Counting, worrying, and obsessing about food: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) or an eating disorder? Sometimes it is incredibly challenging to separate the two and decipher what is an anxiety disorder and what could possibly be an eating disorder. Most clients with an eating disorder like to constantly be in control of everything in their lives, but focus intently on attempting to control their body because they feel out of control in other aspects of their life. It’s a repetitive behavior with food, exercise, etc., similar to how those with OCD may repetitively perform tasks or organize things “just so” until things “feel just right.” How do we decide then if this “need to control” is anxiety manifesting as OCD or a true eating disorder?
The answer is not an easy one. They can look very similar. ED clients may count their bites, meticulously plan their meals, eat only certain foods, eat only in front of certain people or completely alone, and only eat in certain environments. One way to distinguish these OCD-like behaviors from an eating disorder is to understand if there is any relationship between these behaviors and the individual’s body image. Is the person worried about counting bites and counting calories because they are concerned how it will affect their body? Is the person eating certain foods and planning certain meals because they consider specific foods to be “healthy or unhealthy?” Is this person only eating in front of certain people and in certain environments for fear that others will judge them?
These are important questions to consider when trying to figure out if someone has OCD or a true eating disorder. It can take some time for both the individual and the family to discover the underlying reasons for these behaviors. The person may be in denial or completely oblivious to having a problem with food. Therapy can help the individual and the family figure out the true cause of the behaviors and help the individual treat the behaviors whether it is OCD or an eating disorder. And by the way, approximately 50 percent of those eventually diagnosed with an eating disorder are originally diagnosed with OCD. They can often go hand in hand.
To learn more visit the site below.
The international OCD Associate provides a good comparison of OCD to eating disorders: http://www.ocfoundation.org/eo_eating.aspx