This is probably one of the most common conditions out there. Eating Disorder or ED is when a person experiences irregular eating habits and has a fear of gaining weight. They also suffer from the anxiety about body weight or shape. Interestingly there is little awareness on it.
It is quite understandable what a person with ED may feel. When faced with the situation of being at a table with all their family members (some will know the problem, others will ignore it) full of starters, which will be followed by salads, main course, desserts and sweets.
Eating disturbances (ED) consists of insufficient or eat large amounts of food. This can cause ultimately damage an individual’s health.
Some most common types of eating disorder include: Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Binge Eating Disorder and affect both genders (females and males).
If you are diagnosed with ED, one thing is for certain- you have a problematic relationship with food that causes great discomfort.
Did you know eating problems can develop at any stage of life?
However they usually appear in adolescence or young adulthood. Classified as a medical condition, proper treatment can be very effective for many particular types of eating syndromes.
This blog features the types of ED, causes, symptoms and treatment.
Let’s kickstart by discussing its types:
Types of Eating Disorders
Anorexia nervosa consists of a restriction of food intake as you have a fear of gaining weight that causes a significant loss of body weight.
The restriction in the consumption of food is usually due to the excessive preoccupation with the shape and weight of the body.
An obsession that can cause significant distortion of one’s own body image. Therefore, although people with anorexia are at a higher risk of becoming extremely thin as they feel they continue to look “fat.”
Bulimia Nervosa is an eating disorder which is led by the presence of recurrent binges, and further inappropriate and repetitive compensatory behaviors.
In order to lose weight or not gain more, some of the common acts which are done are self-induction of vomiting, excessive use of laxatives, diuretics, enemas, excessive physical exercise as well as fasting, etc.
Binge eating disorder
Binge Eating Disorder is characterized by frequent overeating, binge eating and purging. There is lack of control and it is accompanied by strong feelings of psychological discomfort after episodes of binge eating like disgust, guilt, depression
Avoidance / Restriction of Food Intake Disorder
This disorder is characterized by a lack of interest in eating, avoiding food intake, and obsessive concern about the “repulsive” consequences of eating.
It leads to significant weight loss and severe nutritional deficiency. It usually has its origin in childhood.
Pica Disorder is an eating disorder that usually begins in childhood or adolescence. It is characterized by the persistent intake of non-nutritive substances and without any nutritional value, such as sand, plaster, chalk, paper, paint chips, glue.
Rumination disorder is an eating disorder that consists of continuous regurgitation of food without an associated disease or organic cause. It is accompanied by weight loss or the inability to reach a normal weight for the person’s age. This eating disorder develops during childhood.
Other behaviors related to food intake
There are other types of behaviors related to food intake. These due to their characteristics, frequency and intensity, can lead to or act as an important risk factor for the onset or development of any of the mentioned eating disorders.
This is the case of Vigorexia and Orthorexia.
Vigorexia, Adonis Complex or Muscle Dysmorphia, is characterized by an extreme obsession to increase muscle mass. This is done through intense exercise, unbalanced diets, and even the consumption of potentially harmful substances without medical supervision.
It is not a strictly eating disorder, but it does share the obsessive preoccupation with the figure, the distortion of the body image, and the control of food intake.
Orthorexia is a dysfunctional behavior in eating behavior. This is where persistent obsession with the consumption of foods that the person considers healthy is shown.
The rejection of the ingestion of those that are not considered as such from their point of view.
This leads to very restrictive diets, which can lead to significant nutritional deficiencies and heavy weight loss.
Now let’s move onto another important topic:
Obesity, is it an eating disorder?
Obesity is a problem which happens due to to the excess of body fat. This is due to genetic and physiological factors, as well as environmental and behavioral factors.
However, it is increasingly known that behind a person with obesity, emotional aspects such as social stigma, stress, depression exist. These can be at the base of the problem.
