In Substance Use / Compulsions by christine


While disordered eating may look like a lifestyle choice that simply requires behaviour modification, akin to addiction issues, successful treatment can not occur without an exploration of one’s social constructs and reconciling one’s trauma.  Eating disorder symptoms often reflect developmental processes (such as puberty), and life transitions (such as going to university).  However, the “seeds” giving rise to these symptoms often have been “planted” much, much earlier.

Fixations on food, body weight/shape/image may indicate an eating disorder.  Common eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder.  According to Statistics Canada’s 2002 Mental Health and Wellbeing Survey, 0.5% of Canadians 15 years or older reported an eating disorder diagnosis in the preceding 12 months (I believe these stats are VERY conservative -keep in mind it only accounts for “reported” incidences of eating disorders).  Women are more likely than men to report an eating disorder: 0.8% versus 0.2%; however, eating disorders amongst males is quickly increasing. Statistics for Canadian women in the 15 to 24-year age bracket who reported an eating disorder is 1.5%.  There is a worrisome growing tendency for children between the ages of 5 and 9 years old to be admitted to hospital for an eating disorder, and that is predicted to rise.  

The presence of an anxiety disorder is a significant risk factor among young people to develop an eating disorder.  Other mental health concerns accompanying disordered eating can include depression, panic disorders, social phobia, mania, agoraphobia, substance dependence, and intentional self-harm (e.g: cutting, scratching, self-hitting).

Comparable to substance abuse disorders, eating disorders are typically long-term problems that involve relapse and are life-threatening; they also involve what are known as the “3 C’s”:

Compulsive Use (to avoid or alleviate negative emotions)

Loss of Control (unable to stop; cravings to continue the behaviour)

Continued Use (despite negative consequences)


Eating disorders are complex, and usually require a multidisciplinary team of professionals to effectively treat them.  Success is possible; about 70% of clients with anorexia nervosa eventually recover.  However, recovery can be a long journey – one that takes 6-7 years on average, with expected relapses. 

Early treatment greatly contributes to successful recovery. Eating disorders are often kept secretive for far too long.  It is my hope that with celebrities such as Russell Brand, Sophie Trudeau, and Lady Gaga sharing their personal struggles with disordered eating and anxiety, it will incite others to seek needed support and early treatment.


NARSF: Eating Disorders Program (Nanaimo): http://www.narsf.org/child-family-programs/eating-disorders-program-edp/
Kelty Eating Disorders (BC provincial): https://keltyeatingdisorders.ca/
BC Children’s Hospital: http://www.bcchildrens.ca/our-services/mental-health-services/eating-disorders
Looking Glass BC: https://www.lookingglassbc.com/
Providence Healthcare Eating Disorder Program: http://www.providencehealthcare.org/eating-disorders-program
Thrive BC Eating Disorder Program: http://www.thrivebc.com/
Island Health: https://www.viha.ca/health_info/eating_disorders.html
Canadian Mental Health Association: https://cmha.bc.ca/documents/eating-disorders-3/
Eating Disorder Resource Centre of BC:  http://www.heretohelp.bc.ca/visions/eating-disorders-and-disordered-eating-no16/eating-disorder-resource-centre-of-bc
Black Sheep Counselling: www.blacksheepcounselling.com

This book comes recommended by a dear client:


Davison, G. C., Blankstein, K. R., Flett, G. L., Neale, J.S (2014).  Abnormal Psychology (5th Canadian ed.)  Mississauga, ON: John Wiley and Sons, Canada.
Swartz, M.F., & Cohn, L., (Eds.). (1996).  Sexual abuse andeating disorders.  New York, NY:  Brunner/Mazel.
Thompson, K. K., Heinberg, L. J., Altable, M., & Tanleff-Dunn, S. (1990). Exacting beauty: Theory, assessment, and treatment of body image disturbance.  Washington, DC:  American Psychological Association.