Gain knowledge about eating disorders

The goal of National Eating Disorders Week, Feb. 25 to March 3, is to address myths and better understand eating disorders. Most people with an eating disorder are concerned about appearing overweight or physically unattractive. However, a person with an eating disorder can be underweight, normal or overweight.

Eating disorders include anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder and affect about 30 million people per year in the United States, according to the Mental Health First Aid curriculum. The median age for onset of eating disorders is between 18 and 20 years old. A high percentage of people with eating disorders have other mental health disorders, such as anxiety, mood and substance use disorders.

There are many warning signs that an eating disorder may be developing. A few of them are:

  • Extreme dieting behaviors, such as fasting, obsessively counting calories and avoiding some food groups
  • Evidence of binge eating
  • Evidence of vomiting or laxative use (making trips to the bathroom after eating)
  • Obsessive exercise patterns
  • Avoidance of eating meals
  • Behaviors focused on body shapes and weight (interest in weight loss websites, books and so forth)
  • Social withdrawal or avoidance of previously enjoyed activities

Some physical warning signs include weight fluctuations, sensitivity to cold most of the time, changes in menstruation and fainting.  Some psychological warning signs include preoccupation with food, sensitivity to comments or criticism, and extreme body dissatisfaction.

A few questions

The SCOFF Questionnaire developed in the United Kingdom in 1999 helps to detect eating disorders. For each “yes” answer, there is one point. A score of two or more indicates a likely eating disorder.

  • Do you make yourself sick (induce vomiting) because you feel uncomfortable full?
  • Do you worry that you have lost control over how much you eat?
  • Have you recently lost more that 12 pounds in a three-month period?
  • Do you think you are too fat, even though others say you are too thin?
  • Would you say that food dominates your life?

These are a few of the warning signs and factors to be aware of in your circle of friends and family. There are self-help books and websites to assist those with eating disorders, but we encourage professional help for the best results.

As part of the National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, look for activities to learn more. The Come as You Are campaign sponsored by NEDA (National Eating Disorders Association) features interactive learning challenges and events on its website.

Be assured that good physical health and mental health go together at our metro Denver mental health centers. To learn more, visit communityreachcenter.org or call 303-853-3500. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton. Additionally, our website has a link to sign up for free Mental Health First Aid courses

 

Trauma-Informed Care: Why Our Crisis Center Uses This Approach

Talking with doctor about trauma

Merriam-Webster defines trauma as “a disordered psychic or behavioral state resulting from severe mental or emotional stress or physical injury.” This state can develop as a result of a wide range of stressors including abuse, witnessing violence, experiencing homelessness or being affected by a natural disaster. A large percentage of the people we see in our crisis center have had trauma-inducing experiences at some point in their life. The same is true for other providers of behavioral health services. This trauma often contributes to the development of mental illness and co-occurring conditions like chronic health issues, eating disorders and substance abuse, as well as contact with the criminal justice system.

 

Symptoms of Trauma

People who experience trauma may exhibit a number of symptoms. These signs can occur immediately after the experience or may not surface until a later time, and include:

  • Fear and anxiety
  • Self-blame or guilt
  • Withdrawal from people and activities
  • Loss of memories
  • Inability to relax
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Mood swings
  • Disbelief
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Insomnia
  • Sadness or hopelessness
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Feeling emotionally numb or unable to relate to others

 

What is Trauma-Informed Care? 

Trauma-Informed Care (TIC) is an approach in which an organization like our crisis center ensures that all staff members understand the impact that trauma can have on a person’s mental and emotional health. Team members also learn about triggers that can cause the person additional stress and how to avoid them and prevent new trauma.

