Eating disorders are a group of mental health conditions that are characterized by inappropriate eating patterns when confronted with stress or any pressing life situations. The person will then resort to behaviors such as intentional deprivation of food, excessive physical exertion to lose weight, or overeating then getting rid of recent food intake. It should be taken seriously, and mental help is highly needed because it can lead to severe complications and even death. This mental health problem may also co-develop with another which is depression. According to Mindia Gabichvadze, PsyD, “Symptoms may include persistent feelings of hopelessness, sadness, or emptiness.”
Eating disorders include anorexia and bulimia, the most common. “Being severely underweight and malnourished, which is common in anorexia, can cause physiological changes that are known to negatively affect mood states,” says Lisa Lilenfeld, PhD, an associate professor and an expert in eating disorders. Bulimia, creates the binge-purge cycle which is equally dangerous to one’s physical health.
Treating eating disorders will vary depending on the level of acceptance, will, and commitment of the person to be addressed. Mental health professionals such as psychologist will conduct therapy sessions with the person allowing oneself to reframe the mind into giving importance to self-worth and correcting body image disturbance. Alongside with talk therapy, positive coping mechanisms are introduced to help the person face every challenge with optimism as well as healthy eating practices to regain one’s physical health and encourage healthy living practices.
There is no specific medication to treat eating disorders. Since anxiety highly triggers the condition, psychiatrists often prescribe anti-anxiety drugs to minimize the symptoms and calm the person. Most of the times, persons with eating disorders are also depressed due to their constant thoughts that they are too fat or “not presentable.” If there are some indications of depressive states, psychiatrists then administer antidepressant medications. In the case of binge eating or obesity, appetite suppressants are frequently given help curb appetite.
There is no final consensus on whether alternative modalities to treating eating disorders are highly effective if taken alone. Specialists always recommend that it should be together with or in conjunction with the traditional treatments. Also, if the person opted to use alternative therapies, they should inform their medical provider of such decision.
Our research led us to the following alternative treatments that have shown positive effects in managing eating disorders:
Acupuncture. An old Chinese therapeutic technique of inserting needles in specific body points that are believed connected with the neural pathways thus correcting the imbalance. Most individuals with eating disorders have a problem with depression and anxiety. Through acupuncture, brain chemicals responsible for the regulation of mood are made available if not adequate and suppressed if there is enough supply.
Aromatherapy. Aromatic scents can regulate mood and feelings. Although little research is known on how aromatherapy helps in eating disorders, its primary aim is to induce a calming and soothing effect to minimize any episodes of stress or depression. Some scents can also stimulate appetite and increase food intake.
Yoga and meditation. In anorexia nervosa, extreme exercising is prohibited because this can aggravate the condition. Yoga is a meditative form of exercise and can be helpful in managing depression and regulate mood. Together with proper body positioning, this form of alternative treatment can also treat other physical or medical problems such as back pain, controlling blood pressure and heart rate and gastrointestinal issues. Meditation allows mental clarity which can ease the person’s anxiety levels.
Homeopathic medicine. An old form of alternative treatment where it has made positive claims in other medical and psychological disorders as well. Homeopathy involves the preparation of herbal plants and minerals to make pills or potions and taken by the person to help cure any medical or mental problems. The practice has been going on for several centuries, and some have proven their benefits.
Also, do not discount this. “Psychotherapy can be very helpful in addressing not only your disordered eating, but also your overall emotional health and happiness. Indeed, the focus of psychotherapy treatment will be to address the underlying emotional and cognitive issues that result in the disordered eating,” says John M. Grohol, Psy.D.