Eating disorders are characterised by an abnormal attitude towards food that causes someone to change their eating habits and behaviour.

A person with an eating disorder may focus excessively on their weight and shape, leading them to make unhealthy choices about food with damaging results to their health.

Types of eating disorders

Eating disorders include a range of conditions that can affect someone physically, psychologically and socially. The most common eating disorders are:

  • anorexia nervosa – when someone tries to keep their weight as low as possible, for example by starving themselves or exercising excessively
  • bulimia – when someone tries to control their weight by binge eating and then deliberately being sick or using laxatives (medication to help empty their bowels)
  • binge eating – when someone feels compelled to overeat

Some people, particularly young people, may be diagnosed with an eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS). This is means you have some, but not all, of the typical signs of eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia.

How Does CBT Work?

CBT use psychological approaches which are based on scientific, clinically proven research, and has been shown to be effective for problems associated with eating disorders. CBT begins with an assessment using diagnostic tests, and a semi-structured interview.

A client is given clear cut diagnosis and an individualised treatment plan.

The first part of the treatment is aimed at symptom relief for specific problems targeted for change using a series of behavioural techniques, relaxation and imagery.

The second part of the treatment teach clients the relationship between thoughts – mood – and behaviour. Clients learn first to identify negative automatic thoughts, and challenge those replacing thinking distortions with more balanced alternatives.

The third part of the treatment works with attitudes, and core beliefs using schema focused therapy, mindfulness, and standard CBT core belief work. This part of the treatment mitigates against relapse and looks at the meaning beliefs have and how to modify deeply these held beliefs about the self, world and their future which keep the pattern of eating problems in place.