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Obsessively Photographing Your Food Might Be a Sign of Mental Illness

Obsessively Photographing Your Food Might Be a Sign of Mental Illness


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You know that annoying habit where someone keeps whipping out their phone to photograph the food they're eating? It might not just be an incessant need to brag about their burrata-heirloom tomato salad (WE WANT THAT). It might be an actual disease.

Researcher Valerie Taylor spoke at the Canadian Obesity Summit on Wednesday, noting that nowadays, she's finding plenty of patients who are fetishizing food, where it overtakes human interaction.

"You don't take pictures of who you're with, you take pictures of what you're eating," Taylor said, CBC News reports. "For some people who have the predisposition for weight behaviors, it just goes that one step further, and they start to develop unhealthy weight disorders and they start to have weight problems."

Naturally, food has a more psychological role in people's lives, and Taylor, whose presentation was called "Food Fetish: Society's Complicated Relationship with Food," believes that the fetishization could be unhealthy.

"The concern becomes when all they do is send pictures of food," Taylor told The Huffington Post. "We take pictures of things that are important to us, and for some people, the food itself becomes central and the rest — the venue, the company, etc. — is background."

Past research has suggested that looking at food porn could spur weight gain, as images are often connected to the rewards center in the brain. But putting such a focus on the food, instead of the company and meaningful social interactions, could really affect weight gain.

"I think for some people it highlights how important food has become," Taylor said. "Just like the tattoos of 'I love McDonald's' replacing the 'I love Mom' tattoo, food is taking on a very important role. It has moved beyond simply fuel." And while we agree that food is more than fuel, this fetishization might be something to be aware of.


Penny-Pinching May Signal Mental Illness

Being thrifty empowers people to thrive on tight budgets. But excessive frugality can also be a symptom of obsessive compulsive personality disorder.

Being careful about how you spend your money can earn you a reputation for being frugal, but when the penny-pinching goes too far and money is essentially hoarded, that can be a symptom of obsessive compulsive personality disorder.

The disorder affects about 1 in 100 adults, according to the International OCD Foundation. Frugality is a symptom of obsessive compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) when a person "adopts a miserly spending style toward both self and others," notes the American Psychiatric Association. "Money is viewed as something to be hoarded for future catastrophes."

OCPD, however, is not the same as OCD — obsessive compulsive disorder. However, because the term “OCD” is casually used in situations where people are detail-oriented, it's often confused with OCPD. In fact, they're separate disorders.

“OCD is an illness where people have intrusive thoughts, thoughts that don’t make sense, that are silly to them, but thoughts they can’t get rid of and cause marked anxiety,” says Robert Hudak, MD, a psychiatrist with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in Pennsylvania. “People with OCPD are people who are very preoccupied with details, making lists, workaholic, very frugal. People with OCPD do not have intrusive thoughts, so they don’t worry about their symptoms. To them, they wonder, why is everyone else not as organized and as neat as I am?”

When it comes to money, someone with OCD might have difficulty touching it to spend it because of intrusive thoughts about contamination. But Dr. Hudak says that someone with OCPD-related frugality wouldn't be able to spend it because of concerns about being wasteful or being broke in the future. People with OCPD might be so frugal that theyɽ go to a food pantry or skimp on essentials, even if they had enough money for all they need.


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An eating disorder is a serious mental health issue that can severely impact a young person’s health and can threaten his or her life. Fortunately, early detection can significantly improve a person’s ability to recover. But eating disorders, like many mental health issues, can be difficult to detect, especially when you’re not sure what signs to look for.

Here are some common signs of eating disorders in young people that can help you recognize when a young person in your life may be developing or living with an eating disorder.

Signs and Symptoms of Eating Disorders

  1. Dieting behaviors (e.g. fasting, counting calories and avoidance of food groups or types).
  2. Evidence of binge eating (e.g., disappearance or hoarding of food).
  3. Evidence of deliberate vomiting or laxative use (e.g., taking trips to the bathroom during or immediately after meals).
  4. Excessive, obsessive, or ritualistic exercise patterns (e.g., exercising when injured or in bad weather, feeling compelled to perform a certain number of repetitions of exercise or experiencing distress if unable to exercise).
  5. Changes in food preference (e.g., refusing to eat certain fatty or “unhealthy” foods, cutting out whole food groups such as meat or dairy, a sudden concern with healthy eating or replacing meals with fluids).
  6. Development of rigid patterns around food selection, preparation and eating (e.g. cutting food into small pieces and eating very slowly).
  7. Avoidance of eating meals, especially in a social setting (e.g. skipping meals by claiming to have already eaten or have an intolerance or allergy to particular foods).
  8. Lying about the amount or type of food consumed or evading questions about eating and weight.
  9. Behaviors focus on food (e.g., planning, buying, preparing and cooking meals for others but not consuming meals themselves interest in cookbooks, recipes and nutrition).
  10. Behaviors focused on body shape and weight (e.g., interest in weight-loss websites, books, and magazines or images of thing people).
  11. Development of repetitive or obsessive behaviors relating to body shape and weight (e.g., body checking such as pinching waist or wrists, repeated weight of self and excessive time spent looking in mirrors).
  12. Social withdrawal or avoidance of previously enjoyed activities.
  1. Weight loss or weight fluctuations.
  2. Sensitivity to the cold.
  3. Changes in or loss of periods.
  4. Swelling around the cheeks or jaws, calluses on knuckles or dental discoloration from vomiting.
  5. Fainting.

