdrawal and undermines self-esteem. For someone struggling with substance use disorder, there is probably already enough feelings of disconnect of self-defeatism without being shamed.

Again, this doesn’t mean you can’t communicate with someone about how their behavior is impacting you. Setting boundaries and being honest is still important, but doing so in a compassionate way is more conducive to encouraging someone to do the right thing for the right reasons.

If we want to avoid hurting one another, we should avoid trying to shame each other into doing what we want. Shaming people with addiction isn’t going to heal their affliction. Making them feel separate and alone will not inspire the kind of change that creates stronger bonds. Focusing on celebrating good deeds can help a lot more than dwelling on every bad one and holding it over someone’s head.

Nurturing recovery is more powerful than shaming addiction.

Having a family member who has suffered can be harder on you than you know. Too many people don’t know how to get the help they need for their loved ones, and too many of our loved ones suffer for too long because they are afraid of the affects that the ones they care about most will face. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.

CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

Amsterdam Sugar Rehab Sweet on Recovery

Amsterdam Sugar Rehab Sweet on Recovery

Author: Justin Mckibben

Plenty of attention has been paid to the true dependence most Americans have on sugar. In recent years there have been documentaries and activists making bold statements about how so much of the food we consume in this country is saturated with sugar. Many of us have no clue just how much sugar we actually consume. Others actively try to eliminate it from their diets. So what then does sugar addiction mean?

There is really a wealth of research supporting the idea that certain foods, especially those that are high in levels of fat or sugar, can have a powerful addictive effect on people. Some would write this off as disordered eating or just a bad habit, but others believe it is truly an addiction. Apparently the U.S. isn’t the only country who thinks this might be a thing.

The Dutch are right there with us. A new temporary sugar “rehab clinic” has now opened in Amsterdam. Well… sort of.

Dutch Sugar Rehab

The “rehab facility” opened on Monday, but it isn’t really much of a rehab. It is more like an information center about sugar, according to the NL Times. Dutch Diabetic Foundation is the source behind the sugar rehab. The primary purpose of the so-called sugar rehab itself serves to educate visitors on hidden and added sugars in the foods they eat. So many people do not realize the added sugar in some of the most unexpected products. The sugar rehab also works to help visitors explore healthier alternatives to keep life sweet without sugar.

According to the Dutch Diabetic Foundation, about 80% of Dutch people consume too much sugar. The group plans to keep their sugar rehab on Leidsestraat in Amsterdam open until November 13.

Researching Sugar Addiction

Sugar is notoriously difficult to resist. A lot of that is due to sugar making us crave more instead of satisfying the hunger. Another reason, again, is because there as so many foods people aren’t even aware contain sugar.

A research neuroscientist named Nicole Avena, PhD, of the New York Obesity Research Center was quoted in 2014 describing how when we eat too much sugar, we can cause the release of chemicals associated with pleasure and reward. If this is a habitual behavior, it eventually develops into an addiction. The body craves the release of these pleasure chemicals, and it seeks out the familiar sugary source.

In a recent interview with The Fix  Lou Lebentz, an expert on sugar and addiction, explained the toxic effect that sugar can have on the liver. Given the nature of alcohol abuse and it’s impact on the liver, this risk is especially relevant for recovering alcoholics. Lebentz stated:

“If you’re an alcoholic and already have an overworked liver trying to process alcohol, the last thing you want to do is to put a further strain on the liver trying to process sugar,”

She added that despite sugar being pumped into everything we eat, it actually has no health benefits and is toxic to the body.

A Sweeter Recovery

For many recovering addicts, sugar is a comforting substitute for whatever substance they put down. In one 12 Step fellowship their literature (written in 1934) even suggests that alcoholics keep chocolate nearby. Coffee is part of the recovery culture, and now energy drinks are a big part of the problem.

