Eating disorders are types of illnesses which typically involve irregular eating habits. Also, they usually come with severe feelings of concern or distress about one’s body shape or weight. Such disorders may include excessive or inadequate food intake which, in turn, may damage the overall well-being of the person. Eating disorders can affect both men and women, and to prevent them, it’s important to understand them more.
Typically, eating disorders appear during young adulthood or the teenage years. But, they can develop at any age and stage in life. These disorders are classified as a form of medical condition. Therefore, the appropriate treatment may prove to be very effective for some types of eating disorders.
Yes, eating disorders are treatable. However, it’s important to diagnose them early. This is because the symptoms and their consequences can be extremely detrimental, even deadly, if not dealt with. A lot of times, eating disorders coexist with other psychological conditions such as depression, anxiety disorders or even substance abuse. Here are the most common types of eating disorders and why they happen:
Anorexia nervosa is a very dangerous eating disorder. A person who suffers from anorexia nervosa would typically have a severe fear of gaining weight, sometimes bordering on obsession. They refuse to maintain their healthy body weight because they have an extremely unrealistic body perception. A lot of people who suffer from this eating disorder will limit their food intake fiercely. This is because they see themselves as overweight even in cases when the person is clearly underweighting already. Because of this behavior, anorexia nervosa can have some very damaging effects on the health. This includes bone loss, infertility, brain damage, heart difficulties, and multi-organ failure. Also, the risk of death is highest in people who suffer from this condition.
This condition is characterized by a person’s extreme fear of gaining weight. Men or women suffering from this disease often exercise and diet relentlessly. Sometimes, they may even reach the point of starvation, which can be very harmful. About a half of those suffering from anorexia nervosa also purge by misusing laxatives or even by vomiting. People who suffer from this disease have a distorted perception of their body. Even if they’re already severely underweight, they still believe that they’re overweight. They obsessively count the calories of everything they eat. They will only allow themselves to consume very small portions of specific kinds of food. When someone confronts them, they will usually deny that they have a problem.
In the beginning, the signs of anorexia may be subtle. This is because the disease develops at a gradual pace. It may start as an interest in losing weight before an important event. But as the disease takes hold of the person, his preoccupation with his weight starts to intensify. Then a vicious cycle emerges – as the person loses more weight, the more he would obsess and worry about his weight.
People who suffer from anorexia nervosa are very good at hiding their condition. Therefore it may already become severe before anyone else notices that there’s something wrong. But when someone learns that his loved one is suffering from this disorder, it’s important to consult with a doctor right away. If the condition is left untreated, it can lead to malnutrition, organ failure, and other serious complications. With the right treatment, however, most people who suffer from anorexia may be able to reach their ideal weight once again. Also, the physical issues they have developed would have been treated too as the condition gets better.
This is another common type of eating disorder. A person who suffers from binge-eating disorder frequently loses control over his eating habits. A lot of people think this is the same as bulimia nervosa, but it’s not. When the person has a binge-eating episode, he won’t perform the following typical behaviors to compensate for what he ate. Therefore a lot of people who suffer from this condition are obese. Also, they’re more at risk of developing cardiovascular disease and other harmful conditions. People who suffer from binge-eating disorder may also experience intense feelings of distress, embarrassment, and guilt whenever they’re binge-eating. This, in turn, affects the progression of the disorder.
Instead of consuming too much food all the time, people with this condition have recurrent episodes where they binge on huge quantities of food. Just like people who suffer from other eating disorders, they don’t feel in control during the binge-eating episodes. Then when the episodes are done, they feel shame and guilt about how much they’ve eaten. Just like anorexia nervosa, a vicious cycle emerges. The more they binge, the more distressed they feel about it. But the more distressed they feel, the more they end up bingeing. And because they don’t fast, exercise or purge after each episode, they usually end up gaining a lot of weight.
Unlike all the other eating disorder, this one occurs in men and women equally. According to statistics, the average age at which the disorder starts is 25 years old. Also, it’s a lot more common in people below 60 years old. Often, binge-eating eventually leads to obesity. Because of this, if left untreated, it can result in some serious health issues. To help treat the condition, one may have to undergo behavioral weight-reduction programs. These can help with the weight loss as well as being able to control one’s urge to binge. Aside from this, psychotherapy and taking antidepressants may help because the condition usually occurs along with depression.
Bulimia nervosa is one of the more common eating disorders. It’s characterized by binge-eating frequently then compensating for the overeating by exercising too much, forced vomiting or even by using diuretics or laxatives too much. People who suffer from bulimia nervosa may have a fear of weight gain. They may also be very unhappy about their body’s shape and size. Typically, the binge-eating and purging happen in secret. And it’s usually accompanied by a lack of control, guilt, and shame. Bulimia nervosa have some harmful effects such as severe dehydration, heart difficulties, gastrointestinal issues, and more.
Men and women who struggle with this condition frequently have episodes where they consume huge amounts of food followed by a compensating behavior. Unlike those suffering from anorexia nervosa though, those who struggle with bulimia nervosa usually have a normal weight. However, they do have the same distorted body perception and the extreme fear or gaining weight. They usually see themselves as fat which is why they desperately try to lose weight. People with this condition are very good at hiding their behaviors. This is because they often feel disgusted and ashamed with themselves and with what they’re doing.
