The exact cause of eating disorders is not known, although, many doctors believe that a combination of physical, genetic, social, and psychological factors may contribute to its development. These conditions are serious in nature and in most cases, the person finds it difficult to focus on other things apart from what to eat. In some eating disorders, the person diagnosed has an extremely small amount of food or no food at all, they spend hours staring at themselves in the mirror, and they can also tend to eat a lot and practice eating secretly as well. Many people who have been diagnosed with eating disorders tend to face other illness as well at the same time, these are known as co-morbidities. Normally, the other illnesses that coexist with eating disorders often include anxiety disorders, substance abuse, and depression. The initial stages of an eating disorder The path from eating a healthy and balanced diet to an eating disorder can be extremely baffling. There are certain risk factors that contribute to the development of eating disorders. However, the exact cause of the condition is not known. The common risk factors that may lead to this condition include impulsive behavior, traumatic events, a pressure to meet societal expectations, low-self esteem, or abuse. Either an individual factor or a combination of these tend to trigger a shift towards unhealthy behaviors. Eating disorders usually start slowly with overindulging from time to time or following extreme crash diets. Eventually, there comes a point, where these habits spiral out of control and the individual is stuck in a vicious cycle of overeating-self hatred-overeating. The desire to eat less or more than normal is not under control leading to an unhealthy relationship with food and body.
At what stage are eating disorders more common? Eating disorders generally may appear first during a person’s teenage years or when he/she is a young adult. However, it can develop anytime in life eventually. This means that adults and children, both are at the risk of being diagnosed with an eating disorder. However, it has been found that eating orders are more common in young girls and women compared to others. Men who have an eating disorder are not usually diagnosed as it is considered as a female condition only. According to t the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), the recognized types of mental disorders are-
- Bulimia nervosa- Bulimia nervosa constitutes repeat bouts of binge eating which is followed by inappropriate use of laxatives, vomiting, excessive exercise, or fasting.
- Anorexia nervosa- This condition is the inability to maintain minimum healthy body weight.
- Eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS)- An eating disorder that does not fit for the above-mentioned criteria for either bulimia or anorexia.
When people suffer from eating disorders in the long-run, they often experience other conditions along with it. They are reproductive problems, permanent damage to the heart and kidneys, and osteoporosis (bone thinning). The National Institute of Mental Health states that eating disorders have the highest mortality rate among all the mental disorders.