Sugar can fill the void of drugs or alcohol without as much guilt, perhaps, but according to recovered food addict Mary Foushi, co-founder of ACORN Food Dependency Recovery Services, the consequences of sugar addiction are not as safe as easily overcome as them seem. Foushi said,

“People we work with say that putting down the alcohol is nothing compared to putting down the food, and the dangers of sugar addiction can be just as bad if not far worse: obesity, diabetes, some forms of cancer, high blood pressure, degeneration of bones and joints,”

In truth, quitting booze means radically decreasing one’s intake of carbs and sugar. So it is natural that even subconsciously the body seeks out new outlets to get its sugar fix. But sugar is deadly. Considering extreme and rapid weight gain, obesity and countless other health risks sugar can pose, people are dying from it.

While the concept of a sugar rehab may seem abstract to some, to others it is a very real threat. Nutrition and healthier habits overall are a vital component to comprehensive recovery.

For anyone who is seeking recovery, it is important to try and recover holistically. Treating the mind, the body and the spirit all at once can help to empower anyone who may need help escaping their addiction. Being aware of the importance and dangers of your diet is just another important part of restoring your life. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.

   CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

Instagram App Offering Mental Health Intervention

Instagram App Offering Mental Health Intervention

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Justin Mckibben

Social media and online networking are such a relevant aspect of our world today. With entire enterprises rising from online marketing, and children carrying smartphones, technology continues to be integrated into all areas of life by leaps and bounds. So with social media being utilized for basically every purpose, from personal to business, it is no surprise that some forward thinkers continue to find ways to put these all-encompassing outlets to good use.

Though stunning selfies full of filters, scenes of nature with inspiring quotes, and aesthetically perfect pictures of food dominate the Instagram app, the social media site isn’t void of some damaging content. Instagram is still used as a platform for some questionable photos, like pro-anorexia and pro-self-harm posts.

To fight back Instagram is now launching a new tool that allows users to issues. But they don’t stop there. The Instagram app also steps in to offer intervention options.

Instagram App VS Eating Disorders

The Instagram app already actively takes a stand on promoting positive mental health in some areas. It tried in 2012 to put a stop to pro-eating disorder posts. Often hashtags like #thinspiration and #ana are attached to these posts, so to prevent these tags from attracting admiration, the Instagram app tried to make these tags unsearchable. They also disabled accounts and added content advisories.

Some hashtags are banned completely, such as:

  • #thinspo, short for the pro-anorexia phrase “thinspiration”
  • #proana, another pro-anorexia phrase

Still, other potentially problematic tags fall into a gray area and are still allowed. The Instagram app had to witness the issue head-on when researchers examined 2.5 million posts between 2011 and 2014, also analyzing 15 pro-eating disorder hashtags that were banned or moderated. What they found was truly disheartening. For each banned/moderated hashtag, there was an average of 40 spin-off hashtags.

For example:

  • #anorexia, as banned, there were 99 variations of the hashtag, such as- #anorexique or #anoexica
  • #thighgap had variations of #thygap and #thigh gap
  • #bulimia would be transformed into #bulimiah

According to the study, these variations even boasted more comments and more “likes” than the originals. So when the Instagram app tried to shut down the pro-eating disorder exploitation of their forum, users found loop-holes. Spin-off hashtags are also noted to exhibit a higher focus of self-harm related posts.

The Instagram app was trying to make a difference, but the fight evolved with their efforts. It is time to implement new strategies.

Instagram’s #Intervention

Now the Instagram app is putting some of the power to act in the hands of other users. Users can now anonymously flag posts about self-harm or other mental health issues, and Instagram will step in.

But Instagram isn’t militantly and automatically shutting down every post that gets flagged. Instead, the Instagram app is taking a compassionate and proactive approach. Once a picture is flagged, the user who put up the image will see a message offering help:

“Someone saw one of your posts and thinks you might be going through a difficult time. If you need support, we’d like to help.”

Then, the app will offer to connect them with a helpline, assistance in talking to a friend or getting tips. If Instagram app users search any of those questionable tags, they’ll also be directed to the same support page.

#MentalHealthMatters

Instagram developed the new tool in dexterity by uniting with a variety of resources, including:

  • National Eating Disorders Association
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

They even reached out to real people who have struggled with eating disorders, self-harm and suicidal thoughts personally to come up with the most effective and compassionate message. Instagram COO Marne Levine said in a recent interview that,

“We listen to mental health experts when they tell us that outreach from a loved one can make a real difference for those who may be in distress. At the same time, we understand friends and family often want to offer support but don’t know how best to reach out,”

“These tools are designed to let you know that you are surrounded by a community that cares about you, at a moment when you might most need that reminder.”

