What Are Eating Disorders?
Eating disorders are conditions that are characterized by unbalanced eating habits and severe distress or concern about body weight or shape. Eating disorders may include insufficient or excessive food intake which can eventually damage an individual’s well-being. Eating disorders negatively impact one’s health, they can cause harm to the heart, bones, digestive system, mouth, and teeth and can also lead to other severe complications.
Eating disorders are common amongst teens and young adults, but they can also develop at other ages. Although these conditions are treatable, the symptoms and consequences can be harmful and deadly if not addressed. Eating disorders commonly exist with other conditions such as substance abuse, anxiety disorders, or depression. One can return to healthier eating habits and avoid serious complications caused by eating disorders with the right treatment.
Types of Eating Disorders
There are three most common forms of eating disorders which include Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Binge Eating Disorder and they affect both females and males.
Anorexia Nervosa, commonly known as “anorexia,” is a life-threatening eating disorder that is characterized by an obsessive fear of gaining weight. It comes with some other symptoms such as abnormally low body weight, refusal to maintain healthy body weight, and an unrealistic opinion of body image.
Individuals with anorexia nervosa often limit the amount of food they eat and see themselves as overweight, even when they are underweight. They also use other methods to lose weight such as using laxatives, excessive exercise, or vomiting after eating. Anorexia can have negative health effects, such as multi-organ failure, brain damage, heart difficulties, bone loss, and, infertility. The risk of death is highest in individuals with this disorder.
Bulimia Nervosa, commonly called “bulimia” is also a life-threatening disorder described by continuous binge eating accompanied by actions that compensate for overeating, such as excessive exercise, forced vomiting, or extreme use of laxatives.
People who suffer from Bulimia may fear weight gain and feel very unhappy with their body size and shape. The binge-eating and purging cycle is usually done in secret, which creates feelings of shame, guilt, and lack of control. Some negative effects bulimia can have on an individual are severe dehydration, gastrointestinal problems, and heart issues.
Binge-eating disorder is a type of eating disorder whereby one eats too much food regularly. People who suffer from binge eating disorder will often feel a lack of control over their food consumption. It is different from bulimia nervosa because there is no purging or forced vomiting and after and as a result, many people suffering from this disorder may be obese and at an increased risk of developing other conditions such as cardiovascular disease. Individuals who struggle with this disorder can also experience intense feelings of guilt, distress, and embarrassment related to their binge eating. All these could fuel the further progression of the eating disorder.
Symptoms of Eating Disorders
- Adopting an overly restrictive vegetarian diet
- Excessive focus on healthy eating
- Skipping meals or making excuses for not eating
- Excess exercise
- Withdrawal from normal social activities
- Taking excuse during meals to use the toilet
- Frequent checking in the mirror for perceived flaws
- Swapping between days of overeating and fasting
- Eating in secret, also cutting food into tiny pieces, and hiding food
- Expressing disgust, depression, guilt, or shame about eating habits
- Making their meals rather than eat what the rest of the family eats
- Always complaining or worrying about fat and talk of losing weight
- Always eating large amounts of sweets or high-fat foods
- Making use of dietary supplements, laxative, or other herbal products for weight loss
- Loss of tooth enamel as a sign or result of repeated vomiting
Causes of Eating Disorders
Eating disorders are complicated disorders, caused by a lot of factors. Although the main cause of eating disorders is unknown, it is mostly assumed that a combination of psychological, biological, and/or environmental factors contribute to the development of these disorders. The following are some of the causes of EDs.
This commonly comes as irregular hormone functions.
Some individuals may have genes that pose the risk of them developing eating disorders.
Negative body image and poor self-esteem are common psychological causes of eating disorders.
Dysfunctional families and other environmental conditions may cause eating disorders.
Complications of Eating Disorders
Eating disorders cause a wide range of complications, some of which are harmful and life-threatening. The more serious or long-lasting the eating disorder, the more likely one is exposed to serious complications such as:
- Depression and anxiety
- Substance use disorders
- Suicidal thoughts and behavior
- Social and relationship problems
- Issues with growth and development
- Work and school issues
How to Prevent Eating Disorders
There are various ways in which one can prevent eating disorders. Parents and caregivers should ensure that their children are not exposed to the risk of having the disorder. Here are some of the preventive measures to take.
Don`t Diet Around your Child
Once a child sees their parents dieting, the child may want to join in the routine. The family must eat meals together to teach the child the dangers of dieting. It will also encourage eating a balanced diet in the right proportion.
Talk with your Child
If you notice that your child is beginning to develop eating disorders or showing the symptoms, don`t look away or see it as nothing. Talk to your child, and let them in on the risks of following through with that method. It is also important to correct the child’s misperceptions about websites that promote unhealthy eating.
Help Build your Child’s Self-Esteem
You can also help the child by building his or her self-esteem. Talk to the child about self-image and offer reassurances that bodies can vary, let the child know that their body size is beautiful. Messages of acceptance will help build their self-esteem.
How to Treat Eating Disorders
Treatments for eating disorders usually comprise one or more of the following and are addressed with medical doctors, nutritionists, and therapists for complete care.
Some medications are effective in resolving anxiety or mood symptoms that can occur when one suffers from an eating disorder.
Medical Care and Monitoring
The main concern in the treatment of eating disorders is addressing any health issues that might have been a result of eating disordered behaviors.
Nutrition is also an important aspect of the treatment of eating disorders. It entails weight restoration and stabilization, guidance for normal eating, and the addition of an individualized meal plan.
Individuals, families, and support groups can help with psychotherapy to address the underlying causes of eating disorders. Therapy is an important treatment that gives an individual in recovery the opportunity to address and heal from traumatic life events, as well as learn healthier surviving skills for conveying emotions, communicating, and also maintaining strong relationships.
Now that you Know…
Eating disorders should not be treated as minor problems because they can lead to other complications that one may not be able to handle. Different levels of treatment, ranging from outpatient support groups to inpatient treatment centers, are available, based on the severity of the eating disorder. Furthermore, recognizing and addressing the eating disorder is crucial in treatment.