What are Eating Disorders?
Many people struggle with issues around food, dieting, and body image. For some people, these issues are serious enough that they are diagnosed with an “eating disorder.” Many people struggle with eating disorders, such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating.
Other people struggle with these issues for other reasons, such as underlying depression, trauma, borderline personality disorder, or self-esteem. Whatever the reason, these issues can lead to some very dangerous behaviors. Some symptoms, such as forced vomiting, are life threatening.
Common signs of disordered eating include:
Intense concern about one’s weight and appearance
Preoccupation with food and dieting
Sudden or drastic weight loss or gain
Restricting caloric intake (not eating)
Abuse of laxatives
Abuse of stimulate drugs (including caffeine, diet pills, Ritalin, Adderall, and methamphetamine)
Overeating, or binge eating
Amenorrhea (an abnormal absence of menstruation)
For many, eating issues are linked to “dysregulated emotions.” Some people feel things very strongly, and have a hard time managing negative emotions. Often, such persons use unhealthy coping mechanisms to get relief and mask their feelings. Restricting food and overeating is one such method: an attempt to influence, change, or control painful emotional states.
How Does DBT Treatment Help Eating Disorders?
DBT is designed to treat emotional dysregulation, and teaches valuable distress tolerance skills. Research studies have shown that DBT is an effective treatment for decreasing binging and purging. In DBT, persons struggling with issues related to food learn:
Emotion regulation skills, which helps persons replace unhealthy behaviors (such as binging, purging, and calorie restriction) with healthier, more effective behaviors
Distress tolerance skills, which help individuals manage strong emotions without resorting to unhealthy behaviors
Mindfulness skills, which help to reshape one’s relationship with food through increased awareness and purposeful action
Interpersonal effectiveness skills, which can address common triggers