An eating disorder is a terrifying thing to go through, whether you are witnessing it or dealing with it yourself. Eating disorders are often characterized by obsessions over food, weight, or appearance or anxiety surrounding food. These obsessions and anxieties over food will negatively affect the person's mental, physical, and social health as they participate in activities like extreme diets, binging, purging, or avoiding certain foods.
What is an Eating Disorder?
An eating disorder is a behavioral condition that affects one's thoughts and emotions around eating and is characterized by a very serious and persistent disturbance in one's eating habits. An eating disorder can cause severe turmoil in a person's physical, psychological, and social health. Eating disorders most commonly affect women and occur in adolescence and young adulthood, though they can occur in anyone, of any gender, at any age.
Eating disorders most commonly affect women and occur in adolescence and young adulthood, though they can occur in anyone, of any gender, at any age.”
The Types of Eating Disorders
Eating disorders often occur alongside other mental health disorders such as obsessive compulsive disorder, mood disorders, or substance abuse issues. There are several different types of eating disorders, with the three most well-known eating disorders including:
a type of eating disorder that is characterized by extreme weight-loss and self-starvation that often results in excessively low weight. This type of eating disorder is extremely dangerous and has one of the highest mortality rates of any psychiatric disorders. It can cause many different life-threatening conditions, including issues with heart health, kidney problems, and seizures.
A person suffering from anorexia nervosa will typically fall under one of two forms of self-starvation: restricting, in which the person participates in extreme diets, fasting, or exercise; or binge-eating to purging, in which the person eats a large amount of food within a certain time frame then purges it through the use of vomiting or laxatives. Some symptoms of anorexia nervosa are:
Loss of a period
Lightheadedness, dizziness, or fainting
Weak and brittle hair and nails
Constantly feeling cold
Heartburn or acid reflux
Extreme constipation or bloating after eating
Injuries caused by excessive exercise
Symptoms of depression or anxiety
Fatigue and feeling lethargic
Clouded mind, lack of concentration, confusion
Those who suffer from bulimia nervosa typically follow extreme diets until a certain time period in which they eat a large amount of food in a short amount of time. As the person binges, they typically feel out of control and struggle to make conscious decisions over how much and what they eat. The person often keeps their binging a secret and feels ashamed or embarrassed.
Bulimia nervosa can be life-threatening in severe cases, leading to health issues like heart issues and esophageal tears.
When someone is suffering from bulimia nervosa, they typically binge every week and try to make up for it through extreme dieting or fasting, purging, or excess exercise. A person who suffers from bulimia nervosa will typically obsess over things like body image, food, or their weight. People of all genders, ages, and body weight can be suffering from bulimia nervosa, though it is typically considered anorexia nervosa, under the binge-eating to purging category if one is excessively underweight. Bulimia nervosa can be hard to catch as most of the person's behaviors are done in secret, but there are some symptoms you can watch out for. Possible symptoms of bulimia nervosa are:
Frequent bathroom trips after a meal
A large amount of food suddenly disappearing
Constant suffering from a sore throat
Salivary gland swelling within the cheeks
Constant heartburn or acid reflux
The misuse of laxatives, water pills (diuretics), or dieting pills
Feelings of lightheadedness, dizziness, or fainting
Binge Eating Disorder
Those who suffer from a binge eating disorder will often consume a large amount of food within a short period of time, feeling as though they have no control over what or how much food they eat. Those suffering from a binge eating disorder can end up suffering from health complications such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension. The symptoms for binge eating disorder occur weekly for at least three months and typically include symptoms such as:
Eating large amounts of foods in a short period of time
Eating beyond the point of fullness
Eating despite not feeling hungry
Refusal to eat around other people
Feelings of guilt, depression, or disgust with oneself
Helping a Loved One with an Eating Disorder
Watching somebody you care about suffer from an eating disorder is tough. It can be heartbreaking to watch as your loved one harms themselves through their eating habits. You may feel frustrated, upset, and angry thinking that their is an easy fix to the eating disorder: thinking all they need to do is eat right. The thing is, though, eating disorders do not have a solution as simple as "eating right". Eating disorders do not only affect one's physical health, but their mental and emotional health, as well.
Eating disorders are typically accompanied by a negative attitude about one's weight, appearance, food, and body image. This negative attitude is what is typically fueling the person's disordered eating habits. While you cannot force a person to seek the help necessary to improve their mental and physical health, you can offer them support and encourage them to seek treatment.
If you believe somebody may be suffering from an eating disorder, approach the subject gently, as bombarding them with accusations and warnings are not likely to work. Speak to them at a good time, in private, with no distractions; communicate your concerns in a non-critical manner; don't take denial and defensiveness personally; ask if there are reasons they may want to seek help; and remain as patient and supportive with them as possible, remembering that they are in a vulnerable position.
How We Can Help
If you are suffering from negative feelings and attitudes toward eating, your self-image, or food, know that you are not alone.
Eating disorders can negatively impact your quality of life, so it is imperative that you seek treatment right away. Take a look at these therapists who specialist in eating disorders and are available now. They are experienced, non-judgmental and compassionate who are ready to help you work through this difficult time.