Do I Have an Eating Disorder?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Q. I am always concerned with how I look. There is not a day that goes by in which I do not think about my weight. I remember one time in college I was with a guy and he said I looked anorexic, and I took it as a compliment. I am always wondering if people think I am overweight. When I am by myself I will eat large quantities of food. After I consume large quantities of food I feel guilty and completely disgusted with myself. I tend to rationalize the amount of food I eat but saying I will exercise an extreme amount the next day (also so I don’t gain any weight).

I have always, for as long as I can remember, felt self conscious about my body. A couple of years ago, when I was a freshman at college, I had started to put on the “freshmen fifteen” and I remember I tried forcing my self to throw up, but I never could. I resulted to taking laxatives whenever I felt that I ate too much. When I am home from college I find myself snacking all the time. After dinner, when the rest of my family goes to bed, I will eat large amounts of food. Usually, I am not hungry when I eat. I know many women feel the pressure to be thin but at what point should someone seek professional help?

A. You are correct. Many women feel pressure to be thin. I saw one recent study where girls as young as nine years old start worrying about their weight and how their body “should” look. Nine years old! Yikes!

I have three main concerns about your situation: 1) your history of trying to throw up your food and subsequently your use of laxatives, 2) your current obsession with how you look and, 3) when you are by yourself you admitted to eating large quantities of food even when you are not hungry. I do not know if these three symptoms alone could get you officially diagnosed as having an eating disorder but you sure are close. It is for these three aforementioned reasons that I would suggest that you should consider seeing a professional. At this point in time, you’re likely on the verge of a very serious eating disorder.

You clearly do not have a healthy relationship with food and it is likely that you have a distorted image of your body. Many people with body/weight issues cannot accurately see how they look or if they’re height/weight proportionate. A mental health professional can help you learn whether or not you are viewing your weight and body size in a realistic or objective manner. He or she can teach you how to be more realistic, how to see reality.

Your eating behaviors, specifically with regard to your overeating, are out of control. A professional can help you learn how to have a different relationship with food and your body. He or she can teach you how to control this aspect of your eating and give you healthy alternatives to overeating.

There are healthy ways to control weight and there are unhealthy ways. It’s my opinion based on your letter that you are engaging in unhealthy ways of trying to control your weight. My suggestion is that you see a professional and figure out how to stop and take control of this problem. You have a real problem. I wish you luck. Take care.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 12 Dec 2007

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2007). Do I Have an Eating Disorder?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 27, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2007/12/12/do-i-have-an-eating-disorder-2/