Let’s now look into the various causes of ED:
Causes of Eating Disorders
Eating disorders are complex, with multiple and diverse factors influencing their development. Some of the most common ones are:
Low self-esteem, loneliness, feelings of lack of control of their own life, perfectionism, stress, anxiety, anger
Conflicting personal and/or family relationships, unstructured families, little physical and emotional contact, overprotection by the environment, traumatic experiences of harassment and/or violence due to being overweight, traumatic experiences of physical abuse or sexual abuse
The pressure exerted by the media in particular, and society in general, towards thinness as a symbol of beauty and success.
Let’s now take a look into the various symptoms pointing towards the eating disorder
Symptoms of an Eating Disorder
Symptoms of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa
- Rapid weight loss in a short time
- Habitual complaints about the shape and weight of her body, even when others see her as normal or thin.
- Restriction of food intake
- Extreme control over the calories ingested. The caloric intake of food is usually a common theme.
- Continuous sports practice, they can spend several hours every day in the gym.
- Feelings of loss of control overeating
- Intense feelings of guilt over eating too much food
- Repeated visits to the bathroom right after eating
- Use of diet pills, as well as laxatives and enemas
- Alterations of the menstrual cycle
- Hair loss, Gray skin, constipation
- Wearing loose clothing to prevent others from noticing your physical condition
- Drinking too much water, especially during meals
- Frequent justifications for not eating, “I already ate at a friend’s house” style
- Avoid eating in front of others
So what treatments can we look into to combat this condition:
Eating Disorder Treatment that works
When the patient faces extreme discomfort, a complete professional treatment is the key to enhance the smooth recovery.
Various treatment plans are available to address the many concerns of patients related to restoration of well-being. Sometimes customized solutions are also given.
There are different types of treatment for an ED that requires the supervision of medical doctors, nutritionists, and therapists for complete care:
- A weight recovery plan and dietary and nutritional re-education.
- A very close follow-up so that the recovery of the weight is gradual, with frequent controls.
- A study and treatment of dietary problems that affect the patient, as well as the factors that influence vomiting (anxiety about school, problems with parents or friends).
- A psychiatric treatment combining psychoeducation, individual psychotherapy, group psychotherapy and family therapy.
- Pharmacological treatment with antidepressants and other psychotropic drugs. These improve the symptoms of anxiety, sadness and impulsivity underlying vomiting behaviors and treat other problems associated with anorexia.
- The treatment is to be in accordance with the clinical situation of the patient. Always coordinating the intervention of the different specialists involved in the treatment.
Are Eating Disorders and Emotions Connected?
These eating disorders impacts the neural systems that are responsible for self-control and reward. This leads to emotional difficulties in people who suffer from them.
These difficulties depend on the age of the person and the severity of the disorder.
In this line, people with eating disorders often feel an inability to recognize their own emotions, which can lead them to have difficulties in verbally expressing them.
In addition, in people with eating disorders there is usually an avoidance of emotional distress. That is, when they feel negative emotions, they tend to avoid them by carrying out compensatory behaviors, such as bingeing, vomiting, use of laxatives or diuretics, etc.
Focusing on You and Wellness
The last thing you want distracting you from your eating disorders treatment is the worry about people being nosy and watching what you do.
Imagine doing the most pleasant thing. Like reading, watching a good movie, or listening to your favorite music while you’re uncomfortable or nervous. You can’t enjoy those things that way.
So, if you’re doing something that’s already difficult, like treatment for anorexia or bulimia, and you’re uncomfortable, you’re not going to get everything you can out of your treatment.
Dr.Amal Al-Qedrah recommends you get treatment where you are comfortable. You can’t afford to stay at a facility where you’ll be bored or apprehensive. You’ll need a place that allows you to get some physical exercise and some fresh air.
You’ll want to do things that you normally do like watch television and get online. Leisure activities can keep you refreshed and rejuvenated so you can better focus on your treatment for eating disorders. Take control of your life and focus on yourself first.