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More and more people in the developed world suffer from dysfunctional eating behaviour and its consequences. In some cases, weight is obsessively controlled and reduced (Anorexia nervosa), in others, eating binges, i.e. episodes of overeating, lead to excessive weight gain, and sometimes binges occur intermittently with efforts to control weight (Bulimia nervosa). Psychological, medical, or social problems often ensue.
In western societies, individuals set great store by outward appearance. For many young people, looks, body shape, and weight are central to their self-image and their feeling of self-worth. Striving for a desired body shape or weight takes up a considerable proportion of physical and mental energy. Conversely, fears of putting on too much weight, of developing an unfavourable body shape, and of being rejected by their peers or by potential partners become powerful motivators to maintain their dysfunctional eating habits. When perceived control breaks down, as in an eating binge, feelings of shame and guilt, accompanied by self-deprecating cognitions arise and often lead to social withdrawal, which in turn exacerbates feelings of loneliness and unworthiness.
Based on a thorough diagnostic examination an individual treatment plan is developed, taking account of predisposing, causative, and maintaining psychosocial factors. Therapeutic interventions often include a modification of the dysfunctional eating behaviour itself, stress management, the development of alternative ways of building up self-confidence as well as techniques aimed at modifying attitudes and beliefs concerning body shape and weight.