Using Psychological Assessment For Treating Eating Disorders

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Psychological Assessment

Body shaming on social media and dreams of getting a size-zero body among Indian teen girls will make you think that eating disorders are very common in India. But, strangely, the official numbers are strikingly low, when compared with the numbers in the US or the West.

This doesn’t mean eating disorders don’t happen in India. Rather, Indians have been suffering in silence as eating disorders continue to remain unstudied in the country.

Psychological Assessment

The truth is eating disorders like Binge Eating Disorder, anorexia, or bulimia, can affect anyone, regardless of ethnicity or socioeconomic background. And when these do develop, they can lead to long-term health effects like osteoporosis, damage to organs, and cardiovascular diseases. However, in India, much of it goes undiagnosed and unreported because of the lack of awareness and the stigma around it.

How can psychological counseling be used to treat eating disorders?

Psychological counseling now plays a key role in helping people battle anorexia and binge eating disorders. Eating disorders are serious mental health conditions where the patient is preoccupied with thoughts of weight and food. Such disorders can disrupt normal life and trigger different types of health issues.

Continuous fixation on weight can cause people to either limit their food intake drastically or go overboard with it.

And, why does this happen? It’s usually because of low self-esteem and repressed trauma. An eating disorder then works like a coping mechanism where the individual relies on food to relieve stress and feel comforted.

In psychological counseling, the mental health counselor works with patients at every stage of the recovery process. He teaches him skills to control obsessive thoughts and replace these with healthy ones.

How does he achieve this? Here are some strategies that mental health counselors use to address different types of eating disorders:

  • Identifying the root causes of the disorder: Depression is a common condition that leads to eating disorders. In this, a patient starts overeating to make himself feel better. Counselors address the root cause first with therapeutic techniques; they teach them healthy coping skills to help the patient control his feelings of pain and low self-worth. Patients are taught mindfulness practices to identify and redirect all invasive thoughts about food.
  • Set measurable goals: The counselor helps the patient focus on things that will facilitate recovery. This goal-setting is advantageous as it helps him develop a coping mechanism. The patient is made to start off with small achievable goals to build his self-confidence. Once he can reach his goal successfully, he feels encouraged to chase bigger targets.
  • Unfollow social media: Social media can lower your self-esteem more than you can imagine. Scrolling through picture-perfect posts will make you feel worse than you already are feeling.
  • Engaging in CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy): CBT has been found to be rather effective in treating people suffering from eating disorders. Research suggests that people undergoing CBT did not experience vomiting, binging, or laxative misuse after treatment.

Eating disorders can be successfully treated through a combined approach to psychological and physiological problems affecting an individual. A mental health counselor can work with a psychiatrist and dietician to come up with a therapeutic plan which is based on sound nutrition and teaches healthy coping behaviors.