Skip to the main content.

4 min read

Should I see an eating disorder therapist? Plus, Signs of EDs to Watch Out For

Key Takeaways:

  • Eating disorders can be very dangerous, so treatment is important
  • Some examples of eating disorders are anorexia and bulimia
  • With the right therapist and a commitment to the process, eating disorders are treatable

Note: Eating disorders are uniquely dangerous, so please talk to a medical professional about any concerns you may have about yourself or a loved one.

Eating disorders are characterized by eating too much, too little, or in any kind of unhealthy manner.

Because food is fairly important for physical health, eating disorders are very dangerous and can lead to an acute and immediate need for medical attention. Therefore, prevention and therapy can be key processes for the long-term outlook of patients with disordered eating.

Let's explore eating disorders, including their causes, what therapies and treatments are available for patients, and at what point it is justifiable to see a therapist for an eating disorder (spoiler alert, it's as soon as you or one of your loved ones have concerns about your eating habits.)

Eating Disorder Therapy Resources on This Page:

What constitutes an eating disorder?

What causes eating disorders?

Examples and Warning Signs of Eating Disorders (and Disordered Eating)

When should I see an eating disorder therapist?

Eating Disorder Therapists in Austin: Williamsburg Therapy Group

What constitutes an eating disorder?

Eating disorders are officially diagnosed by a mental health professional and come in many different forms:

  • Anorexia Nervosa
  • Bulimia Nervosa
  • Binge Eating Disorder
  • Rumination

Each of these disorders presents in vastly different ways, but each of them are categorized as severely disordered eating.

While eating disorders are official and formal diagnoses, there is also mild to moderate disordered eating. This is less severe than a true diagnosed disorder, but should not be taken any less lightly. Disordered eating can very quickly turn into a disorder.

What causes eating disorders?

As is the case with most mental health conditions, the exact cause behind eating disorders is unknown and likely unknowable, since thousands of psychological and physiological factors can contribute.

We can, however, make some educated and informed hypotheses:

  • There may be a genetic component to disordered eating.
  • One's upbringing - their parents' and siblings' relationship to food as well as financial considerations - likely contributes to one's development of an eating disorder.
  • Trauma or bullying may contribute to the development of an eating disorder.
  • Media portrayals of "healthy" bodies and eating habits are often severely and systematically incorrect, which may lead to eating disorders, particularly among impressionable populations like children and young adults.

In all likelihood, it is a combination of many factors that leads to eating disorders.

Examples and Warning Signs of Eating Disorders (and Disordered Eating)

In order to illustrate disordered eating behaviors, below we have listed some examples of behaviors you may see for several different disorders.

Warning: If you are actively struggling with disordered eating or have trauma relating to eating disorders, consider skipping this section and speaking with a professional.

Examples of Anorexia

Anorexia nervosa presents as significantly reduced quantities of food leading to a severe reduction of body weight to unhealthy levels.

Note that this is not the same as simply reducing food consumption to a healthy level if needed. Obesity can be very dangerous, and many physicians will create dietary plans that involve reducing the amount their patients eat - but the amount will stay within a range that is conducive to overall health.

Anorexia, by contrast, usually involves severe reductions in caloric intake to levels that are physiologically dangerous. It often leads to drastic weight loss that it no healthier than severe obesity.

Some warning signs of anorexia include:

  • Refusing to eat during events where eating is the primary activity (such as going out to dinner)
  • Consistent excuses for apparent fullness; lying about how much you have eaten in a given day
  • Obsessing about body weight and body image; obsessively weighing yourself
  • A significant drop in body weight within a concerningly short period of time
  • A drop inn body weight to unhealthy levels (defined as underweight)

Of course, not all of these guarantee that you or someone you know has anorexia. Similarly, someone with anorexia may exhibit none of these traits. The most important thing to do is get help from a medical professional.

Examples of Bulimia

Bulimia is an eating disorder that presents as two behaviors: bingeing and purging.

Bingeing is defined as eating large quantities of food in an uncontrolled manner, while feeling significant distress or guilt about the quantity of food.

Purging is the subsequent regurgitation of the binged food, typically for the purpose of preventing the absorption of consumed calories.

Bulimia is a very serious eating disorder with long-term or even permanent health implications, such as decayed teeth or severe nutrition deficiencies.

Some warning signs for bulimia include:

  • Excusing oneself after meals several times
  • Foul breath after meals
  • Decaying teeth; poor dental health
  • A consistently sore throat

Eating disorders can often be hidden, so if you are concerned about a loved one, speak to a professional.

If you see these warning signs in yourself, it's definitely time to get help.

When should I see an eating disorder therapist?

In short, it's never too early to speak to a professional about your eating habits. If you have any concerns at all, please schedule an appointment with a therapist or your primary care physician.

Eating disorders can cause permanent damage to your body and mind, so prevention and early treatment are key.

It's better to err on the side of caution. No therapist or doctor will fault you for reaching out with concerns, even if they turn out to be unfounded. In fact, taking the initiative in ensuring your own health and safety is considered a virtue!

If you are worried that you may have disordered eating habits, or if your mental state surrounding food has deteriorated, getting help is the way to go.

Eating Disorder Therapists in Austin: Williamsburg Therapy Group

If you're concerned about your eating habits and want to talk to a professional about it, our staff of doctoral-level psychologists is happy to help.

Schedule an appointment online to see one of our world-class therapists at our South Lamar therapeutic space. Or, give us a call to have our patient coordinator assist you in finding the right therapist for you.

Book a Therapy Session in Austin Today

Finding the Right Childhood Trauma Therapist for Your Healing Journey

Many of us may understand intellectually what childhood trauma means, but many have difficulty identifying it in our own lives. We think childhood...

Read More
A couple in therapy

Couples Counseling Methods That Can Strengthen Your Relationship

Couples therapy, also known as couples counseling, is a form of talk therapy that helps romantic partners improve their relationship. The purpose of...

Read More
a dog

Can Pets Help with Stress?

We love our pets, and for many, they are true members of the family. But did you know that pet owners also receive a number of physical and mental...

Read More