Things to know about eating disorders

What is an eating disorder? There is a common misconception that eating disorders are lifestyle choices that people take up. This is untrue. An eating disorder is a serious illness related to persistent eating behaviors that are unhealthy and affect the physical as well as the emotional well-being of a person. The condition can even be fatal in a lot of cases. In an eating disorder, the body fails to get the right amount of nutrition and this causes extensive damage to the systems. Types of eating disorders Eating disorders are of several types and each type affects the body differently. Here are some of the most commonly found conditions: Anorexia nervosa: This condition is commonly known as anorexia. People experiencing this tend to have a fear of gaining weight and subject themselves to extensive methods to lose weight. A person may be underweight and still view themselves as overweight. They limit their diets excessively and tend to be overly calorie conscious. People with anorexia often follow alternative weight-loss methods such as taking diet pills, purging and intensive work-outs. This condition can seriously tamper with the normal functioning of the body and can even be fatal. Symptoms:

  • Brittle hair and nails.
  • Thinning of bones.
  • Feeling tired and lethargic.
  • Low blood pressure.

Bulimia nervosa: People with bulimia experience episodes of binge eating. They tend to consume an unhealthy amount of food in a very short period of time and follow drastic measures to compensate after. The episodes make them feel guilty and so they resort to methods like fasting, vomiting, consuming laxatives, and excessive exercising to shed calories. This eating disorder is similar to anorexia and stems from a skewed perception of the self. However, people dealing with bulimia tend to maintain a relatively normal weight. Symptoms:

  • Inflammation in the neck and jaw area.
  • Acid reflux.
  • Other gastrointestinal issues.
  • Severe dehydration.

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.