Eating disorders are mental illnesses that manifest themselves in the form of abnormal eating habits, dangerous dietary practices, and distorted body images. Although eating disorders are not yet curable, they are treatable through various forms of therapy. They can be very serious if left untreated or under-treated – let’s take a look at six things you should know about eating disorders.
1. How Do Eating Disorders Occur?
Eating disorders are caused by a multitude of factors, including psychiatric conditions, genetics, socioeconomic status, and cultural pressures. If a person has a predisposition to an eating disorder, it may be triggered by such factors as teasing, bullying, and low self-esteem. Eating disorders are essentially coping mechanisms, they develop in order to fill a need for control or comfort that is otherwise lacking in the person’s life.
They usually occur during the teen or pre-teen years and they are more common in females than males. If you or someone close to you is suffering from eating disorders, it is important to know that there are many rehab options. Wherever you live, there are local health professionals who can help you. So for example, if you are located in Queensland, there are rehab options in Brisbane that can benefit you. Going to rehab is important because it will help you treat the underlying causes of your disorder.
2. How Do Eating Disorders Manifest?
There are several different types of eating disorders that include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, pica, rumination disorder, and avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder.
Anorexia Nervosa is characterized by self-starvation because the individual refuses to eat enough calories to maintain a healthy weight. They often have an intense fear of gaining weight even though they are abnormally thin.
Bulimia Nervosa, on the other hand, is characterized by episodes of binge eating followed by unhealthy weight control behaviors such as forced vomiting, excessive exercise, and abuse of laxatives.
Binge Eating Disorder is a disorder that includes regular periods of over-eating and gaining a lot of weight. The individual overeats much more rapidly than normal eaters.
Pica is an eating disorder that is characterized by the persistent eating of non-food items such as sand, dirt, or laundry starch.
Rumination Disorder is an eating disorder that involves regurgitating food and then either re-chewing the food (called “choking”) or spitting out the food (called “throwing up”).
Lastly, Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) is a disorder characterized by failure to meet minimum daily nutrition requirements due to an individual’s inability or unwillingness to eat.
3. How Serious Are Eating Disorders?
Eating disorders can be very serious if left untreated and they can affect different parts of the body and cause permanent damage to major organs. Individuals who suffer from eating disorders are at high risk for other conditions that cause significant distress, disability, and even death. These include but are not limited to depression, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, osteoporosis, infertility, and kidney failure. Also, eating disorders are the psychiatric diagnosis most commonly associated with suicide. Additionally, eating disorders are often in comorbidity with other mental health disorders such as bipolar, major depressive disorder, and anxiety.
4. How To Recognize If Someone Suffers From An Eating Disorder?
There are a few red flags that may indicate a person has an eating disorder. Someone who is suffering from an eating disorder will often deny their problem or try to hide it in fear they will be judged and seen as weak. They may also express strong feelings of guilt, self-loathing, and disgust about their bodies. It’s not uncommon that they wear baggy clothes in order to hide their abnormal thinness. Additionally, they will often lie about what and how much they have eaten. As a result, it may be difficult to know if someone has an eating disorder because they are deceiving their loved ones by not sharing the truth with them.
5. Can Eating Disorders Be Prevented?
While there is no surefire way to prevent the onset of an eating disorder, some research suggests that focusing on healthy behaviors can reduce the risk of developing this psychological disorder. For example, health promotion programs that educate individuals on proper nutritional intake may help them recognize symptoms of eating disorders. Besides that, it’s important to provide children with opportunities to develop their self-esteem and learn proper body image development. Furthermore, it’s important to maintain healthy communication between parents, teachers, and children because it’s crucial that children/teens feel comfortable talking with their parents and other grown-ups in their life about their emotions and feelings.
6. What Treatments Are Available For Eating Disorders?
As mentioned before, eating disorders can be treated via rehab programs that treat the mental condition in combination with physical symptoms. Some of these programs focus on changing an individual’s perception of their body by using cognitive behavioral therapy techniques, while others use group therapies or psychoanalysis. Additionally, nutritionists often work together with therapists in order to help individuals make better nutritional choices. The treatment should result in long-term benefits and a healthier lifestyle, not just for the patient but also for their family members.
Eating disorders are serious psychological conditions with multiple consequences, such as malnutrition, organ failure, and even death. Luckily, eating disorders are treatable with rehab programs that focus on mental health as well as physical symptoms. With proper treatment, an individual has the potential to live a healthier lifestyle both physically and mentally while also impacting their family members positively by treating themselves better too!