The initial diagnosis should be made by a doctor, they may offer CBT to help the individual overcome the disorder. There are many medical disorders that mimic eating disorders and co-morbid psychiatric disorders. All organic causes should be ruled out prior to a diagnosis of an eating disorder or any other psychiatric disorder is made. Once it has been established then on the NHS you can expect to get 6 free CBT sessions, but having more can be expensive and not everyone gets on with CBT.
Hypnotherapy is an alternative, it can help reduce the anxiety, and a mix of solutions focused therapy – where we focus on the resources and positive aspects of the person – CBT, to tackle thinking patterns and mindfulness to help the person be more aware of what they are doing, and focus on positive thoughts.
There are separate psychological disorders which may be misdiagnosed as an eating disorder, these can be helped with hypnotherapy.
- Emetophobia is an anxiety disorder characterized by an intense fear of vomiting. A person so afflicted may develop rigorous standards of food hygiene, such as not touching food with their hands. They may become socially withdrawn to avoid situations which in their perception may make them vomit. Many who suffer from emetophobia are diagnosed with anorexia or self-starvation. In severe cases of emetophobia they may drastically reduce their food intake.
- phagophobia is an anxiety disorder characterized by a fear of eating, it is usually initiated by an adverse experience while eating such as choking or vomiting. Persons with this disorder may present with complaints of pain while swallowing. – See Page on Food Phobia for more details.
- Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is listed as a somatoform disorder that affects up to 2% of the population. BD D is characterised by excessive rumination over an actual or perceived physical flaw. BDD has been diagnosed equally among men and women. While BDD has been misdiagnosed as anorexia nervosa, it also occurs co-morbidly in 39% of eating disorder cases. BDD is a form of OCD and can be helped by a mix of Hypnotherapy, SFBT and CBT, lowering anxiety and building helpful habits that can help overcome the negative ones.
Eating disorders helped by using hypnotherapy
In cases of Binge eating, Anorexia and Bulimia, we look at the emotional relationship with food, once a client realises they can take the responsibility for their problem, they can start making changes to thoughts and behaviours. Redirecting the anxiety by refocusing on more positive activities and feeling better about themselves by working on self esteem.
With binge eating, often finding the triggers and channeling that bingeing into more positive activities such as keeping a journal or changing one’s routine can make profound changes and the hypnotherapy can help reduce the anxiety that drives the urge.
Boredom eating is a common problem too, especially for those who live on their own. Learn to change the way you shop for food, keep food, cook and become engaged in less boring activities. Try reducing your exposure to TV, especially commercials, as these will increase the brain activity into craving food.
Onorexia is an obsession with one food type, usually focused on a healthy diet, the person finds themselves restricting their choice of food until they start suffering with malnutrition.
Fussy eating usually starts as a child, as Anorexia often starts with control over their body because they feel so helpless with control in their lives, fussy eating could be the child’s response to divorce, or moving school regularly, or a spell in hospital, or (as my mother’s case – rationing during the war). Family traditions of eating a very limited English diet could also contribute, so encouraging diversity can help.
Food Phobias, like fussy eating often develop as children, sometimes after having a bad experience such as food poisoning, or being forced to eat something repulsive (school dinners for me). Some start after an accident. I knew someone with a phobia of bananas caused by his mother panicking over a pan of boiling water. He at the time was eating a banana and his brain then linked the two incidents. Another I know has a phobia of mushrooms and tried to avoid the vegetable section in supermarkets to avoid seeing them, she didn’t remember how it started, all she could remember was being on a walk with her grandmother and seeing some. I daresay her grandmother warned her not to eat them as they could be poisonous, and so a phobia was born.
Penny Ling is a widely experienced hypnotherapist who has worked with everyone from top executives to stroke victims since 2007. She has been editor of Hypnotherapy Today Magazine and is a supervisor and mentor for members of the AfSFH and NCH.
Read Penny’s inspiring story “How I beat all my phobias”, or find out more how hypnotherapy could help your problem by downloading “How Solution Focused Hypnotherapy can help with life”. Feel free to send Penny a message here.