The link between mental health and eating disorders

Talking about the latest diet and exercise trends is a fairly common conversation to have with our peers, but for some people these discussions can be triggering.

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According to the National Eating Disorders Association, 30 million Americans struggle with eating disorders every day. Shannon Kopp was 17 when she was diagnosed with bulimia and struggled with it for over a decade.

“In high school, I started dieting around the same time my dad’s substance use disorder was spiraling out of control,” Kopp said. “One of them was forcing himself to throw up, and I tried it one night and hated it, then said I would never do it again. And then I found myself doing it the next night and the night after.”

Over the next decade, his eating disorder continued to spiral in and out of control. Her behaviors ranged from bingeing and then throwing up, working out excessively, not eating anything, and being constantly ashamed of her body.

“I would have dinner with friends and the feelings of shame would really build up and before I knew it I would be engaging in bingeing and purging behaviors that would sometimes happen up to 15 times a night,” Kopp described. “I just couldn’t control the speed and intensity of the thoughts about my body, the food, the shame, and before I knew it, I would almost be in a fog in this cycle, and sometimes it would last, you know, for hours. “


It took Kopp more than a decade with his therapists to work on his mental and physical health to fully recover. However, she says that some of the worst triggers with relapses happened after giving birth, after giving birth to her two children.

“Seeing my body change in that way and then being, you know, having a newborn, and how those messages of ‘oh, she’s got a body back’ or ‘oh, she’s back in this jean size would impact me. ,'” Kopp said.

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Dr. Anna Brown is a licensed psychologist and clinical director of the Center for Food Recovery in The Woodlands.

“Being a new parent, not being prepared for all that entails certainly can evoke in people a desire to feel in control of something,” said Dr. Brown. “Trying to control food is a relatively easy thing to identify.”

She also said that while most patients are genetically predisposed to mental health disorders, eating disorders do not discriminate against age, gender and body type.

“It really comes down to this degree of interference in their lives,” explained Dr. Brown. “Some people may casually diet, and it never turns into anything more than that, but for others, what starts out as a casual diet becomes an obsession.”

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According to the National Institute of Health, if left untreated, more serious symptoms can develop over time, including:

  • Brittle hair and nails
  • Dry and yellow skin
  • Fine hair growth all over the body (lanugo)
  • severe constipation
  • Slow breathing and pulse
  • multiple organ failure
  • Drop in the body’s internal temperature, making the person feel cold all the time
  • Lethargy, sluggishness, or feeling tired all the time
  • Osteoporosis…
  • low blood pressure
  • heart damage
  • brain damage
  • Infertility.

Kopp said he now has strict rules about not dieting to maintain a healthier mindset.


The Doctor. Brown recommends that anyone struggling with postpartum weight stay away from social media.

The link between mental health and eating disorders

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