What is an Eating Disorder?

Eating Disorders are serious conditions that include persistent eating behaviors that negatively impact physical and mental health. They include Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Binge-Eating Disorder. The focus of most eating disorders is on weight and body image, and secondly eating and exercising behaviors that control weight. If severe enough, they can cause significant damage to the body, including heart failure, digestive issues, weak bones, and general malnutrition and poor health.

Types of Eating Disorders:

Anorexia Nervosa: a potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by an abnormally low body weight, intense fear of gaining weight, and a distorted perception of weight or shape. It is categorized by excessive calorie limiting or other extreme measures to lose eight such as laxatives, diet pills, or vomiting after eating. Because these methods to lose weight are so extreme, health quickly deteriorates and can become quite severe, sometimes even leading to death.

Bulimia Nervosa: a potentially life-threatening eating disorder involving periods of bingeing and purging, while feeling a loss of control about eating. Many people with Bulimia restrict calories during most of the day and then binge and purge later due to loss of control. Binges typically involve ingesting a large amount of food quickly and in a short time, and then ridding the calories in an unhealthy way such as purging or over exercising.

Binge-Eating Disorder: regularly bingeing, or eating to excess, and feeling a constant lack of control over eating. Often eating too quickly or more than intended and feeling remorse afterwards. These episodes occur even when not hungry and may continue despite being uncomfortably full and are often followed by disgust and shame over the amount of food consumed. Episodes must occur at least once a week and people may be of normal weight or overweight or obese.

Warning Signs:

  • Skipping meals or making excuses for not eating
  • Extreme or sudden weight loss
  • Always trying extreme or overly restrictive diets
  • Excessive focus on healthy eating
  • Preparing their own, special meals
  • Avoiding social activities that involve food
  • Persistent worry or complaining about being overweight
  • Frequent talk about losing weight
  • Obsessive checking of body in mirror
  • Eating large amounts of food in one sitting
  • Use of supplements or laxatives
  • Excessive exercise
  • Calluses on hands from vomiting
  • Tooth decay
  • Leaving during meals to use the restroom
  • Eating in secret

What Causes Eating Disorders?

Eating Disorders develop for many reasons and it is generally a combination of a number of factors that lead to the development of an Eating Disorder, such as genetics, the media, peer pressure, self-imposed pressure to be perfect, or exposure to repeated criticism. Intense anxiety fuel eating disorders and make it difficult to love and accept one’s self. Anyone can develop an eating disorder and at any age.

Treatment:

There are a number of levels of treatment for eating disorders. In most cases it requires an entire team of professionals including physicians, mental health providers/therapist, and dietitians. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Family therapy are both common approaches to therapy. CBT teaches how to learn to monitor eating and moods, problem solve, and coping skills to help deal with stressful situations. Family therapy helps build a safe and supportive environment of people. Physicians and Dietitians help educate on food and health while balancing any medical problems that may have been caused by malnutrition.

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