People with eating disorders become preoccupied with food and their body weight.
Eating disorders are serious conditions, often starting with a mental health issue evolving into eating behaviors that negatively impact one’s health, emotion, and ability to function normally. Most eating disorders involve a large focus on one’s weight, body shape, and food, leading to dangerous eating behaviors that impact the body’s ability to get appropriate nutrition.
Eating disorders often start in the teenage/young adult years, although they can develop at any age. Eating disorders harm the heart, digestive system, bones, teeth and mouth, and can lead to other diseases. With treatment though, you relearn healthier eating habits and sometimes reverse some of the serious complications caused by the disorder.
Symptoms vary, depending on the type of eating disorder. Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder are the most common eating disorders. Other eating disorders include rumination disorder and avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder.
Anorexia nervosa is potentially life-threatening and characterized by an abnormally low body weight, intense fear of gaining weight, and a distorted perception of weight or shape.
People with anorexia go to extreme lengths to control their weight and shape, which in turn significantly interferes with their health and activities.
People with anorexia often excessively limit calories or employ other methods: excessive exercise, laxatives, diet aids, and/or vomiting.
Bulimia nervosa is a potentially life-threatening eating disorder, in which you have episodes of bingeing and purging while feeling a lack of control over your eating. Many people with bulimia restrict their eating, which often leads to more binge eating and purging.
During these episodes, one typically eats a large amount of food in a short time, then due to guilt, shame and fear of weight gain, you may force vomiting or use laxatives to get rid of the calories.
People with bulimia may be a normal weight, but are often extremely preoccupied with their weight and body shape.
Binge-eating disorder involves regularly eating too much food (binge) while feel a lack of control over your eating.
After a binge, one often feels guilty or ashamed by their behavior, but doesn’t try to compensate with excessive exercise or purging, as someone with bulimia or anorexia might.
Bingeing usually occurs at least once a week - often alone to hide the bingeing.
Other Common Symptoms Include
- Skipping meals
- Adopting an overly restrictive diet
- Excessive focus on healthy eating
- Making own meals rather than eating with others
- Withdrawing from normal social activities
- Persistent worry about being fat
- Frequent checking in the mirror
- Repeatedly eating large amounts of sweets or high-fat foods
- Use of dietary supplements, laxatives, or weight loss products
- Excessive exercise
- Calluses on the knuckles from inducing vomiting
- Problems with loss of tooth enamel from repeated vomiting
- Leaving during meals to use the toilet
- Eating much more food than normal
- Eating in secret
The exact cause of eating disorders is unknown and there may be many...
Genetics and biology:
Certain people may have genes and brain chemicals from genetics that may play a role and increase their risk of developing eating disorders.
Psychological and emotional health:
People with eating disorders may have other mental health problems that contribute to the disorder.
Eating disorders most commonly develop in young girls and women in their teens and early 20s. Societal pressures, dieting, and stress can contribute to an increased risk of an eating disorder.
If you feel that you or a loved one may be struggling with an eating disorder, getting in touch with a mental health professional is a great place to start.