Psychological

  1. Preoccupation with food, body shape and weight.
  2. Extreme body dissatisfaction.
  3. Distorted body image (e.g., frequently check their reflection in mirrors, windows and other reflective surfaces).
  4. Sensitivity to comments or criticism about exercise, food, body shape or weight.
  5. Heightened anxiety around meal times.
  6. Depression, anxiety or irritability.
  7. Low self-esteem (e.g., negative opinions of self feelings of shame, guilt or self-loathing).
  8. Rigid thinking (e.g., labeling of food as either bad or good).

Warning Signs Especially Common for Young People

  1. Obsessively count calories or examine food labels for nutritional information
  2. Avoid eating with friends or discard lunches
  3. Spend a great deal of time online talking to people who promote or encourage disordered behaviors rather than spending time with friends in person

There are three main eating disorder classifications: anorexia, bulimia and eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS), which includes binge-eating disorder. Bulimia is statistically more common than anorexia and many hide their symptoms and behaviors for years before seeking professional help. EDNOS is the most common form of eating disorder. EDNOS describes people with symptoms and behaviors that do not strictly align with anorexia or bulimia but whose attitude toward good weight or body shape seriously impacts their life. EDNOS is not less serious than anorexia or bulimia and can cause significant health problems.

Many assume that eating disorders affect only young, white, middle to upper-class women. In truth, eating disorders affect boys and young men as well as African American, Hispanic, Asian and Native American youths and young adults. Many also falsely believe that only people with a certain body type can have an eating disorder. It’s important to remember that eating disorders are a mental illness – they are not dependent on a person’s size, shape, race or gender.

For some it can be difficult to distinguish eating disorder behaviors from healthy self-care practices. A good question to ask is whether something feels mandatory or causes an undue amount of anxiety or stress.

If you or a loved one is living with an eating disorder and are looking for information or support, call the NEDA helpline at (800) 931-2237. You can also learn to recognize and respond to signs and symptoms of mental health challenges specific to young people by getting trained in Youth Mental Health First Aid. Register for a course today.


In kids, picky eating may be warning sign for mental health problems

About 1 in 5 children is a picky eater, and a new study says these kids are more likely than their peers to suffer from psychological disorders.

Children who are picky eaters may have bigger problems than a lack of a well-balanced diet. A new study finds that kids who make a habit of shunning certain foods are more likely to have symptoms of depression, anxiety and other psychiatric disorders.

To be counted as picky eaters, children had to do more than shun broccoli and other foods that kids typically don’t like. If they limited their eating to a range of preferred foods, they were considered to have a “moderate” case of selective eating. If that range of foods was so narrow that it was hard for them to eat with other people, their selective eating was labeled “severe.”

Researchers from Duke University assessed the eating habits of about 1,100 preschoolers ages 2 to 5. Researchers visited these children in their homes and asked their parents or other caregivers a battery of questions about the youngsters’ behavior. In addition, the researchers checked in with a subgroup of nearly 200 of the kids annually.

Picky eaters were quite common, the team found: 18% of the children were moderate selective eaters and an additional 3% had a severe case of the condition. Those figures were in line with previous studies that found 14% to 20% of preschoolers were selective about the foods they ate at least some of the time.

Some doctors see these numbers are reassuring, and many of them tell parents that their children will simply outgrow their pickiness. But the Duke researchers said this is the wrong approach for dealing with selective eaters.

“The fact that a behavior is relatively common does not mean that it is harmless,” they wrote in an article published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

Indeed, picky eating may be a sign that a young child has psychiatric problems that need to be addressed. In the study, children with severe cases of selective eating were about twice as likely as to be diagnosed with depression compared with kids who ate a normal range of foods. They were also 2.7 times more likely to be diagnosed with social anxiety, according to the study.

