Eating disorders are characterized by irregular eating habits and debilitating distress or concern about body shape or weight by an individual. It comprises of insufficient or excessive food intake by an individual that can eventually harm their well-being. Though eating disorders can develop at any stage in life, it typically appears during the teen years or young adulthood. Eating disorders are classified as a medical illness and appropriate treatment can be effectual for specific types of eating disorders if timely recourse is taken.
Types of eating disorders
- Anorexia nervosa Any individual suffering from anorexia nervosa has an obsessive fear of gaining weight, an unreliable perception of body image and an unwillingness to maintain healthy body weight. Individuals with anorexia nervosa, perceive themselves as overweight while being clearly underweight and therefore, severely limit the food quantity they consume. Anorexia has severe effects on the body like heart difficulties, brain damage, bone loss, multi-organ failure, and infertility. The rate of fatality is highest in individuals suffering from anorexia nervosa.
- Bulimia nervosa Here, individuals exhibit repeated binge-eating patterns, which are then followed by behavior compensating for them like excessive exercise, forced vomiting, or even extreme use of diuretics or laxatives at times. Individuals suffering from bulimia fear weight gain and regularly feel severely unhappy with their body size and shape. This purging and binge-eating are usually done in secret, forming feelings of guilt, shame, and lack of control; leading to another episode of binge-eating. Bulimia results in extreme effects on the body, such as severe dehydration, gastrointestinal problems, and heart difficulties because of electrolyte imbalance.
- Binge Eating Disorder Binge Eating Disorder (BED) makes an individual frequently lose control over their eating. Unlike bulimia, BED patients do not purge after excessive eating, which results in obesity and an increased risk of developing other conditions like cardiovascular disease. Individuals struggling with this disorder experience an intense feeling of distress, guilt, and embarrassment that is related to their binge-eating, which can further influence the progression of the eating disorder.
Causes of eating disorders Any or all of the eating disorders are a set of complex disorders which are influenced by many factors. Though it is hard to put a finger on a single cause, it is commonly believed that a combination of psychological causes like negative body image and poor self-esteem; biological causes like irregular hormone functions, genetics, nutritional deficiencies; and/or environmental irregularities like a dysfunctional family, professions or careers, family and childhood traumas, may contribute to the development of these disorders. Signs and symptoms of an eating disorder
- Consistent weight fluctuations.
- Intense obsession with calories and the fat content of the food.
- Dieting despite being underweight.
- Eating in almost obsessive patterns such as cutting food into tiny pieces, hiding food or eating alone due to shame.
- Fixation with food, cooking or recipes. Cooking intricate meals for others, but not for themselves.
- Avoiding family, social functions, and friends. The individual may also become isolated and withdrawn.
- Depressed or lethargic state.
- Switches between long periods of overeating and then fasting.