Medicare Items for Eating Disorders available now – 40 therapy sessions a year with Medicare rebate 

What are Eating Disorders?

Eating disorders are complex, serious mental illnesses that can lead to serious long-term mental and physical problems and illness. Eating disorders significantly disrupt peoples lives in every way – e.g., physically, emotionally, socially and occupationally. People with eating disorders usually require multi-dimensional treatment and support, such as a psychologist, GP, dietitian and psychiatrist. This is mandatory when they are medically unstable, e.g., due to anorexia nervosa. Families and carers of people with eating disorders also require support and assistance.

Eating disorders can occur in people of all body sizes, shapes and weights.  I focus on supporting people of all sizes, shapes and weights with healthy behaviour  enhancement- thoughts, emotions, actions – including self-acceptance, self-compassion and letting go of harmful weight prejudiced and biased diet culture that promotes eating disorders, depression and anxiety. Therapy for adolescents with eating disorders ideally will include parents. Weight restoration is a goal of treatment for people who are medically unstable due to dangerously low weight. Medical monitoring and dietitian support is essential for these clients. 

Overweight” and “Obesity” are medical terms based on body mass index (BMI), to describe people with larger bodies.  BMI is NOT  a reliable indicator of health status, health behaviour, eating disorders or diseases.  I will not accept referrals to “treat” overweight or obesity. I will not encourage people with larger bodies to lose weight. Many people with larger bodies say they developed their eating disorders due to dieting – trying to lose weight – and unfortunately this was encouraged by medical and health professionals. This is despite over 50 years of research confirming that pursuing weight loss is ineffective for the vast majority of people and potentially physically, mentally and emotionally harmful.  In fact, dieting is the single biggest predictor of developing an eating disorder. Therefore, research does not support weight loss as  focus or part of therapy.

Who is at Risk of Developing an Eating Disorder?

Eating disorders affect about 9% of Australians. They are caused by complex genetic, environmental, psychological, social and cultural factors that are different for each person. HOWEVER, dieting is the single biggest predictor of developing an eating disorder. People who follow restrictive diets (or lifestyles that involve following strict rules about eating), exercise excessively and are preoccupied with “health” (beliefs about what health is are often misconceptions), are particularly vulnerable to developing an eating disorder. Even people who follow diets due to medical conditions such as diabetes or allergies are vulnerable. Psychological risk factors include perfectionistic, obsessive-compulsive, rigid and avoidant personality and thinking styles, a high need for control, body image and appearance being central to self worth and low self esteem making one sensitive to absorbing cultural standards and ideals. Women and girls have traditionally been a lot more vulnerable to developing eating disorders but they are now increasingly being diagnosed in males.

Anorexia Nervosa involves persistent dietary restriction, intense fear of gaining weight and body image distortion or disturbance. It can also involve excessive exercising. It can manifest as a way of exerting control and/or dealing with painful or frightening emotions. There is a restricting subtype and binge eating/purging subtype. There are serious health risks associated with anorexia nervosa due to weight loss and malnutrition, such as anaemia, infertility, intestinal problems, compromised immune system, kidney failure, osteoporosis, heart problems and death.

Bulimia Nervosa involves frequent episodes of binge eating followed by purging/compensatory behaviour such as vomiting, excessive exercising, fasting or laxative abuse, and body size, shape and weight being central to self worth and identity. You do not have to be “under” or “over”  weight to have bulimia nervosa. There are serious health risks associated with bulimia nervosa, such as, tooth decay and enamel erosion, chronic sore throat, heartburn, reflux, indigestion, inflammations and rupture of stomach/oesophagus, stomach & intestinal ulcers, chronic bowel problems, osteoporosis, fertility problems and heart problems.

Binge Eating Disorder involves eating a large amount of food in a short period of time and feeling out of control around food and while eating. People with binge eating disorder tend to be classified as “overweight” or “obese”. There are serious health risks such as osteoarthritis, kidney failure, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, which can increase risk of diabetes, stroke and heart disease.

Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS) or Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorders (OSFED) are diagnoses for people who have some symptoms of the above but don’t reach full criteria. They are still serious mental illnesses and require treatment.

Orthorexia is not an official diagnosis yet but medical and health professionals are increasingly observing this disorder. It involves an obsession with healthy eating and lifestyle that leads to distress and impairment of functioning. It can be characterised as an unhealthy obsession with health and involves beliefs about food and health that are often not realistic.

For treatment of Eating Disorders and counselling support for carers, contact Lesley Russell on 0412 638 749, email lesley@lesleyrussell.com.au or complete my enquiry form. See your GP for a referral with an Eating Disorder Plan (EDP) to claim a Medicare rebate for 40 sessions per year.

*Health at Every Size  and HAES are registered trademarks of the Association for Size Diversity and Health (ASDAH) and used with permission.

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