Selective eaters whose conditions were deemed moderate did not have an increased risk of being diagnosed with a psychiatric condition. However, compared with their less picky peers, they were more likely to have symptoms of depression, anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD.

By tracking some of the children over time, the researchers found that selective eaters faced an increased risk of developing anxiety problems as they got older, even when their initial symptoms were taken into account. The fact that picky eating could flag future psychiatric problems is “perhaps the most clinically significant finding” in the study, the authors wrote.

From a purely physical point of view, selective eaters did not grow as much as children who ate a normal range of foods, according to the study. Without a varied diet, kids may get enough calories but still lack some key nutrients, the researchers wrote.

All of this points to a need for new ways to help families of children with this type of eating disorder, according to the Duke team. “There is much to learn,” they wrote.

Follow me on Twitter @LATkarenkaplan and “like” Los Angeles Times Science & Health on Facebook.


13. Unexplained or Unusual Changes in Behaviour

We all have habits and traits that we are known for, so it’s good to notice when our behaviour is unusual. When someone who is generally prompt and courteous starts showing up late and becoming incredibly irritable or snappish, it can be a symptom of something bigger. We all have days when we aren’t at our best, but sudden, unexplained changes or prolonged, unusual behaviour patterns should be noted. If this occurs, it’s a good idea to get to a doctor and make sure that these changes aren’t signs of something more serious. It could be signs of an undiagnosed mental illness.


Neither depressed nor flourishing? How languishing defines modern life

Age: At least as old as the chaise longue.

Appearance: An existence devoid of promise, purpose and delight.

And then you die. Pretty much.

Well, this has been fun. It’s not supposed to be fun. Languishing is the absence of wellbeing. A recent New York Times article called it “the neglected middle child of mental health”.

I don’t get it, although, paradoxically, I think I might have it. Think of languishing as the vast, meh-coloured desert between flourishing and depression, a general condition of non-thriving.

Otherwise known as life. Welcome aboard, mate. It’s certainly the prevalent malaise of the age, thanks to Covid.

What’s Covid got to do with it? The endless, grinding anxiety associated with the pandemic has left us all some way off peak performance, unable to focus or concentrate.

Isn’t this just a made-up name for people failing to get on with things? Knowing the term – coined in 2002 by the sociologist Corey Keyes – is the first step to battling the condition.

Sounds to me as if there’s nothing wrong with these languishing types that isn’t wrong with the rest of us. That’s the problem – languishing may well be a great undiagnosed epidemic. Long before Covid, Keyes’s studies suggested as much as 12% of the researched population fit the criteria for languishing.

Is it a mental illness, then? No, but while the symptoms may not be clinically significant, languishing is a potential risk factor for future mental illness.

I really don’t feel that bad – just the usual sort of, you know, not good. Languishing may itself cause you to overlook the symptoms of languishing.

In that case, what are we supposed to do about it? According to the NYT article, the secret to combating languishing lies in the pursuit of the “just manageable difficulty”.

The what now? Taking on a small but achievable challenge – a project, a puzzle, a modest goal – that can sharpen your focus and rekindle your enthusiasm for life.

What else did the article recommend? I don’t know. I couldn’t concentrate long enough to read the whole thing.

I understand. As Hamlet said, “What’s the point?” Hamlet did not say that.

I don’t care. I know the feeling.

Good for you. What now? Beats me. I was going to look out the window, but the curtains are closed.

Do say: “How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable seem to me all the uses of this world!”

Don’t say: “Have you thought about making some sourdough bread?”


RELATED ARTICLES

He told MailOnline: ‘Taking selfies is not an addiction - it’s a symptom of Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) that involves checking one’s appearance.’

Cognitive behavioural therapy is often used to help patients moderate their obsessive behaviour relating to their appearance.

Sufferers of BDD can spend hours trying to take pictures that do not show any defects or flaws in their appearance, which they are very aware of but which might be unnoticeable to others.

One expert said: 'Taking Selfies is not an addition - it's a symptom of Body Dysmorphic Disorder that involves checking one's appearance (illustrated by stock image)

In one extreme case of the disorder, a British teenager Danny Bowman tried to commit suicide because he was unsatisfied with his appearance in the selfies he took.

He was so desperate to attract girls, he spent 10 hours a day taking more than 200 selfies trying to find the perfect image, but his habit, which began at the age of 15, caused him to drop out of school and lose almost two stone in weight.

He did not leave his house in Newcastle-upon-Tyne for six months, and when he failed to take a flawless shot, he tried to kill himself by taking an overdose.

His mother, Penny, managed to save him, but he was forced to seek medical help after his habit had spiralled out of control.

