An eating disorder is a mental disorder defined by abnormal eating habits that negatively affect a person’s physical and/or mental health.
The common types of eating disorders; binge eating disorder, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder.
Those with eating disorders can have a variety of symptoms. However, most include the severe restriction of food, food binges, or purging behaviours like vomiting or over-exercising. In severe cases, eating disorders can cause serious health consequences and may even result in death if left untreated.
Types and Symptoms:
Anorexia nervosa, also called anorexia, is a potentially life-threatening eating disorder that is characterised by self-starvation and excessive weight loss. Anorexia is likely the most well-known eating disorder. It generally develops during adolescence or young adulthood and tends to affect more women than men.
The disorder is diagnosed when a person weighs at least 15% less than their normal/ideal body weight. Extreme weight loss in people with anorexia nervosa can lead to dangerous health problems and even death.
Common symptoms of anorexia nervosa include: being considerably underweight compared with people of similar age and height, very restricted eating patterns, an intense fear of gaining weight or persistent behaviours to avoid gaining weight despite being underweight, a relentless pursuit of thinness and unwillingness to maintain a healthy weight, a heavy influence of body weight or perceived body shape on self-esteem, a distorted body image, including denial of being seriously underweight.
Like anorexia, bulimia tends to develop during adolescence and early adulthood and appears to be less common among men than women.
Bulimia is a psychological eating disorder in which you have episodes of binge eating (consuming a large quantity of food in one sitting). During these binges, you have no sense of control over your eating. Afterwards, you try inappropriate ways to lose weight such as forced vomiting, fasting, laxatives, diuretics, enemas, and excessive exercise.
Individuals with bulimia usually maintain a relatively normal weight, rather than becoming underweight.
Common symptoms of bulimia nervosa include recurrent episodes of binge eating with a feeling of lack of control, recurrent episodes of inappropriate purging behaviours to prevent weight gain, self-esteem overly influenced by body shape and weight, a fear of gaining weight, despite having a normal weight.
Binge eating disorder
Binge eating disorder is another common eating disorder, it typically begins during adolescence and early adulthood, although it can develop later on.
Individuals with this disorder have symptoms similar to those of bulimia or the binge eating subtype of anorexia. For instance, they typically eat unusually large amounts of food in relatively short periods of time and feel a lack of control during binges.
People with binge eating disorder do not restrict calories or use purging behaviours, such as vomiting or excessive exercise, to compensate for their binges.
Common symptoms of binge eating disorder include eating large amounts of foods rapidly, in secret and until uncomfortably full, despite not feeling hungry; feeling a lack of control during episodes of binge eating; feelings of distress, such as shame, disgust, or guilt, when thinking about the binge-eating behaviour, and no use of purging behaviours to compensate for the binging. People with binge eating disorder often have overweight or obesity. This may increase their risk of medical complications linked to excess weight, such as heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder
This disorder is characterised by failing to meet your minimum daily nutrition requirements because you don’t have an interest in eating; you avoid food with certain sensory characteristics, such as colour, texture, smell or taste; or you’re concerned about the consequences of eating, such as fear of choking. Food is not avoided because of fear of gaining weight.
The disorder can result in significant weight loss or failure to gain weight in childhood, as well as nutritional deficiencies that can cause health problems.
What You Can Do About Eating Disorders
Medical Care: The highest concern in the treatment of eating disorders is addressing any health issues that may have been a consequence of eating disordered behaviours.
Nutrition: This would involve weight restoration and stabilisation, guidance for normal eating, and the integration of an individualised meal plan.
Therapy: Different forms of psychotherapy, such as individual, family, or group, can be helpful in addressing the underlying causes of eating disorders. Therapy is a fundamental piece of treatment because it affords an individual in recovery the opportunity to address and heal from traumatic life events and learn healthier coping skills and methods for expressing emotions, communicating and maintaining healthy relationships.
Medications: Some medications may be effective in helping resolve mood or anxiety symptoms that can occur with an eating disorder or in reducing binge-eating and purging behaviours.