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Eating Disorders – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Is your Instagram full with filtered pictures of food? Or people showing off their summer bodies? Do you envy the food they are eating or the shape they are in? Do you force yourself into a lifestyle that limits your nutrition intake? Or do you overeat to cope with stress? Do you have irregular eating habits? If the answer to any of these questions is ‘Yes’, then you may be towards the course of eating disorders.Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat have created new standards of lifestyle. Every day, we are told or made envious about what to eat, how to dress up, where to go, even how to be happy. These standards seem to affect some people more than others. These extra conventional body standards gave rise to serious mental illnesses.

Eating a variety of delicacies from around the world is not only about nutrition but a fun hobby, a stress-reliever or a source of income for some people (food bloggers, chefs, food quality checkers, etc.). But food can be an enemy to some people. Yes, you read that right. To people suffering from eating disorders, a nice meal with friends or family is a challenge.

In this article, we will try to open a positive discussion about Eating Disorders, its causes, symptoms, and treatment.

What is an eating disorder?

Eating Disorder is a mental illness that leads to irregular eating habits or concern about body weight and shape. It includes eating behaviors that negatively impact your health, emotions, and functioning. The abnormal eating behaviors and patterns of exercising are characterized as eating disorders. It involves, both, eating more than enough or starving yourself.

Eating Disorders are often misunderstood as phases of life or lifestyle choices. But this is not true since this unhealthy attitude towards food can make you ill and even be deadly if not treated at the right time. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder. Eating disorders can be harmful to the heart, digestive system, bones, teeth and may lead to other diseases.

Eating disorders are one of the most misunderstood mental illnesses. There is a very thin line between wanting to follow a healthy lifestyle and falling into eating disordered thinking.

In brief, eating disorders include an obsession with food or body shape to regain control or deal with anxiety disorders leading to disturbed eating habits. These disorders affect a person’s self of identity, worth or self-esteem.

What are the different types and symptoms of Eating Disorders?

There are three most common types of eating disorders. Each type has a unique set of symptoms that separate it from others.

Anorexia Nervosa

It is the most well-known eating disorders. People suffering from Anorexia starve themselves out of fear for weight gain. They see themselves as overweight even if they are dangerously underweight. In anorexia, people deny having healthy eating habits because they wish to achieve an unrealistic body image. It is a life-threatening eating disorder. This excessive control on the intake of food and extreme physical activity makes people with anorexia attain unhealthy lifestyle.

Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa:

  • Restricted eating patterns
  • Limiting food intake
  • Being underweight compared to people of the same age group and height
  • Denying being underweight or extreme thinness
  • Intense fear of weight gain
  • Excessive exercising to avoid weight gain
  • Distorted self-esteem
  • Vomiting after eating
  • Brittle hair and nails
  • Pale skin
  • Social withdrawal
  • Fear of eating in public

Anorexia can result in heart, brain or multi-organ failure or even death.

Bulimia Nervosa

Frequent episodes of eating unusually large quantities of food in a short period of time, repeated binge eating and not having control on eating are the factors identified with Bulimia Nervosa. These episodes of overeating are followed by compensatory behaviors like purging, laxatives, fasting, excessive exercising, and forced vomiting. People suffering from bulimia are usually unhappy with their body shapes and fear weight gain. The episodes of overeating are secretive and lead to feelings of shame and guilt. In Bulimia, people tend to overeat and then burn the calories in unhealthy ways.

Symptoms of Bulimia Nervosa:

  • Severe self-judgment
  • Repeated episodes of binge-eating
  • Fear of weight gain, despite having a normal weight
  • Sore throat
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • A feeling of being out of control
  • Shame/Guilt about eating
  • Severe dehydration
  • Electrolyte imbalance
  • Social withdrawal

Binge-Eating Disorder

Similar to Bulimia, Binge-Eating Disorder involves recurrent episodes of overeating and feeling of guilt. The biggest difference is that unlike Bulimia, there are no compensatory behaviors like forced vomiting, purging or excessive exercising to Binge-Eating Disorder. People suffering from this disorder may continue eating even after they are full or are not hungry. People with this disorder tend to be more obese or overweight. The binge-eating episodes may make people feel uncomfortable, guilty and shameful.

Symptoms of Binge-Eating Disorder:

  • Frequent episodes of overeating
  • Eating large amounts of food hurriedly
  • Eating even when not hungry or comfortably full
  • Eating at a very fast speed
  • Feeling distressed or guilty about eating
  • No purging behaviors
  • Lack of control on binge-eating

What are the causes of Eating Disorders?

The exact causes of eating disorders are, yet, unknown to medical science. A combination of biological, psychological and environmental factors lead to the development of these disorders.

