Stressed or Eating Disorder?

By on May 11, 2015
Women in general are exposed to every day stress from life events or outside pressure. The stress may be in the form of beating deadlines or interacting with people, etc. When this happens, the stress hormones adrenalin and cortisol released affect eating pattern.

Stress may cause some to eat less or too much food but it could also be due to other reasons like eating disorder. Eating disorder was once thought to be rare in Japan. But a survey by the Ministry of Health Labour and Welfare in 2002 showed that a quarter of Japanese women in their teens and twenties were underweight. Of the 80 medical schools in the country, only one professor is reportedly specializing in eating disorders. It’s hard to tell whether a person has an eating disorder just by appearance.

Parenting with eating disorder can be harmful to herself and to those around her. So how do you know you have eating disorder?

Tokyo families asked Dr. Douglas Berger of the Meguro Counseling Clinic for comments.

“Eating disorders describe a few syndromes which have abnormal eating behaviors as the core problem. The major disorders include restricting (anorexia), binging and purging (bulimia), and some binging without purging (binge eating disorder). There are other variants that can include just purging, night-time eating, obsession with health foods, obsession with not having enough muscle mass, and others. The causes of these problems are not really known, but there are probably different paths that lead to different problems. Some of these are stand-alone disorders, some are symptoms of another psychiatric illness like depression, substance abuse, or severe stress, and some may be due to a medical illness like thyroid disease and others.

Men or women can have eating disorders, the more common disorders occurring in teenage years. Eating disorders starting in motherhood would be more likely due to stress or as one symptom of anxiety or depression. To help these persons, the underlying problem needs to be cleared up, i.e., remove of stress/change of lifestyle, treatment of a medical or psychiatric problem, etc. A mental health professional’s opinion should be sought if the problem can not easily go away with some stress modification or if there are associated symptoms such as low mood, fatigue, insomnia etc.

About Douglas Berger, M.D., Ph.D.

Dr. Douglas Berger and his staff at the Meguro Counseling Center in the Shibuya-Ebisu area provide mental health care for individuals, couples, and families, in both English and Japanese.