If you, or a loved one, are struggling to eat, find meals stressful, and are terrified of gaining weight, you may have anorexia nervosa. Contrary to popular stereotypes, anorexia does not only affect affluent thin white young females. Anorexia can impact people of all ethnicities, economic statuses, body sizes, sexual orientations, and genders. You may not recognize that this is anorexia. This lack of awareness is, in fact, often a defining feature of the illness. People in larger bodies with anorexia have even more difficulty recognizing they have an eating disorder and getting help.
Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa
Anorexia has a host of symptoms. It is important to recognize that the presence of these symptoms does not, on its own, confirm a diagnosis of anorexia and that anorexia will manifest in different symptoms for different people. These symptoms may include the following:
- Extreme fear of gaining weight or being fat
- Eating less frequently or avoiding meals
- Not eating in front of others
- Avoiding eating foods considered less healthy or foods previously enjoyed
- Exercising a lot—or, in the case of a younger person, excessive movement
- Obsessive thoughts about one’s shape and weight
- Preoccupation with diet and fitness
- Distorted view of one’s body—thinking one is fat when one is not
- Weight loss or failure to gain weight—or grow—in a growing child
- Loss of periods in a person who menstruates
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Loss of appetite, constipation, gastrointestinal distress
- Loss of interest in other activities
- Lack of awareness of the severity of the problem
Symptoms will also look different in younger teens and children who may not express body distortion or even be able to logically explain their seemingly puzzling behaviors such as constant fidgeting (that can be confused for ADHD), rejections of previously enjoyed foods, and preoccupation with cooking (or watching cooking shows). They may just seem more emotional, especially around mealtimes. They also less commonly actually lose weight, but remember that they are supposed to be consistently gaining weight. Thus, failure to gain weight should be concerning on its own, and the rarer losing weight is even worse. Children also may fall off their height and weight curves, which can sometimes be the first sign of a problem.
Counseling for Anorexia Nervosa
Counseling for anorexia can help. This almost always involves meal support because recovery from anorexia, by definition, involves eating more and gaining weight. Read on to learn how we can help.
Counseling for Children and Teens with Anorexia Nervosa
For children and teens with anorexia nervosa, we exclusively offer Family-Based Treatment (FBT). EDTLA founder Dr. Muhlheim is an expert in Family-Based Treatment and has written a leading book for parents, When Your Teen Has an Eating Disorder, on this approach. We are one of the few practices in California that offers this specialized evidence-based treatment.
Family-Based treatment is an approach that centers the role of the parents (or other caregivers) in supporting their teen with anorexia by planning, preparing, serving, and supervising all meals. The eating disorder is viewed as an outside force that has taken possession of the teen’s brain and is making them behave in strange ways around food. By empowering parents to stand up to this menacing eating disorder, we can help you lead your teen to full recovery. By contrast, we do not find that individual therapy with teens with anorexia is effective and most teens with anorexia do not believe they have a problem much less want to get well.
We can provide FBT in our office in Los Angeles or virtually throughout the state of California, as well as to families in a few select other states.
Counseling for Adults with Anorexia Nervosa
For those over the age of 18 with anorexia nervosa, including college students, we can also provide FBT. FBT may look a little different with young adults, but it can often be more effective than trying to recover on one’s own. Parents can provide meal support either in person or via video or other technology.
For college students or adults with anorexia nervosa who are eating very little or have a lot of weight to gain, we find that individual therapy with us—even with the addition of a dietitian—is usually inadequate to restore weight and recover. Even when one is highly motivated, caloric needs can be very high and it can be so very hard to eat enough to restore weight on one’s own without additional support. For these reasons, we usually do not accept for individual therapy those with anorexia who do not have meal support. We find that adults with anorexia —unless they have a parent or other support at a majority of meals—often need a higher level of care such as a partial hospitalization program (PHP) or residential treatment to restore weight. After completion of a higher level of care program, these individuals can work with us on maintaining recovery.
If you are an adult with anorexia and are not sure where to begin, we can provide an assessment and help you determine the best course of treatment, whether it’s working with us or reaching out to a program that provides a higher level of care.
Begin Counseling for Anorexia in Los Angeles, CA
You do not have to continue to struggle with anorexia (or your loved one’s anorexia) alone. Counseling can help you or your teen gain weight and reestablish a healthy relationship with food and body. Our Los Angeles, California practice has caring therapists who specialize in the treatment of anorexia in teens and adults. To start your counseling journey, follow these simple steps:
- Contact Eating Disorder Therapy LA
- Speak to our practice manager who will either match you to a therapist or provide referrals
- Start recovering from anorexia and rebuilding your (or your loved one’s) life.
Other Counseling Services at Eating Disorder Therapy LA
At Eating Disorder Therapy LA, we specialize in evidence-based treatments for all eating disorders and related issues. We provide therapy for Atypical Anorexia, Bulimia Nervosa, Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder, Binge-Eating Disorder, and Body Image.