The behaviors that are characteristic of eating disorders involve a lot of planning and careful control and discipline of eating and exercise habits. Those who are diagnosed with anorexia, for example, exhibit a high level of control over their caloric intake and are very rigid in their exercise routines.
Bulimia nervosa also requires a high level of attention to routines associated with eating. Individuals who suffer from this disorder are often very specific about the timing of purging behaviors or the type of purging method they prefer to use.
Both anorexia and bulimia nervosa require a high level of attention given to secrecy. Sufferers of the disorders often spend years hiding their symptoms in shame, and even if they get to a point where they are ready to seek help, they may struggle to disclose the full extend of the problem.
Researchers presented information at the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ 2009 Annual Meeting that shows a connection between obsessive compulsive disorder and other anxiety disorders and a high risk of eating disorders. The research, led by Dr. Lynne Drummond, a consultant psychiatrist at South West London and St. George’s NHS Health Trust, compiled data from a sample of patients with severe OCD.
According to the findings, the level of connectedness is significant. As many as one in five patients who are diagnosed with OCD could also have some type of disordered eating behavior pattern. Disordered eating may be present in as many as one in three patients with other types of anxiety disorders.
While OCD is often used in conversation to describe someone who is particular about orderliness, the actual disorder is very debilitating. People with severe OCD often have difficulty maintaining regular employment or participating in relationships with family and friends.
When Drummond and colleagues examined data from a sample of patients with OCD, they found that a fifth of the patients also exhibited signs of disordered eating. However the study also found that other anxiety disorders showed an even higher association with eating disorders, at a rate of one in three patients with an anxiety disorder other than OCD meeting criteria for disordered eating behaviors.
While there have been many studies that connect those with eating disorders to OCD, Dr. Drummond explains that healthcare workers should be very aware of the high level of eating disorders among other types of anxiety disorders.