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Eating Disorders and Anxiety Closely Linked

Eating disorders are complex and a challenge to overcome, as symptoms and stressors vary widely among people.  However, research in recent years has shown that anxiety (and other mood disorders) and eating disorders are often closely linked. This has allowed clinicians to develop effective approaches to treatment, which address both disorders simultaneously.

In 2007, a national survey reported that 80.6 percent of bulimia sufferers also suffered from anxiety.   Anorexia often goes hand-in-hand with anxiety as well.  Due to these facts, clinicians at the Renfrew Center, a clinical eating disorder treatment facility, developed a treatment protocol that treats both mood and eating disorders together. This treatment protocol, called Unified Treatment Protocol (UP), focuses on how eating disorder patients experience and respond to emotions, and through a series of exercises, teaches them how to “actively do nothing,” rather than binge or purge.

A treatment center in the midwest utilizes a similar treatment approach called exposure and response prevention therapy.  This cognitive-behavioral therapy works by repeatedly exposing clients to situations that cause them anxiety and teaching them not to engage in ritual behaviors to cope with their anxious feelings.  In this way, they face their fears head-on and see that they are able to learn to cope without reacting in an unhealthy manner.

Mood Disorders and Eating Disorders

In some cases mood disorders cause eating disorders and sometimes it’s the other way around.  Either way, it is common for those who suffer from both disorders to experience the following symptoms at much higher degrees than those who suffer from just a mood or eating disorder:

  • Perfectionism
  • Obsession or OCD
  • Avoidance
  • Body image dissatisfaction
  • Social anxiety

Addressing both mood and eating disorders at the same time has proven to be much more effective than treating them in isolation.  It’s important that those dealing with eating and/or mood disorders receive customized treatment plans that address their specific needs. Give us a call to learn more about our nutrition counselors and how they can help. 

Contact New Directions Counseling Services to begin the changes you want. 724.812.0043