Recognizing Eating Disorders Before They Get Worse
Eating disorders are disabling, but often overlooked mental disorders that impair both physical and mental health. Many do not often realize that this is an actual disease and not some act to gain attention, lose weight, or eat voraciously.
Eating disorders can disrupt social, personal, and work-life without you noticing it. People with eating disorders often have disturbed attitudes towards their weight, body shape, and eating patterns. It is a mental health disorder that affects many people but most of those affected rarely seek help or treatment.
What is an Eating Disorder?
In simple terms, eating disorders are abnormal eating habits that can threaten your health. According to the Journal of Adolescent Health, eating disorders are complex illnesses that are affecting people with increasing frequency
Three major subgroups of eating disorders are recognized: anorexia nervosa – a restrictive form wherein there is limited food intake, bulimia – a condition wherein forceful vomiting follows binge eating and eating disorder not otherwise specified – wherein the criteria of the 2 preceding disorders are not met.
With eating disorders, there is an unhealthy preoccupation with one’s appearance, weight, and food intake that often interferes with daily life. According to The Lancet, eating disorders are associated with serious biological, mental, and social morbidity and mortality. They often coexist with other mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorders.
Studies have confirmed that eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa have the second-highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder. Females are more commonly affected than males.
How Do Eating Disorders Develop?
Eating disorders are complex illnesses with no single known cause. People with eating disorders often use food as coping mechanisms for other problems. Eating disorders do not happen suddenly and on their own but are affected by several components. They can develop as a result of genetic, social, and psychological factors.
Genetic components such as a family of eating disorders or chemical imbalances relating to hunger and appetite have been found to be risk factors for the development of eating disorders. Controlled family studies have found increased rates of eating disorders in relatives of subjects with anorexia and bulimia compared to those without.
Societal beauty and weight standards are also contributing factors to developing eating disorders. Adolescents and many young adults are plagued by social media and marketing, imprinting in their minds that certain body types and appearances are preferred over others. The normalcy of diet culture has also led to many people developing an eating disorder.
Eating disorders are often compounded by mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, a history of trauma, and low self-esteem. According to an article published in the Journal of Psychiatry, eating disorders are provoked by a lack of healthy coping strategies, difficulty expressing feelings, and perfectionist thinking.
What Are The Types of Eating Disorders?
There are many different terms to describe eating disorders, and these specific disorders can even overlap or co-exist. Individuals with eating disorders experience these on a spectrum and can go from one eating disorder to another.
The major types of eating disorders include:
Anorexia nervosa is a condition characterized by severe restriction of food intake, leading to less than ideal body weights. Individuals with anorexia starve themselves because of their intense fear of gaining weight despite being emaciated already.
These people believe they are not thin enough, they are too fat, or they are overweight. Aside from caloric restriction, they also intensify weight loss with exercise, diet pills, and even purging.
Bulimia nervosa is a condition characterized by a destructive cycle of bingeing – consuming large amounts of food in a short period and purging – excretion of what was previously taken in. Individuals with this disorder often have episodes of binge eating, which is usually followed by drastic self-induced vomiting.
Afraid of gaining weight, these people forcefully vomit, fast excessively, or take laxatives. Compared to those suffering from anorexia nervosa, people with bulimia do not necessarily restrict intake and are not always underweight.
Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified
Many people suffer from disordered eating, however, when symptoms of disordered eating cause distress but do not meet the full criteria of the 2 above-mentioned disorders, they are classified under the cluster of eating disorders not otherwise specified.
Warning Signs of an Eating Disorder
Eating disorders can present differently for each person, early and prompt recognition is a must to prevent further complications. Here are some warning signs you can watch out for:
- Avoiding or skipping meals
- Eating very small portions and excessive diet restriction
- Obsessively counting calories and weighing portions
- Taking diet supplements, laxatives, and emetics
- Consumption of excessively large amounts of food
- Increased intake of junk food and sweets
- Complaints such as stomach ache, diarrhea, or constipation
- Obsession with body image and weight
- Significant weight loss or weight gain
When To Get Help
Many people worry about their weight, what they eat, and how they look, especially for adolescents and women. However, when this becomes an obsession and preoccupation, you might be dealing with something more than societal expectations for the body.
If you know someone with the mentioned signs or are experiencing them yourself, seek advice from professionals and consult any MindShift Psychological Services near me. Win the battle against these eating disorders by participating in Psychotherapy for Individuals or Group Therapy with people with similar problems. We also offer Teletherapy for those who may not physically visit our centers. Get the help that you need today!