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Feeding and Eating Disorders

Anxiety Specialists of Atlanta specializes in the intersection between obsessive-compulsive and eating disorders concerns. This can include difficulties with repetitive behaviors around eating such as food rituals, inflexibility related to characteristics of food like the color or brand, or trouble with body dysmorphia. Given the outpatient nature of our treatment services, we may refer to more intensive eating disorder treatment as a first step to stabilize any weight, nutrition, or medical concerns prior to engaging in treatment with us.

Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)

Feeding and eating disorders such as Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) are characterized by limitations in the amount and/or types of food consumed. Children with ARFID do not consume adequate nutrition or enough calories to grow and develop properly. Adults with ARFID do not consume enough calories to maintain a healthy weight or may experience medical issues from a lifelong limited diet. Individuals with ARFID are not afraid of weight gain and are not driven to lose weight. Instead, ARFID often results from other factors, such as anxiety around eating due to food allergies or heightened sensory sensitivity and dislike of specific characteristics of food.

ARFID is more than just “picky eating.” Children do not grow out of it and often become malnourished because of the limited variety of foods they will eat. Feeding and eating disorder ARFID is often associated with psychiatric comorbidities such as anxiety and obsessive-compulsive features. ARFID is more common in children and young adolescents, and less common in late adolescence and adulthood. The prevalence of eating disorders like ARFID is still being studied, but preliminary estimates suggest ARFID may affect as many as 5% of children.

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  • Significant weight loss
  • Failure to achieve expected weight gain
  • Faltering growth in children
  • Significant nutritional deficiency
  • Dependence on nutritional supplements
  • Refusal to eat anywhere outside the home
  • Constipation and abdominal pain
  • Fears of choking or vomiting
Anorexia Nervosa (AN)

Anorexia Nervosa (AN) is a feeding and eating disorder characterized by restricted food intake, which leads to significant and rapid weight loss, or an inability to maintain a healthy weight. Individuals with AN are often afraid of gaining weight and might also feel out of control when eating and engage in self-induced vomiting.

Approximately 0.5%-1% of females and 0.3% of males suffer from AN. AN has the highest death rate of any mental health condition. The longer a person has AN, the more likely they are to die from medical complications or suicide. The sooner a patient receives treatment, the more likely they are to overcome AN.

  • A child or adolescent falling below their previously established growth curve
  • Dieting behavior or refusal to eat certain foods
  • Compulsive or excessive exercising
  • Preoccupation with eating, nutrition, food preparation, body shape, and weight
  • Avoiding meals with others
  • Feeling anxious or irritable around meal times
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Depression, anxiety, and difficulty concentrating
  • Body-checking behaviors (e.g., pinching or measuring body parts, frequently evaluating the body in the mirror, etc.)
  • Frequently weighing oneself
  • Feeling bloated or constipated
  • Fainting or dizziness
  • Very slow heart rate
  • Feeling cold most of the time
  • Low energy and fatigue
Bulimia Nervosa (BN)

Feeding and eating disorder Bulimia Nervosa (BN) consists of both binge eating episodes and repeated compensatory behaviors such as self-induced vomiting, laxative or diuretic use, fasting, or excessive exercise to prevent weight gain. Binge eating episodes involve eating in a discrete period of time (e.g., around two hours), an amount of food that is definitely larger than what most people would eat, and with a sense of lack of control over eating. Compensatory behaviors often follow binge episodes.

Individuals suffering from BN are often very concerned with their body’s shape and weight, and they are usually at normal weight or overweight. About 1%-4% of women and 0.5% of men suffer from BN.

  • Dieting behaviors and preoccupation with eating and food
  • Frequently weighing oneself
  • Frequent changes in weight (loss or gain)
  • Spending more money than usual on food
  • Hiding food and food wrappers throughout the house
  • Skipping meals
  • Feelings of shame, self-loathing, or guilt, particularly after eating
  • Eating in private or avoiding meals with other people
  • Excessive time spent exercising and/or exercising very intensely
  • Frequent trips to the bathroom after eating
  • Feeling bloated or constipated
  • Fainting or dizziness
  • Tiredness or fatigue
  • Feeling bloated or constipated
  • Depression, anxiety, or irritability
  • Body-checking behaviors (e.g., pinching, measuring body parts, evaluating oneself in the mirror)
Binge Eating Disorder (BED)

Binge Eating Disorder (BED) consists of repeated binge eating episodes. Binge eating episodes consist of three or more of the following: eating much more rapidly than normal; eating until feeling uncomfortably full; eating large amounts of food when not physically hungry; eating alone because of feeling embarrassed by how much one is eating; or feeling disgusted, depressed, or guilty with oneself afterward. People with binge eating disorder often feel distressed about binge eating.

Individuals suffering from BED can be normal weight, overweight, or obese. Binge Eating Disorder occurs in about 3%-5% of women and about 2% of men. Binge eating is the most common eating disorder among men, with about 40% of those suffering from BED being male. Although it can occur at any age, often individuals suffering from BED are middle-aged.

  • Disappearance or hoarding of food
  • Secretive behavior relating to food (e.g., hiding food and food wrappers around the house)
  • Increased isolation and withdrawal from previously enjoyed activities
  • Spending a lot of money on food
  • Preoccupation with eating, food, and body shape and weight
  • Extreme body dissatisfaction and shame about appearance
  • Feeling bloated or constipated
  • Feeling fatigued
  • Depression, anxiety, and irritability
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