He told the Sunday Mirror: 'I was constantly in search of taking the perfect selfie and when I realised I couldn’t, I wanted to die.

‘I lost my friends, my education, my health and almost my life. The only thing I cared about was having my phone with me so I could satisfy the urge to capture a picture of myself at any time of the day.'

In an article for Psychology Today, Dr Pamela Rutledge, Director of the Media Psychology Research Centre in Boston Massachusetts, said: ‘Selfies frequently trigger perceptions of self-indulgence or attention seeking social dependence that raises the 'damned-if-you-do and damned-if-you-don’t' spectre of either narcissism or very low self-esteem.'

WHAT IS BODY DYSMORPHIC DISORDER?

BDD is characterised by a preoccupation with one or more perceived flaws in appearance, which are unnoticeable to others, according to the BDD Foundation.

As well as the excessive self-consciousness, individuals with BDD often feel defined by their flaw.

They often experience an image of their perceived defect associated with memories, emotions and bodily sensations – as if seeing the flaw through the eyes of an onlooker, even though what they ‘see’ may be very different to their appearance observed by others.

Sufferers tend repeatedly to check on how bad their flaw is - for example in mirrors and reflective surfaces - attempt to camouflage or alter the perceived defect and avoid public or social situations or triggers that increase distress.

People with BDD can find themselves housebound or seek out needless cosmetic surgery. They are also at an increased risk of suicide.

‘Preoccupation with selfies can be a visible indicator of a young person with a lack of confidence or sense of self that might make him or her a victim of other problems as well.’

She believes that excessive or provocative taking of selfies is a form of ‘acting out’ in young people and can be a cry for help.


How To Tell The Difference Between Depression And Burnout

Whether you love your job or not, you've likely experienced occasional exhaustion, frustration, disillusionment, and a desperate urge to hurl your alarm clock across the room and hunker back down under the covers until further notice. That's not a depression symptom, right? Or is it?

Most of us don't consider burnout to be a form of depression. After all, it's just the boss who's a jerk, the coworkers who don't pull their weight, and the work that's tedious and thankless. Never mind the hellish commute, day after day. But a new study suggests that burnout and depression are not so dissimilar.

In the study, published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, researchers surveyed nearly 1,400 American public school teachers during the 2013-2014 academic year. Based on the survey responses, they identified a set of teachers who showed signs of burnout. When they matched the teachers' symptoms to a depression scale, fully 86% of those with burnout met the criteria for a provisional diagnosis of depression. By contrast, less than 1% of their colleagues without burnout could be considered candidates for depression. What's more, the teachers with burnout were also about twice as likely to have a history of anxiety disorders, three times as likely to have a history of depression, and nearly four times as likely to be taking antidepressants.

"Our evidence is that burnout overlaps depression, that they're on a continuum, like temperature," says study coauthor Irvin S. Schonfeld, PhD, a psychology professor at the City College of New York's Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership. "If you go back to the original paper that was published about burnout, by Herbert Freudenberger&mdashin which he studied people who volunteered at a drug treatment center and who dealt with very difficult patients&mdashone of the ways he described burnout was: 'It looks like depression.'"

The biggest misconception about burnout, according to Schonfeld, is that it's limited to the workplace. "The implication is that when you leave work, you might feel a little better, whereas with depression you're in a dysphoric state most of the time," Schonfeld says. "But it's very difficult to distinguish those two concepts based on the causes," he notes, because people with burnout don't tend to feel better on weekends. A number of studies have found elevated levels of depressive symptoms among people who work in stressful work environments, where they have little autonomy and high demands and where they may be exposed to insults. And although burnout isn't even listed as a psychological disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the official guide for mental health practitioners), it's treated similarly to depression if you seek help.

But that's a big "if." Burnout and depression may share a lot of symptoms&mdashfeeling physically and emotionally drained, easily irritated by small problems, misunderstood, and/or underappreciated&mdashbut they don't inspire the same call to action. "People who think they're burned out believe that what they have is not as serious as depression," Schonfeld says. "If it was, they might seek mental health care but since they think it's burnout, they're more likely to book a Caribbean vacation instead." Unfortunately, the same problems they left at the office will be waiting when they come back to work on Monday, he adds. (Try The Power Nutrient Solution for more energy and better overall health.)

Defining Burnout
If you're skeptical that job-related stress and exhaustion could possibly resemble the big black cloud that is depression, you're not alone. "Burnout has always been predictive of depression," explains Christina Maslach, PhD, a psychologist at the University of California Berkeley who devised the standard test for burnout, called the Maslach Burnout Inventory, "but the measure of burnout used in this study is incomplete."

