By Saima Bano, Clinical Psychologist
There is a widespread misperception that eating problems are a lifestyle choice. In reality, eating disorders are severe, frequently fatal illnesses that are linked to substantial abnormalities in a person’s eating behavior as well as associated thoughts and feelings. An eating disorder may also be indicated by an individual’s preoccupation with food, weight, or body image. The most frequent psychiatric conditions that co-exist with eating disorders include anxiety and mood disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and issues with alcohol and other drug addiction.
Some common eating disorders and their symptoms
A person with anorexia nervosa, may completely forgo food, consume only extremely small amounts of a select few items, or severely restrict their food intake. Additionally, they could continue to weigh themselves and may perceive themselves as overweight even when they are dangerously underweight.
Anorexia nervosa can be a restrictive subtype and a binge-purge subtype.
Restrictive: The symptoms of this kind of anorexia nervosa include very strict restrictions on the kinds and amounts of food they can eat.
Binge-purge: People who have this kind of anorexia nervosa have very strict restrictions on the kinds and amounts of food they can eat. Additionally, individuals might experience binge eating and purge episodes in which they consume a lot of food quickly and then throw up or use laxatives or diuretics to get rid of it.
Some symptoms are:
- Extremely limiting diet
- Excessive thinness
- An obsession with thinness and an unwillingness to keep a healthy weight
- Severe anxiety about putting on weight
- A distorted view of one’s body, or self-esteem that is significantly impacted by perceptions of one’s body form and weight
Individuals with bulimia nervosa have frequent and recurrent episodes of overeating amounts of food while also feeling unable to control these episodes. People may engage in compensatory behaviors such as excessive use of laxatives or diuretics, forcing themselves to vomit, fasting after binge eating, excessive exercise, or a combination of these. Also, The weight of bulimia nervosa sufferers can range from overweight to average to slightly underweight.
- Frequently irritated and painful throat
- Salivary glands that are inflamed in the neck and jaw
- Tooth decay and increased sensitivity due to exposure to stomach acid wearing down tooth enamel
- Gastrointestinal issues, including acid reflux disease
- Abuse of laxatives causes intestinal discomfort and irritability
- Severe fluid loss leading to dehydration
- A stroke or a heart attack can result from an electrolyte imbalance (too low or too high levels of sodium, calcium, potassium, and other minerals).
A person with a binge-eating disorder loses control over their eating and experiences recurrent episodes of eating excessive amounts of food. Episodes of binge eating are not necessarily followed by purging, strenuous exercise, or fasting, unlike bulimia nervosa. People with binge eating disorders are frequently overweight or obese as a result.
- Eating a disproportionately large quantity of food quickly,
- Eating despite being full or not being hungry
- Eating quickly when having binge episodes
- Consuming food till one is uncomfortably full
- To avoid shame, eating alone or covertly
- Feeling upset, humiliated, or guilty after eating
- Often dieting, possibly without seeing any weight reduction
It is unclear what specifically causes eating disorders. There may be a variety of causes, similar to other mental diseases, including:
Biological: There is a chance that some people have genetic predispositions to eating problems. Eating disorders may be influenced by biological factors, such as alterations in brain chemistry.
Emotional health and psychological factors: Psychological and emotional issues may be a factor in eating disorders in those who have them. Low self-esteem, perfectionism, impulsive behavior, and problematic relationships could all be present in them.
Numerous issues, some of which are serious, are connected to eating disorders. If an eating disorder is severe or long-lasting, there is a greater chance that major issues will develop, such as:
- Significant health issues
- Both depression and anxiety
- Suicidal ideas or actions
- Issues with development and growth
- Social and interpersonal issues
- Addictions to substances
- Difficulties at work and in school
There are several different types of treatment which include medication, therapy, and nutritional counseling.