Behavioral health organizations trained in delivering TIC exhibit certain characteristics, including that they: 

  • Respect the need of survivors to be well-informed about their treatment and hopeful about their recovery
  • Educate all staff members, from care providers to business staff and leadership, on the effects of trauma so that a culture of compassion is developed and maintained
  • Have a deep understanding of the many ways that trauma can manifest in a survivor (depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse, etc.)
  • Recognize the importance of collaborating with survivors, their loved ones and other human services agencies to support recovery
  • Work continually to destigmatize mental illness

 

How to Respond to Trauma

If you have experienced trauma, there are certain steps you should take to address it and lessen its impact on your mental and emotional health. First, if the trauma-inducing issue is ongoing, you should attempt to remedy it if possible. Next, you should talk about the trauma with a trusted friend or loved one. Simply expressing your thoughts and feelings can be very helpful. It is also important that you take care of your physical health while working to overcome trauma, including avoiding the use of substances as a coping mechanism.

Finally, please take advantage of resources like Community Reach Center. Remember our Colorado Crisis Services line at 1-844-493-TALK (8255) for immediate needs. We have a 24-hour walk-in center in Westminster at 2551 W. 84th Ave. and there are several other centers in the Denver metro area. As a highly respected crisis center in the Denver metro area, we use Trauma-Informed Care to help people take a proactive approach to their mental health challenges. Learn more about our services at communityreachcenter.org or call us at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

February is American Heart Month. What is the Connection to Mental Health Services?

Mother and daughter holding handsFebruary is American Heart Month. The federally designated observation puts the focus on heart disease and stroke, which are the number one and number five killers of Americans respectively. In Colorado, it kicked off recently with the Annual Wear Red Day to draw attention to the importance of achieving and maintaining good heart health. The month also emphasizes the importance of mental health services, as heart health and mental health are more intertwined than many people may know.

 

The Heart Health/Mental Health Connection

Heart disease and mental health challenges involving depression and anxiety are often what are referred to as “co-occurring conditions.” This means that a person suffers both from cardiovascular issues and, for example, depression. The relationship between the physical and mental conditions is complex, with each having the potential to be a cause and a result of the other.

For instance, a person who has had a heart attack and as a result has limitations on physical activity may become depressed about the situation. Or, a person who suffers from depression may stop exercising and develop a generally unhealthy lifestyle, which causes their physical fitness, including their heart health, to deteriorate.

And, depression isn’t the only mental health challenge related to heart health. A person who has been diagnosed with heart disease may fear a heart attack or other cardiac events and as a result develop anxiety. That anxiety may play a role in raising blood pressure, which worsens the heart condition.

 

The Good News: Both Heart Disease and Mental Health Conditions are Treatable

Fortunately, people can take steps to improve both their heart health and their mental health. The first is to evaluate where you are today. Ideally your physician and a trained mental health professional will work with you on these assessments. However, you should also be aware of the symptoms.

 

Signs of heart disease will vary based on the specific condition, but may include:

  • Pain, tightness, pressure or discomfort in the chest
  • Pain in the neck, back, upper abdomen, jaw or throat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain, weakness, numbness or cold feeling in the legs or arms
  • Racing or slow heartbeat, or fluttering in the chest
  • Lightheadedness, dizziness or fainting
  • Swelling in the hands, ankles or feet
  • Fatigue, especially if it occurs easily with exertion or activity

Symptoms of depression may include:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness or irritability
  • No longer enjoying favorite activities
  • Feelings of hopelessness or guilt
  • Lack of energy or fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating, making decisions or remembering facts
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
  • Unexplained weight loss or gain
  • Excessive appetite or no appetite
  • Difficulty managing everyday obligations

Signs of anxiety may include:

  • Persistent worried feeling
  • Inability to relax
  • Unexplained intense fear or panic
  • Rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, trembling, sweating or feeling faint
  • Avoidance of potentially anxiety-inducing situations
  • Uncontrollable and recurring worrisome thoughts

 

Whether you experience any of the above heart health or mental health symptoms with another condition or independently, it is important to talk with your doctor about them. Both heart disease and mental health conditions are treatable, and the sooner you get help, the better your outcome is likely to be.

 

Mental Health Services for Whole-Body Wellness

At Community Reach Center, our focus is on providing mental health services. We know that mental and emotional health are a key component of whole-body health, and we strive to help people reach their holistic wellness goals. To learn more, visit communityreachcenter.org or call us at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.