In this writer’s opinion, this is an awesome innovation. This doesn’t attack the individual making the post, but instead offers support and displays concern in a positive light. Not to say there is anything wrong with banning hashtags or other methods of regulating social media. This just seems like it does not isolate the individual as much, and instead shows someone who may be suffering care and kindness. Instead of silencing a cry for help or sweeping it under the rug, it puts a solution on the table.

This kind of intervention by the Instagram app not only tries to protect those who may be susceptible to the negative impact of these images, it also promotes mental health solutions through positive outreach.

Well done Instagram.

Eating disorders and other mental health disorders are often co-occurring with addiction or substance abuse. Understanding dual diagnosis and providing holistic treatment can be very essential for effective and lasting recovery. If you or someone you love is struggling, please don’t wait. Call toll-free and find out how to get help.

   CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

Court Orders La Scala to Rehire Dancer Who Spoke of Anorexia

Court Orders La Scala to Rehire Dancer Who Spoke of Anorexia

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Shernide Delva

A case that made headlines for many years has finally come to a close. In 2012, Mariafrancesca Garritano, a ballet dancer, was sacked after accusing the La Scala ballet company of promoting eating disorders to young dancers. She even claimed that one in five ballerinas had anorexia, and admitted to her struggles with meeting their standards.

Garritano said 70% of dancers who were at La Scala’s dance school had eaten so little that their periods had stopped, a common anorexia side effect known as amenorrhea. She said she suffered recurring stomach pains and frequent bone fractures due to her extreme dieting. All of this was published in a tell-all booked which clearly enraged the company she was hired to work for.

After coming out with these claims, the ballerina was suspiciously fired from dancing for the La Scala company. The firing led to the court case stating that the dancer was fired illegally.  The case also spotlighted the intense pressure ballerinas have to stay thin in the industry.

Now 37, Garritano is ready to return to the stage. The school has been ordered to rehire the dancer after it was determined that the ballerina was fired unfairly.

“All I am waiting for is a call from La Scala,” Garritano said in an interview with Milan daily Il Giorno.

Garritano acknowledges that she has yet to receive contact from the company since the court victory. The case was first settled in 2014. However, La Scala appealed the decision. Now, the same court order remains. The school must rehire Garritano.

“Already in 2014, I expected to be rehired after two years of interruption. Now I expect the same thing,” said Garritano. “I never stopped working on my physical condition to be in the best condition possible when the moment came.”

The dancer was dismissed initially due to bringing the name of the company down by writing about it in her book.  In the book, she described her experience as a dancer, under the pressure and scrutiny of the public eye. In one incident, she mentions the instructors calling her names like “mozzarella” and “Chinese dumpling” in front of everyone.  At one point, Garritano’s weight dropped to 94 pounds due to her extreme dieting methods.

For decades, eating disorders and ballerina practically went hand in hand. Ballerinas are told they must look svelte and graceful on stage. However, this demand results in eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia.  Anorexia nervosa is a condition in which one restricts their calories severely to the point of starvation. Bulimia is repeated binge eating and self-induced vomiting. Other eating disorders include orthorexia which is an obsessive focus on healthy eating.

Eating disorders are much more prevalent in a woman. This is because in industries like modeling, acting, dancing or singing, place a huge emphasis on having what is perceived to be a perfect body type.  Many models have also come out with stories about agents demanding they lose 10 to 20 pounds on an already thin figure to fit “exact” model measurements.

Garritano was merely exposing the struggles she faced working as a ballerina for the La Scala ballerina company. It would not be legal to fire her over publishing her book, unless it was determined that she was not telling the truth. In this case, it seems that the ruling seems just. What do you think? Should they have fired her?

Eating disorders are devastating illnesses to have to deal with alone. Often, in industries focused on looks, many find it hard to admit they have a problem. If this sounds like you, get help today. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

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