Eating Disorders and Other Psychiatric Illnesses

In many cases there is a link between psychiatric illnesses and eating disorders. Knowledge of this connection can be helpful in treating and overcoming an eating disorder. Some of the illnesses which are related to eating disorders are discussed below.

Depression has the strongest link with eating disorders. In some cases, the depression clears after the eating disorder is treated and weight and nutritional status is normalized. Fluoxetine is often used for bulimics. Former anorexics are at a higher risk for suicide, long after their eating disorder has been overcome.

Personality Disorders
Borderline personality disorders have an association with bulimia. This is characterized by widespread personal and life problems. Poor impulse control, rapid shifts in functioning, demonizing or idolizing others, and excessive complaining, including many physical complaints are symptoms. These patients are difficult to treat and require a mental health professional with expertise in this particular area.

Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety disorders are also prominent among eating disorder patients. These may include generalized anxiety disorders, panic attacks, agoraphobia, social phobia. Women who had exercise compulsions as part of their illness may become extremely anxious when prevented from exercising and instead weigh themselves multiple times per day.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
The strongest association is between anorexia and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). More often than full-blown OCD are obsessive compulsive symptoms such as perfectionism, rituals, and obsessive thoughts. It is theorized that disordered serotonin regulation is behind both anorexia and OCD, and that the strictly controlled anorexic eating patterns are just one more compulsion. The popular serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SRIs), such as Prozac may be useful. They are usually used for treating OCD and depression, but some clinicians tout their effectiveness in preventing anorexic relapses. With anorexics, the SRI side effects of hyperactivity and increased heart rate may hold greater dangers, and thus these patients should be watched more carefully.

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