If this condition isn’t treated, it may lead to health issues in the long-run. These include dental problems, kidney problems, abnormal heart rhythms, and even esophageal bleeding because of excessive acid reflux. Fortunately, this can be treated with antidepressants, anticonvulsant medicines, and cognitive-behavioral therapy. A combination of these methods may also be used in the treatment of the condition, especially in more severe cases.
Restrictive or Avoidant Food Intake Disorder
This (as well as the next one) aren’t very common and well-known eating disorders. Restrictive or avoidant food intake disorder is when the person fails to meet his minimum daily nutrition requirements because of different reasons. First, the person may not have any interest in eating. Second, he may be avoiding specific foods which have distinct sensory characteristics such as taste, smell, color or texture. Finally, the person may be worried about the consequences of consuming food. He may have a fear of choking he may also have a fear of gaining weight. This disorder may lead to a significant weight loss. Either that or it may fail to gain enough weight, which may happen in children. The nutritional deficiencies which come because of this disorder may also cause health issues.
Finally, there’s also rumination disorder, which isn’t very common. This is characterized by persistent and recurrent regurgitation of food right after eating. However, this isn’t caused by a medical condition or another eating disorder. When a person consumes food, it comes back into the mouth without gagging or nausea. Also, the regurgitation isn’t intentional. Sometimes, the person may chew or swallow the regurgitated food again. Often though, people spit out the food that comes back up. When this happens too often, it may lead to malnutrition. Also, some people who suffer from this condition may eat significantly less to prevent the regurgitation from occurring. Rumination disorder is a lot more common in infants and in people who also suffer from intellectual disabilities.
Prevention Is Better Than Cure
These are the most well-known eating disorders out there. Sadly though, there’s no sure way to prevent them from happening. But, there are some things which can help you develop healthy-eating behaviors. These strategies are especially beneficial for children who are still learning h
how to eat well and feel good about their bodies. Consider these strategies:
- If you have a child at home, avoid dieting or talking about dieting around him. Children’s relationship with food is significantly influenced by their dining habits with the family. When you eat meals as a family, it also gives you the chance to teach your child about healthy eating habits. You can encourage your child to eat a balanced diet in appropriate portions.
- Speak openly about food and eating disorders. When it comes to dieting and eating habits, it’s important to communicate. This will avoid any risks of developing eating disorders and frequently choosing unhealthy food options.
- Nurture and encourage a healthy body image. This is especially important for children. Teach your child to love his body no matter what his shape or size is if he is healthy. Talk about self-image and offer reassurances that there are different body shapes and sizes out there. Also, it’s important to avoid criticizing your own body when your child is present.
- If you’re seeing initial signs of eating disorders and unhealthy habits in your child, consult with your doctor. This is important especially if you don’t really know how to approach the situation. Encourage your child to ask questions and make sure to answer his questions reassuringly.
Finally, if you notice that your child or one of your loved ones is showing signs of an eating disorder, talk to that person. This will show that you have a genuine concern for his well-being. You may not be able to prevent the development of the disorder but reaching out can help a lot. You may even encourage the person to seek treatment for his problem.
The Common Factors Which Cause Eating Disorders
Eating disorders are very complex, and they’re influenced by different factors. There’s no single cause of eating disorders, but it’s believed that a combination of factors can contribute to the development of the conditions. Here are some of the common factors which may cause eating disorders:
Biology and genetics. Some people may be genetically vulnerable to developing such disorders. Studies have shown that those who have parents or siblings with an eating disorder are predisposed to develop one as well. Also, there’s evidence that the brain chemical serotonin may influence eating behaviors. This is because of its link to controlling the intake of food.
Emotional and psychological conditions. Usually, people who suffer from eating disorders also have contributing emotional and psychological issues. The person may suffer from issues like perfectionism, anger management issues, low self-esteem, troubled relationships or even conflicts in the family.
Cultural and social issues. Popular trends and media frequently cultivates and reinforces a body image which is supposed to be ideal. They also focus on the ideal body shape and appearance. Because of this, it’s easy for those with a predisposition towards an eating disorder to get the wrong idea. They may start to believe that success and worth can only be achieved by those who have the “ideal” body. Also, peer pressure may contribute to this obsession, especially among young and impressionable women.
Fortunately, There’s Always Hope
Eating disorders are complex and severe. Because of this, there are also different kinds of treatments available for them. The best thing to do is to seek treatment from a medical professional. Usually, treatment plans are necessary for those suffering from any eating disorder. Such plans are usually comprised of one or more of the following methods:
Monitoring and medical care. Aside from the eating disorder, your doctor should also address all health issues which may have appeared because of the disorder.
Nutrition. This usually involves weight restoration and maintenance, guidance for healthy eating, and integrating an individualized meal plan.
Therapy. There are different forms of psychotherapy which can serve as a treatment for eating disorders. Therapy is one of the most important parts of the treatment because it provides an opportunity to deal with and heal all the issues of the individual.
Medications. Finally, some types of medications may help resolve the anxiety or mood symptoms which occur with the eating disorders. Usually, though, such medications are only prescribed as a last resort.