Namely, the study defines burnout solely as exhaustion, according to Michael Leiter, PhD, an organizational psychologist at Acadia University in Canada, who is familiar with the study. "Exhaustion is important, but it's not the whole story," says Leiter, who studies occupational stress. "If burnout is simply exhaustion, you wouldn't need the word burnout exhaustion would do fine." Instead, Leiter measures burnout as a three-part syndrome of exhaustion, cynicism, and inefficacy, in line with Maslach's burnout criteria. "Meta-analyses and reviews have confirmed that over 90% of research on burnout uses this three-part Maslach Burnout Inventory," he says. (Here are 5 weird things stress is doing to your body.)

What's more, Leiter adds, Schonfeld also uses a measure of depression in which exhaustion is its primary symptom. "Dr. Schonfeld has loaded the dice in favor of equating burnout and depression by using a limited, exhaustion-only measure of burnout," he says. "Although exhaustion is an important part of burnout, it is not the most important and certainly not the most interesting." This perspective leaves out entirely the other two components, according to Leiter: how people lose their emotional connection with their work and colleagues (that's cynicism), and how they lose confidence in the value and effectiveness of their work (that's the inefficacy part).

"In short, burnout is a crisis in employees' psychological connection with work," Leiter says. "Equating it with a mental illness&mdashdepression specifically&mdashis not a useful contribution." He agrees that the extreme end of burnout can be linked to physical and mental disorders, and that once burnout becomes extreme, it's very challenging to recover without sustained help.

Which is why ultimately it's less important to distinguish burnout from depression than to get the help you may need if you're really struggling, especially since both are treated similarly&mdashusually with cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), sometimes in conjunction with medication. A therapist can help you identify the biggest problems at your job, such as poor management or unrealistic expectations, and seek out meaningful change whenever possible&mdashmaybe by turning tedious tasks into a game, reframing sales pitches as a chance to meet new people, or changing how you communicate with your coworkers to inspire change in how they communicate with you. (Try this 5-minute technique that lowers stress 55%.) "Addressing burnout means improving relationships," Leiter says, "the relationship of people with their work and with the people at work."

If you think you might be suffering from burnout, depression, or both, go to the website of the American Psychological Association and enter your zip code and required area of specialization to find a qualified therapist who can help.


Instagramming Your Food May Signal Bigger Problem, Researcher Says

Friends who seem to post a photo of every meal they eat on Instagram or Twitter may not just be annoying, they may have a problem.

The trend of "foodstagramming" has bothered some restaurants to the point they have prohibited diners from snapping photos of their meals. But Dr. Valerie Taylor, chief of psychiatry at Women's College Hospital at the University of Toronto, argues that obsessively documenting one's meals could be a signal of a larger dieting problem.

"I see clients for whom food has become problematic, and they struggle to go out and not have food be the key element of all social interaction: what they eat, when they ate, when they are going to eat again," Taylor told The Huffington Post.

Taylor spoke at the Canadian Obesity Summit in Vancouver last week about eating disorders and food's role in our culture. While Taylor admitted that sharing photos of food on social media is relatively common, she said that in some cases it can come at the exclusion of everything else.

"The concern becomes when all they do is send pictures of food," Taylor told HuffPost. "We take pictures of things that are important to us, and for some people, the food itself becomes central and the rest -– the venue, the company, et cetera -- is background."

While Taylor argues that producing such images may signal an unhealthy preoccupation with food, others have linked the consumption of food photography to eating issues and weight gain. Television host Mehmet Oz did a segment on his show, "Dr. Oz," in October arguing that "food porn" was making society fatter. Oz was referring to people who viewed glossy photographs, such as those in magazines and on blogs, but Food & Wine's Gail Simmons said food photography is nothing new, since her employer's been doing it for decades.

However, Taylor isn't just focused on Instagram users. She noted in her speech that food tattoos send a similar warning sign.

"I think for some people it highlights how important food has become," Taylor said. "Just like the tattoos of 'I love McDonald's' replacing the 'I love Mom' tattoo, food is taking on a very important role. It has moved beyond simply fuel."


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Hating your looks

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a condition related to OCD in which people fixate on a part of their body they consider abnormal or unattractive&mdashoften their nose, skin, or hair. (Unlike eating disorders, BDD doesn't involve a focus on weight or diet changes.) The obsessive thoughts associated with BDD are very similar to those seen in OCD. Many people with BDD also have OCD and worry about the cleanliness of their body in addition to how it looks.

When to seek help: It's normal to dislike some aspects of your features. But people with BDD may spend hours a day checking the mirror. "You overvalue how important it is to you and others and may avoid being around people," Szymanski says.

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