There is a generally held false impression that eating disorders are a lifestyle preference. Eating disorders are severe, and severe illnesses are often related to severe disturbances in people’s eating behaviours and related emotions and thoughts. According to Walter H. (2016), people who are usually concerned about food, body appearance, and weight may develop eating disorders. Common eating disorders include Bulimia Nervosa, Anorexia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder.
Bulimia Nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by eating massive amounts of food (binge eating) and later balancing it with compelling vomiting. People with Bulimia Nervosa have a frequent and recurrent situation of eating strangely large amounts of food and feeling unable to control these episodes. This binge-eating is accompanied by behaviour that recompenses the overeating, such as excessive use of laxatives or diuretics, forced vomiting, excessive exercise, fasting, or a blend of these behaviours. People suffering from Bulimia Nervosa are likely to be slightly overweight, average weight, or underweight (National Institute of Mental Health, 2016). Symptoms include:
- Severe dehydration due to purging of fluids
- Swollen salivary glands around the jaw and neck area
- Intestinal distress and irritation due to laxative abuse
- Acid reflux disorders as well as other gastrointestinal problems
- Chronically sore and inflamed throat
People who suffer from Anorexia Nervosa sometimes see themselves as overweight, even though they are perilously underweight. Those with Anorexia Nervosa weigh themselves regularly, often exercise excessively, severely restrict the amount of food they consume and may force themselves to vomit or use laxatives to lose weight (National Institute of Mental Health, 2016). Studies show that Anorexia Nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder. While many people who suffer from this disorder die from starvation complications, others die of suicide (Joy E, Kussman A, Nattiv A, 2016). The symptoms associated with Anorexia nervosa include:
- Intense fear of being overweight
- Extreme thinness (emaciation)
- Deformed body image or the denunciation of the seriousness of low body weight
- Extremely restricted eating
Other symptoms may build up over time, include:
- Dry and yellowish skin
- Severe constipation
- Thinning of the bones (osteoporosis or osteopenia)
- Brittle hair and nails
- Multiorgan failure
- Brain damage
The primary symptom associated with Binge-eating disorder is ‘being out-of-control in eating.’ Unlike Bulimia Nervosa, binge eaters do not exercise excessively, purge, or take laxatives or diuretics after overeating. That is why people with binge eating disorder tend to be obese or overweight. As a result of overweight, people with binge-eating may also suffer from cardiovascular disease (Herpertz-Dahlmann B, 2015). The National Institute of Mental Health (2016) explained that Binge-Eating Disorder is the most widespread eating disorder in the U.S. The following symptoms characterize Binge Eating Disorder:
- Feeling distressed, guilty, or ashamed about eating
- Eating faster during a binge episode
- Eating until disturbingly full
- Frequently dieting, probably without weight loss
- Eating in secret or alone to avoid embarrassment
- Eating when not hungry
Eating disorders can affect people from all ethnic/racial backgrounds, ages, body weights, and genders. Eating disorders mostly occur during the teen years or young adulthood, but sometimes may appear during childhood or later in life (Sangvai D. 2016). Eating disorders affect both genders; however, rates among men are lower than among women. Men with eating disorders also have a twisted sense of body shape as women do. Researchers have found out that eating disorders result from complex biological, psychological, genetic, social, and behavioural factors. Researchers are using the available and latest science and technology (Dawson R. 2018). One of the approaches requires the study of human genes. Due to the assertion that eating disorder is generational, researchers are working to discover DNA variation connected to the increased threat of developing eating disorders (Sangvai D. 2016).
Brain imaging studies are providing a better explanation of eating disorders. For example, researchers discovered differences in brain activities in women suffering from eating disorders in contrast with healthy women (Dawson R. 2018). This research approach can lead to the innovation of new methods of diagnosis and cure of eating disorders.
There are several levels of treatment to cure eating disorders. It is crucial to seek treatment and therapy early for an eating disorder. Treatment plans are modified to individual needs and thus include any of the following:
- Nutritional counselling
- Medical monitoring and care
The National Institute of Mental Health (2016) explained that medications like antipsychotics, antidepressants, or mood stabilizers could help treat eating disorders and other co-occurring illnesses such as depression or anxiety. Family-based therapy, called the Maudsley approach, appears to be effective in the treatment of eating disorders. It requires the parents of adolescents with anorexia nervosa to take responsibility for feeding their kids. Some people may go through cognitive behavioural therapy to eliminate or reduce binge-eating and purging behaviours (CBT). CBT is another form of psychotherapy that helps people learn how to recognize unhelpful thinking and identify inaccurate beliefs.
In summary, people must seek help from a medical professional immediately if they notice they or their family members suffer from one or more explained eating disorders. Eating disorders are not a lifestyle preference and should be taken very seriously.
- Dawson, R. Pediatr Ann. (2018). PMID: 29898233
- Herpertz-Dahlmann, B. (2015). Adolescent eating disorders: update on definitions, symptomatology, epidemiology, and comorbidity.
- Joy E, Kussman A, Nattiv A. (2016). update on eating disorders in athletes: A comprehensive narrative review with a focus on clinical assessment and management.
- National Institute of Mental Health (2016). Eating Disorders. Retrieved March 20, 2018, from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/eating-disorders/index.shtml.
- Sangvai, D. (2016). Eating Disorders in the Primary Care Setting. Prim Care.
- Walter, H. (2016). 3 Common Types of Eating Disorders And Their Possible Causes.