All about ‘eating disorder’
Eating disorder is the term that describes the abnormality in “eating.” They are mental problems or conditions that require proper care and treatment. The American Psychiatric Association describes these ill patterns as disorders. The data shows that in the United States, an estimated 28 million Americans have had this problem of eating disorder in their lives .
In nutshell, an eating disorder is a condition that is responsible for the unhealthy eating habits of an individual. People tend to have this unhealthy eating order because of certain reasons. These reasons are listed below;
- Obsession with food.
- The Obsession to have an ideal body weight.
- The Obsession to get an ideal body shape.
People usually take the problem of eating disorders very casually. On the other hand, the problem of eating disorders is a serious condition and if not treated on time it might result in death.
What is an eating disorder?
Eating disorders can be stated as a variety of psychological conditions. The psychological conditions in which the development of unhealthy eating habits formulate in an individual. These disorders, if not treated, can be life-threatening. Therefore, one should seek medical assistance if diagnosed with these eating disorders. Based on symptoms, the eating disorder has a distinct variety of symptoms. Some of the quite common symptoms that can be seen are;
- Restriction of food.
- Food binges.
- Purging or vomiting.
There is no doubt that eating disorders are a serious issue and they are considered one of the deadliest mental illnesses, second to opioid overdose. Eating disorder is not an age-based illness, it can occur to anybody irrespective of the age criteria. It is also not gender-based either.
There are different types of eating disorders. And each type of eating disorder has its specific symptoms. In general, eating disorders in some cases are related to the issue of food and eating. In other cases, it might be related to the weight of the individual.
The mental and behavioral signs that can be seen are as follows.
- Dramatic weight loss – abnormal weight loss
- Concern about eating in public – having a feeling of hesitation to eat in public.
- If a person is preoccupied with facts like weight, food, calories, fat grams, or dieting – always thinking about weight loss, eating less food, calories consumption, or dieting. Moreover, repeatedly weighing oneself.
- Complaints of constipation, abdominal pain, lethargy, and cold intolerance
- Excuses to avoid mealtimes – avoiding food as frequently as possible. And denying the feeling of hunger.
- Intense fear of weight gain or being fat – the fear of getting fat hence, Restriction of food intake is a quite common practice for a person who is going through an eating disorder.
- Overdressing to hide weight – wearing too many clothes to hide their appearance.
- Excessively exercising – working out a lot to express the need to burn off the calories.
- Developing rituals regarding eating food
- Missing menstrual periods (in the case of women)
Apart from mental signs or symptoms, physical signs are also present that include symptoms such as.
- Stomach cramps
- Lack of concentration
- A typical lab test results (anemia, low thyroid levels, low hormone levels, low potassium, low blood cell counts, slow heart rate)
- Having the feeling of dizziness
- Having the feeling of getting faint
- Feeling cold all the time
- Sleep irregularities
- Menstrual irregularities
- Having dry skin
- Having dry thin nails
- Having the problem of thinning hair
- Experiencing the problem of muscle weakness
- Poor wound healing
- Poor immune system function
What causes the problem of eating disorders?
Different factors cause the problem of eating disorders. Some of the causes are enlisted here;
- It is genetically structured: Genetics means that if someone has family members (parents or siblings) and if any of them have an eating disorder then they might be at high risk of developing an eating disorder.
- Personality traits: Personality traits play another major role in developing eating disorders. If we talk about which traits are responsible then we come to know about neuroticism, perfectionism, and impulsivity. These three personality traits are responsible for developing eating disorders.
- Having pressure to get thin: The pressure to get thin is also responsible for developing eating disorders. This can be because of the cultural influences or preferences or exposure to the sources that have this idea.
- Brain structure and biological aspects: Many health professionals believe that the differences in brain structures and biology play an important role in developing eating disorders.
What are the types of eating disorders?
In general, there are 6 types of eating disorders. These disorders have specific symptoms and diagnoses as well. They are listed below:
- Anorexia Nervosa: it is a condition in which a person worries obsessively about gaining too much weight. It develops during the period of adolescence. People who are diagnosed with this problem see themselves as overweight even if they are seriously underweight.
- Bulimia Nervosa: Bulimia Nervosa is a condition in which a person consumes a large amount of food in a short time. And it is followed by the next step and that is purging. Purging can be categorized as forced vomiting or doing excessive exercise. Bulimia Nervosa usually develops during the period of adolescence.
- Binge eating disorder: Binge eating disorder refers to a medical condition that is concerned with feeding and eating issues. It is the most common chronic illness during the period of adolescence. People who are diagnosed with it usually eat large amounts of food in a short period. Moreover, they do not have any purging behaviors afterward.
- Pica: Pica is an eating disorder in which a person consumes food that is not even considered food and these items of food do not have any type of nutritional value. People who are diagnosed with this eating disorder. They crave items like ice, dirt, soil, chalk, soap, paper, etc. which can be seen during the period of adolescence. Therefore, people who are diagnosed with this are at higher risk of getting themselves killed or poisoned.
- Rumination: Rumination is a disorder in which a person who has been diagnosed with its re-chews their food after chewing it for the very first time. This re-chewing is known as regurgitation. This eating disorder is developed during the period of adolescence apart from that it can also develop during infancy or childhood. In infants, it tends to develop between 3 and 12 months of age and often disappears on its own.
- Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder: in this eating disorder, a person experiences disturbed eating patterns due to a lack of interest in eating because of certain smells, tastes, colors, temperatures, or textures. The term “feeding disorder of infancy and early childhood,” is replaced by the term “Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID).” It is a diagnosis that was previously reserved for children under age 7.
Apart from these 6 eating disorders, there are also other disorders such as;
- Purging disorder: It is a disorder in which the individual simply vomits or performs an excessive exercise to control their weight or shape.
- Night eating syndrome: In this, people who are diagnosed, simply tend to eat a lot during the night.
- Other specified eating disorders: This is not a specified eating disorder it is a category that encompasses any disorder that is related to the eating disorder.
What are the treatments for eating disorders?
Eating disorders treatment plans differ from person to person; they are specially tailored to the person. They include a combination of multiple therapies. Mostly the treatments are based on communication and regular check-ups with a physician. There are certain treatment options that can be included, and these are as follows.
- Individual or group psychotherapy: A therapy based on CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy). It helps in reducing disorders such as binge eating, purging, and restricting food.
- Medications: Doctors may recommend certain prescriptions such as antidepressants and antipsychotics stabilizers to help in the treatment of the eating disorder.
- Nutritional counseling: Nutritional counseling involves the involvement of the dietitian in the treatment program.
How to help someone if they are going through an eating disorder?
If someone in your surroundings is going through with any eating disorders. You can follow these steps to help them.
- Listening to them: talking with them and listening to them made them feel comfortable, heard, and respected.
- Including them in activities: you can invite them to activities and to social events, this will bring out the best in them and they tend to think less about their eating disorder.
- Try to build their self-esteem: always try to show that they can do and appreciate their small steps of growth. This will make them do even better.
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