Your physical and mental health are both negatively impacted by eating disorders, which are serious medical illnesses. These conditions include issues with your eating habits, weight, shape, and way of thinking about food. Your health, your emotions, and your capacity to carry out essential life functions may all be impacted by these symptoms.
Eating disorders can lead to long-term issues and, in extreme circumstances, even death if they are not properly addressed. Anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating disorder are the three most prevalent eating disorders.
The majority of eating disorders entail an excessive emphasis on food, body image, and weight. This may result in risky eating habits. These actions can have a significant negative impact on your body’s capacity to absorb nutrients. The heart, digestive system, bones, teeth, and mouth can all be harmed by eating disorders. They might trigger other illnesses. They have also been connected to suicide thoughts and actions, self-harm, anxiety, and sadness.
You may regain healthier eating habits and develop better ways of thinking about food and your body with the right care. Additionally, you might be able to reverse or lessen the significant issues brought on by the eating disorder.
Anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are two examples of eating disorders that feature abnormal eating, obsession with food, and a lot of body image issues. The behaviour or symptoms have a major negative impact on functioning, significant distress, or significant risk to one’s health. Anorexia nervosa frequently begins in adolescence or early adulthood and is linked to early death from medical problems or suicide. A considerable rise in the risk of substance abuse, suicidality, and health issues exists in those with bulimia nervosa. Family-based therapy and cognitive-based therapy are two effective therapeutic methods.
Types of Eating disorders
Depending on the type of eating disorder, there are various symptoms. The three most prevalent eating disorders are anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder. Body types and sizes can vary greatly among those with eating problems.
Anorexia, commonly known as anorexia nervosa, is a serious eating illness that can have fatal consequences. It comprises an unhealthy low body weight, a strong fear of gaining weight, and an unrealistic perspective on weight and shape. Extreme measures are frequently taken to manage weight and shape in anorexia, and these measures frequently adversely compromise one’s health and daily functioning.
Strict calorie restriction or eliminating particular food types or dietary groupings are both possible symptoms of anorexia. It could entail additional weight-loss strategies like excessive exercise, the use of laxatives or other diet supplements, or vomiting right after eating. Even for people who eat throughout the day or whose weight isn’t exceptionally low, attempts to lose weight can result in serious health issues.
Bulimia, commonly known as bulimia nervosa, is a severe eating condition that can occasionally be fatal. Episodes of bingeing and purging are frequent outcomes of bulimia. Bulimia can occasionally involve persistently drastically restricting one’s food intake. This frequently triggers stronger cravings to binge eat followed by purging.
When someone binges, they consume food in a short period of time, perhaps in an exceptionally high quantity. People who binge experience a sense of powerlessness over their food and an inability to quit. Purging is done to burn off calories after eating because of guilt, humiliation, or a severe fear of gaining weight. Vomiting, excessive exercise, going without food for a while, or adopting other techniques, including taking laxatives, are all examples of purging. To try to lose weight, some people alter their medication dosages, such as the insulin they take
Bulimia also involves being preoccupied with weight and body shape, with severe and harsh self-judgment of personal appearance.
A person with a binge-eating disorder consumes large quantities of food quickly. It seems as though there is no control over eating during bingeing. However, purging does not occur after binge eating. People may consume more food than they intended to during a binge. Eating may continue long after feeling uncomfortable full, even when one is not hungry.
People frequently experience intense remorse, disgust, or shame after bingeing. They may worry about putting on weight. For a while, they might try to severely restrict their food intake. This creates an unhealthy loop by increasing the need to consume. Eating by yourself to conceal bingeing can result from embarrassment. At least once a week, bingeing usually starts up again.
Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder
Extremely restricted eating or avoiding particular foods are both aspects of the avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder. Frequently, the eating habits don’t provide the minimum amount of nourishment required each day. This could cause issues with development, growth, and day-to-day functioning. However, those who have this disease do not worry about gaining weight or expanding their bodies. Instead, they might not feel hungry or reject food that has a certain colour, texture, smell, or taste. Or they may be concerned about potential consequences of eating. For instance, people can be afraid of choking, throwing up, or experiencing gastrointestinal issues.
All ages can be diagnosed with avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder, however younger children are more likely to experience it. Major weight loss or failure to gain weight in childhood are both possible effects of the disease. Major health issues can result from poor nutrition.
The emergence of eating disorders is influenced by a combination of genetics, environment, and social factors. When they feel that other elements of their lives are difficult to manage, some persons with eating disorders may resort to drastic methods to restrict their food intake or food groupings. Obsession with food develops into an undesirable coping mechanism for difficult sentiments or emotions. Therefore, rather than being about food, eating disorders are more about finding appropriate ways to manage your emotions.
It’s not always possible to identify if someone has an eating disorder based solely on appearance. An eating disorder can affect anyone, regardless of size or weight. Eating disorders frequently have an effect on how people feel or relate to food, which is unrelated to their size or weight.
Different eating disorders have different specific symptoms. Given that eating disorders frequently imitate diets, they can be challenging to identify. Or, someone who is battling an eating disorder can be reluctant to discuss their eating issues. You might notice any of these general changes if you or a loved one has an eating disorder:
- Mood swings.
- Fatigue, fainting or dizziness.
- Thinning hair or hair loss.
- Frequent bathroom breaks after eating.
- Unexplained weight changes or drastic weight loss.
- Unusual sweating or hot flashes.
Other changes could include:
- Solo dining or not wanting to eat with other people.
- Withdrawing from friends or social activities.
- Hiding food or throwing it away.
- Fixation on food, calories, exercise or weight loss.
- Food rituals (chewing food longer than necessary, eating in secret).
Eating disorders are identified by healthcare professionals including doctors and mental health specialists. Your primary care physician might assess your symptoms, conduct a physical exam, and request blood work. A psychological evaluation is carried out by a mental health professional, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist, to find out more about your eating habits and beliefs.
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), published by the American Psychiatric Association, is used by professionals to make diagnoses. Each form of eating disorder’s symptoms are listed in the DSM. To be diagnosed with an eating disorder, you don’t need to exhibit all of the symptoms. And even if you don’t have a specific eating disorder that is classified in the DSM, you can still require assistance in resolving food-related problems.
Treatments and therapies
Early treatment for eating problems is critical. Eating disorder sufferers are more likely to commit suicide and have serious health issues. Other mental illnesses (such depression or anxiety) or substance use issues are frequently present in people with eating disorders. It’s possible to heal fully.
Treatment plans are tailored to individual needs and may include one or more of the following:
- Individual, group, and/or family psychotherapy
- Medical care and monitoring
- Nutritional counselling
Family-based therapy, a form of psychotherapy where parents of adolescents with anorexia nervosa take on responsibility for feeding their child, seems to be quite beneficial in assisting people in gaining weight and improving eating habits and emotions.
patients may receive cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), a different sort of psychotherapy that teaches patients how to recognise distorted or harmful thought processes as well as recognise and correct false beliefs, in order to lessen or eradicate their binge-eating and purging tendencies.
Evidence also points to the possibility that drugs like mood stabilisers, antipsychotics, and antidepressants may be beneficial for treating eating disorders and other co-occurring conditions like anxiety or depression.