Eating Disorders

Eating Disorders

What is Disordered Eating?

We take a transdiagnostic approach to eating disorders, meaning that we don’t focus on specific diagnosis (eg. Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder) but instead focus on the disordered relationship with food and the body.

In addition to working on your relationship with food and your body, we believe that in order to achieve full recovery, you also need to address your underlying issues. We believe that eating disorders are not about food, weight, and shape, but that deep down they are really about pain and discomfort.

In this way the food and body image difficulties act like a mirror, reflecting a deeper, more complicated pain.

Some examples of common underlying issues that need to be worked through in order to achieve full recovery include:

- Perfectionism
- Self-doubt
- Inappropriate guilt and self-blame
- Poor sense of self (lack of identity)
- Trauma experiences
- Relationship difficulties (this can include family, friendships, and romantic relationships)
- Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, or emptiness
- Feelings of unworthiness or inadequacy
- Ongoing pressure from others or yourself to achieve academically, in sports, or in other areas
- Difficulty managing and/or communicating feelings
- A strong need to be in control

Through addressing these underlying issues, you can work towards not only a positive relationship with food and your body, but a meaningful life that includes, joy, pleasure, flexibility, freedom, and spontaneity.

What causes eating disorders?

To look for a single cause is to misunderstand the nature of eating disorders. Eating disorders are a coping mechanism that arise out of multiple circumstantial pressures as well as a genetic predisposition.

The best evidence we have for the cause of any mental illness is the biopsychosocial model.

Biological risk factors may include:
- Family history of eating disorders
- Family history of anxiety
- Family history of mental illness

Psychological/personality risk factors may include:
- Over-controlled personality type (strong need for control)
- Perfectionistic tendencies
- Being academically or athletically gifted from a young age (reinforcing the valuing very high standards and entangling achievement with identity and worth)
- Low self-esteem
- Discomfort with sexual maturation

Social/environmental risk factors:
- Having a parent with an eating disorder
- Parent/carers or family members that engage in diet culture (either through discussion or behaviours)
- Emphasis on success or achievement in the family home
- Poor boundaries in the family home
- Having a physically or mentally unwell family member
- Trauma or attachment trauma
- Early or late onset of puberty
- Experiencing starvation syndrome
- Food allergies leading to a distrust in food
- Anecdotally, we have observed that many of our clients with eating disorders participated in dance, gymnastics, swimming, or running during childhood 

Eating Disorder Treatment Options 

At Exhale Psychology Centre, we aim to develop a highly individualised treatment plan as we believe that there is no one size fits all. At your first appointment you can discuss with your psychologist which approach may be best for you. We offer:

A note on Cognitive Behaviour Therapy - Enhanced (CBT-E). While our most of our staff are trained to deliver CBT-E, we do not offer CBT-E for the following reasons:
1. Research shows that CBT-E is not effective for individuals with complex comorbidities
2. Individuals that struggle with motivation/readiness for change do not respond well to CBT-E
3. It is a heavily manualised treatment, which prevent individualisation
4. The structured nature of the therapy makes it difficult to deliver it in a way that is neuroaffirming
5. It is a weight focused treatment and we strongly believe in offering eating disorder treatment that is not weight focused

If you are looking for CBT-E therapy, we recommend finding a psychologist or practice that specialises in delivering CBT-E.

Eating Disorder Resources

- The RAVES Model by Shane Jeffrey (Download PDF)

- The Effects of Starvation Behaviour (Download PDF)

- Set Point Theory (Download PDF)

- Fact Sheet for General ED Carers (Download PDF)

- Common questions about eating disorders

Recovery statements

When I was in the midst of my eating disorder, I often wondered whether it was worth pushing through the challenges associated with the recovery journey, because it was hard to believe that I could actually get past it, and I wasn't sure that life would actually be any different - would the preoccupation ever subside? Being somewhat on the other side of it now, I can whole heartedly say that it was worth it! I was lucky enough to have a very patient and persistent circle of support around me, and it was absolutely worth pushing through the discomfort. My recovery journey felt long, and it had lots of ups and downs, but the preoccupation has gone, and I have never felt so comfortable

- C, Brisbane

People I have met and respect are recovered and if they can do it, so can I! I know I have a distorted body image and I do not see myself as others do. It does not matter if I have a slightly rounded stomach or my thighs touch, other people are not going to notice or care and are not going to judge me as a person based on my body shape. I have compiled a list of "healthy self-statements" books and articles I have read, that I keep on my phone which I refer to for inspiration

- J, Brisbane
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Frequently asked questions

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