  1. Genetics: If you have a blood relative (a parent or sibling) with an eating disorder, your chances of developing the disease increases. Studies have proved that eating disorders can be hereditary.
  2. Brain Biology: Irregular hormone functions, change in brain cells and nutritional deficiencies are some other biological factors that lead to the development of eating disorders.
  3. Psychological problems: Many problems contribute to eating disorders. The following are some examples of factors that add to the development of eating disorders.
  • Low self-esteem
  • Negative body image
  • Perfectionism
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Peer pressure for perfect body shape
  • Pressure from Popular culture
  • Troubled relationships
  • The pressure to attain perfection in aesthetically oriented sports
  • Dysfunctional family dynamics
  • Childhood traumas

What are the risk factors associated with Eating Disorders?

Eating disorders can affect people of all ages, ethnicities, backgrounds, and genders. Although, women are more prone to develop eating disorders than men. Similarly, teenage girls are at a higher risk of being affected by eating disorders than teenage boys.

Eating disorders mostly develop during teens or early 20s. You would be at a higher risk of medical complications of eating disorders if:

  • You have a family history of the disease.
  • You have a history of anxiety disorder, depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder or negative mental health
  • You follow dieting beyond natural patterns and limit your digestive needs.
  • You are going through life-changing experiences.

Also, Read About: Treating Anxiety, Depression & Insomnia

How to Treat Eating Disorders?

It is easier to treat an eating disorder if the diagnosis of the disease is early. Each eating disorder has its own treatment criteria.

Since eating disorders occur with other mental illness, it is very important to identify and start treatment for the disorder as early as possible.

Complete recovery is possible if the right treatment is provided.

Treatments will vary depending upon the type of disorder but will generally include:

  • Psychotherapy: This includes behavioral or talks therapy. Therapy can be useful in addressing the underlying cause of the eating disorder. It is also a fundamental form of treatment.
  • Medications: Medical professionals may design the treatment in a form to include medications like antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs. There is no medication available to treat eating disorders. But mood stabilizers may reduce the severity of the disorder because eating disorder co-occurs with other mental illnesses.
  • Nutrition: Nutritional counseling is extremely important to cure eating disorders. This would involve weight restoration and assessment of individual meal plans.
  • Medial Care and Monitoring: If any other health issues have had resurfaced because of eating disorders, the primary task of medical experts is to address that situation. Best and effective medical care needs to be given to the patient to stabilize him or her.

What are the warning signs in a person with Eating Disorders?

Eating disorders are often complicated and cannot be known without apt awareness. It may become difficult to understand if any of your loved ones is suffering from the disease. However, there are a few warning signs which may be identified in a person. These include:

  • Dramatic weight loss
  • Social Withdrawal
  • Lies about their eating patterns
  • Eating food at a very high speed
  • Going to the restroom a lot after eating
  • Excessive exercising
  • Not eating with others
  • Eating very slowly

If your family member or friend shows any of the above signs, have a detailed talk with them. And ask them to consult a doctor as soon as possible.

Also, Read About: 5 Common Eating Habit Mistakes

Myths about Eating Disorders

As the discussion on eating disorders is not very prime, the illness can be complex to understand. Social media has recently started debating issues relating to health. All these discussions and debates have given rise to certain myths about eating disorders. Believing these myths may be harmful to anyone who might be suffering from the illness.

Here are some myths about eating disorders you need to stop believing:

“If you want to lose weight, you must starve yourself”- If you wish to maintain a healthy weight, you must eat a healthy diet and not starve yourself for instant weight loss.

Only teenage girls can have eating disorders– Eating disorders are as real as heart attack and can affect anyone who has irregular eating habits irrespective of their gender or age.

“All eating disorders are about starvation”- There are different kinds of eating disorders. Some include overeating also. It is important to identify the type of disorder a person has to treat him/her rightly.

“People with eating disorders do not even understand nutrition”- Eating disorder is a real mental illness and the patients lose self-control. Other factors also play a role in the development of the illness. It is not necessary that they do not know and understand what nutrition means. It just means they have difficulty implying the patterns of proper nutrition intake.

Take Away

Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses that can lead to death. Proper and early treatment is required in this case. Signs and symptoms of particular disorders should be identified as early as possible. Parents need to monitor the eating habits of their children (especially if they are teenagers) and have a discussion before taking other steps. Since eating disorders are linked with mental illnesses, these cases should be dealt with empathy and affection.

Also, Read About: Night Eating Syndrome: Midnight Munchies Disorder

If you think you or your loved ones have any of the above eating disorders, consult the best doctor in your city now or book an appointment with Credihealth.

For more information or personal guidance, talk to Credihealth Medial Expert today.

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