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Assessment and Intervention: Eating Disorders

Eating Disorders are marked by extremes. Individuals with an eating disorder may severely reduce the amount of food they eat, or eat an unusually large amount of food, or be extremely concerned about their weight or shape. They may start out simply eating smaller or larger portions than usual, but at some point the urge to eat more or less spirals out of control. There are three main types of Eating Disorders: Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Binge-Eating Disorder.

  • Members with Anorexia Nervosa see themselves as overweight even though the member is dangerously thin from starving themselves.
  • Members with Bulimia Nervosa eat unusually large amounts of food (binge eat) and then compensate by purging _vomiting, taking laxatives or diuretics, fasting or excessive exercise.
  • Members with Binge-Eating Disorder binge but do not purge and they often become overweight or obese.

Eating Disorders may occur along with depression, substance abuse, or anxiety disorders, and can cause heart and kidney problems, even death. The disorders show up most frequently during teenage years, but there are indications they may develop earlier or later in life.

Health consequences of eating disorders:

In anorexia nervosa’s cycle of self-starvation, the body is denied the essential nutrients it needs to function normally resulting in serious medical consequences:

  • Abnormally slow heart rate and low blood pressure, which mean that the heart muscle is changing. The risk for heart failure rises as the heart rate and blood pressure levels sink lower and lower.
  • Reduction of bone density (osteoporosis), which results in dry, brittle bones.
  • Muscle loss and weakness.
  • Severe dehydration, which can result in kidney failure.
  • Fainting, fatigue, and overall weakness.
  • Dry hair and skin; hair loss is common.
  • Growth of a downy layer of hair called lanugo all over the body, including the face, in an effort to keep the body warm.

The recurrent binge and purge cycles of bulimia nervosa can affect the entire digestive system and can lead to electrolyte and chemical imbalances in the body that affect the heart and other major organ functions. Some of the health consequences of bulimia nervosa include:

  • Potential for gastric rupture during periods of bingeing.
  • Inflammation and possible rupture of the esophagus from frequent vomiting.
  • Tooth decay
  • Chronic irregular bowel movements and constipations as a result of laxative use.

Binge eating disorder often results in many of the same health risks associated with clinical obesity. Some of the potential health consequences of binge eating disorder include:

  • High blood pressure.
  • High cholesterol levels.
  • Heart disease as a result of elevated triglyceride levels.
  • Type II diabetes mellitus
  • Gallbladder disease

Treatment Options:

*Please check the member’s benefit structure for available benefits and in-network providers prior to referring for treatment.

  • Inpatient treatment
  • Individual or group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Eating disorder education
  • Nutritional counseling
  • Medical and/or Psychiatric Pharmacological monitoring

Resources: