Month: May 2019

Women feet standing on weighing scale

Working it Out: How to Help a Loved One Deal With Exercise Bulimia

The American Addiction Centers says that about 4.7 million females and 1.5 million males in the U.S. have bulimia. It’s a potentially fatal mental health disorder that involves binge eating a large amount of food and then vomiting it after. The center says patients often feel significant remorse after their binge and their purge manifests in different ways, apart from self-induced vomiting. It can take the form of prolonged starvation or the use of laxatives regularly.

However, a newer form called “exercise bulimia” has been identified by experts. According to a Healthline article on the disorder, exercise bulimia involves overexercising to burn calories from a binge session. If you think your loved one has exercise bulimia, here’s what you can do to help them.

Know the Symptoms

Part of helping your loved one deal with exercise bulimia is by understanding its symptoms. The Healthline piece, medically reviewed by the University of Illinois-Chicago, College of Medicine, says you should look out for warning signs like worrying too much about working out.

While exercise may be a healthy activity, symptoms like being obsessed with calories burned during a workout, worrying about their body’s appearance too much, and getting angered when they miss a scheduled exercise session. Apart from the direct symptoms, the article also says that overexercising may cause an absence of menstruation among women. Cardiac issues like arrhythmia are also possible because of the stress it causes on the heart.

An Esquire article chronicling the author’s struggle with exercise bulimia cited the link between this disorder and body dysmorphia. He stated that male weightlifters often obsess over feeling too skinny. They push themselves to work out to feel that they’re developing their body into an adequate image. In other words, masculine. Jennifer Rollin, the psychotherapist the author interviewed, said that this way of thinking is dangerous, especially for those who have underlying inclinations to overexercising or eating disorders.

Peaceful Acknowledgment and Suggestions

Apart from getting mad about missed exercise sessions, people who have exercise bulimia feel angry when people call them out because they overexercise. As hard as it is to understand, you shouldn’t antagonize your loved one for their disorder. You’ll only push them away. Understand that they mostly have little to no control over their behavior.

Rollins says that one of the few ways people can deal with their exercise bulimia is by setting workout goals. If you sense that they’re overworking themselves, ask them to listen to their body and slow down to avoid hurting themselves. Once they realize that they might get seriously injured, suggest a more manageable routine. This may help them realize their problem and de-escalate their exercise habits.

When to Get Professional Help

If they still aren’t listening to what you say or relapse immediately after taking your suggestions, it may be time to recommend going to a therapist. This way, they get to learn from a professional how to cope with their condition.

A therapist, psychiatrist, and dietitian can help them become better at managing their relationship with food and exercise, according to another psychotherapist, Kate Rosenblatt, in an interview with Men’s Health. A mental health expert can address underlying issues linked to the disorder, such as anxiety and mood disorders, by creating a bulimia treatment plan.

As the saying goes, too much of anything is bad for you — even if it’s a beneficial activity like exercise. This disorder may lead to serious physical injuries due to overworking, an unhealthy reproductive system, and heart problems. Help your loved one by understanding their situation, de-escalating it, and calling a professional when worse comes to worst. The road to recovery isn’t easy, but it’s better when you have someone to run (or walk) with you.

Find the Right Treatment Center

Skinny woman sitting on her bed

The Healthline article about exercise bulimia says that cognitive behavior therapy is also effective in addressing the symptoms of this disorder. Here at The Center for Cognitive and Behavioral Health, in Westport, CT, we offer treatment programs for eating disorders like binge eating and bulimia, which include cognitive behavioral therapy or dialectical behavior therapy. Our experts help patients identify and understand the underlying problems behind their condition and equip them with healthy coping skills.

Contact us today to find the best treatment plan for your loved one.

emotional connections

Dialectical Behavior Therapy: The Four Modules

Originally designed by Marsha Linehan, Ph.D. in the 1980s, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) was developed to help those struggling with borderline personality disorder. DBT merges eastern approaches and western therapies, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which emphasizes a person’s ability to change their behaviors and thoughts. DBT is based on the assumption that self-destructive behaviors are caused by an inability to manage intense emotion.

Though originally created to treat borderline personality disorder, DBT has also been found effective for an array of mental illnesses, such as bipolar disorder and bulimia nervosa. As such, it can be – and has been – used as eating disorder treatment in Westport and elsewhere.

The Four Modules of Dialectical Behavior Therapy

In order to teach its patients how to manage their symptoms and engage in more effective coping behaviors, DBT offers the following four skill modules:

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is mastering how to be in control of your mind, instead of the other way around. This does not mean controlling your thoughts; rather, it is practicing the ability to focus your attention on the present moment without judgment.

Often, people with eating disorders find it difficult to stay in the moment and may have intrusive thoughts that direct their behavior. Mindfulness can disperse these thoughts and redirect the patient’s attention to the present moment so that they can take note of and accept whatever they are feeling at that time.

Emotion Regulation

dealing with emotions

Emotion regulation teaches how to describe and observe emotions without self-hatred, fear, or judgment. More often than not, people with eating disorders have difficulty not only with communicating their emotions, but also with identifying and experiencing them. Instead of suppressing or rejecting emotions, emotion regulation emphasizes the adaptive nature of feelings and teaches how to generate more positive ones.

Distress Tolerance

This skill is about learning how to get through a crisis without spiraling into despair and actions that may make matters worse. Often, people who lack distress tolerance skills will turn to their eating disorder as a way to cope with overwhelming emotions and difficult situations. Since the symptoms of the disorder are usually perceived as providing immediate relief in the face of distress, mastering the ability to tolerate and accept emotional pain is essential to recovery.

Distress tolerance aims to lessen harmful, impulsive behaviors, such as bingeing, purging, and self-harm, by giving alternative ways to cope with negative thoughts and emotions.

Interpersonal Effectiveness

Those with eating disorders often report difficulties with putting their desires before those of others and saying “no.” They also deal with self-esteem issues. All these factors can interfere with the development of healthy relationships and cause one to feel invalidated. When people feel invalidated, they are more likely to feel negative emotions and the urge for self-destructive behavior. After all, the ability to maintain fulfilling relationships and the ability to negotiate your needs with others are central to wellbeing. Interpersonal effectiveness provides concrete strategies on how to effectively communicate with other people and how to improve assertiveness and self-esteem.

DBT, with its four modules, is just one way to treat eating disorders. At The Center for Cognitive and Behavioral Health, we offer an array of treatments, including DBT and CBT, for a variety of conditions, such as anxiety, eating disorders, trauma, and substance abuse. Contact us today to learn more about our services.