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  • The Team at Upper East Side Psychology

Navigating Eating Disorders



An assortment of fruit on a scale


Despite how common eating disorders are, they are largely misunderstood. Often mistakenly thought to be about vanity and will power, eating disorders are a serious mental health condition caused by biological, psychological, and environmental factors. Unfortunately, today’s social media landscape, contemporary marketing, and high stress environments add a compounding layer of societal pressure by imposing unrealistic beauty standards.


Understanding the Root Causes of Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are a deeply complex set of conditions. They have traditionally been understood through the lens of family history, social factors, and trauma. Studies show that on average 45% of individuals with EDs have experienced traumatic life events. (Convertino and Morland)  However, more recent twin and family research suggests that genetics and hereditary factors play a role. These studies indicate a frequent co-occurrence among eating disorders and traits such as anxiety disorders/symptoms, body weight, and possibly major depression. The findings from twin studies are particularly compelling in highlighting the genetic component of eating disorders. By comparing the prevalence of eating disorders in identical twins, who share nearly all their genes, with fraternal twins, who share about half, researchers have found higher concordance rates among identical twins. This strongly suggests that eating disorders are hereditary conditions, influenced not just by environmental factors, but by genetic predisposition as well. (Berrettini, MD, PhD) 


Prevalence and Misconceptions

Modern beauty standards are both unattainable and ever-changing. The examples set in the media and society at large can exacerbate feelings of inadequacy and further fuel disordered eating behaviors. Dieting cycles and fear of gaining weight can indicate risk for disordered eating and eating disorder development. One of the most pervasive misconceptions about eating disorders is that they are solely about weight loss and stem from self-centeredness. In reality, individuals with eating disorders often use food and weight as a way to cope with underlying emotional distress or to gain a sense of control in their lives.  A patient’s struggle to gain control around family life, relationships, finances, school or work can manifest in restrictive eating and maladaptive thought patterns. 

 

Seeking Treatment with Upper East Side Psychology 

At Upper East Side Psychology, we work collaboratively with our patients to help them identify problematic patterns, modify them, and implement coping skills and tools. This approach is tailored to the needs and stressors of the patient and targets the different aspects of behavior that maintain an individual’s eating disorder. Through our use of CBT-E, or Enhanced Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, we teach patients how to develop ways to modify maladaptive and inaccurate styles of thinking, adjust problematic behaviors, and tolerate challenging emotions and situations so they can achieve long-term coping skills and balance. Our team of therapists uses evidence-based therapies and compassionate support that can help you create just the right environment for a successful recovery.


Works Cited

Berrettini, MD, PhD, Wade. “The Genetics of Eating Disorders.” National Library of Medicine, 2004. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3010958/

Convertino, A. D, and L. A Morland. “Trauma exposure and eating disorders: Results from a United States nationally representative sample.” International Journal of Eating Disorders, vol. 55, no. 8, 2022, pp. 1079–1089, https://doi.org/10.1002/eat.23757.


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