What is an Eating Disorder | Types, Symptoms, Risks & Causes
Hi Everyone! Here I am going to discuss eating Disorders in this post. The eating behavior disorder known as eating disorder – recognized in the DSM-5, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – respectively pic, bulimia nervosa, rumination disorder, anorexia nervosa, restrictive avoidant eating disorder, and binge eating disorder compulsive eating, represents a persistent impairment of eating habits resulting in inadequate consumption or absorption of food. Over time, the eating disorder leads to the alteration of a person’s physical and psycho-emotional integrity, but also of psycho-social functioning (with varying degrees of severity).
What are Eating Disorders?
Unhealthy nutrition-related behaviors arise as a result of excessive preoccupation with appearance/figure and body weight, through low self-esteem, depriving the body of balanced nutrition.
People suffering from eating disorders use food as a compensatory excuse for negative emotions and feelings or inadequately managed stressors. Through this behavior, they try to regain control over their lives, the result of which endangers their quality of life and their physical and emotional health.
Eating disorders occur most frequently in adolescents and young adults, usually up to the age of 40, but they can also occur after this age, especially in women (the sex ratio is 10 to 1), but men are not spared either of these disturbances.
There are cases where people who have a difficult relationship with food also have other related conditions such as depression, anxiety or problems with the use of prohibited substances.
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Signs and Symptoms of Eating Disorders
- According to researchers in the field, genetic, biological, psychological, behavioral, and social factors are at the root of the emergence of eating disorders.
- Low self-esteem, feelings of inadequacy, lack of control, anger, and loneliness are among the psychological factors that contribute to the development of an eating disorder.
- Other signs of an emotional and behavioral nature could be:
- the preoccupation with diet, food, weight loss, and the number of calories, carbohydrates, and fats – begins to be exaggerated, occupying a large part of the attention and time of the affected person;
- There is a refusal to eat certain categories of food, such as carbohydrates;
- The appearance of a feeling of embarrassment when eating in the presence of other people;
- Exaggerated concern for body shape, silhouette, and exaggeration of physical defects;
- Frequent mood swings.
There are, in addition, certain interpersonal factors that can stimulate these problems: a history of physical or sexual abuse, a person’s experience of being ridiculed or mocked because of physical appearance, weight, difficulty expressing emotions, and problems in the family.
To these are added sociocultural factors such as the pressure to be thin in women and strong in the case of men, the promotion of models of physical perfection, cultural norms that value people based on their physical appearance, beauty/physical strength, etc.
An eating disorder also leaves physical marks such as:
- Obvious weight fluctuations;
- Difficulty concentrating;
- Feeling dizzy;
- Sleep problems;
- Dental conditions and caries;
- Muscle weakness, etc
Types of Eating Disorders
There are several types of eating disorders, but the most common are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating.
It is characterized by weight loss, and difficulty in maintaining an optimal weight in relation to a person’s age, stature, and height. Main aspects:
Affected people are often accompanied by a distorted perception of their own bodies;
People with anorexia nervosa drastically restrict the number of calories ingested and the categories of food they consume, adopt a ritualistic style of eating;
Sometimes those affected do compulsive sports exercises;
Patients experience an intense fear of gaining weight;
Inducing vomiting and using laxatives are behaviors specific to people with anorexia nervosa.
Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that can affect anyone, and a person does not have to be physically very thin to suffer from this disorder. On the contrary, studies have found that larger-bodied people can also face this situation, if they are diagnosed less often, due to prejudices about corporeality and obesity.
The person affected by anorexia nervosa ends up having a very low level of vitamins and minerals in the body, which affects its proper functioning. Health problems such as anemia, osteoporosis, gastric problems, cessation of menstruation, infertility, certain heart problems, and slowing of brain functions may occur.
This is a severe, life-threatening eating disorder. The person with bulimia nervosa ingests large amounts of food in a very short time. Other aspects to consider:
a person with bulimia nervosa feels out of control when they eat more food than necessary in a short time, they feel they cannot stop;
Eating is fast, until satiety that causes discomfort;
The patient with bulimia eats even when he is not hungry and feels ashamed;
Feelings of guilt, and depression appear;
As in the case of anorexia, the preoccupation with the physical appearance becomes obsessive, ritual eating appears (only certain groups of foods or the patient excessively chews the food, does not let the foods feed on each other, etc.).
Bulimia nervosa includes recurrent episodes of compulsive eating and compensatory behavior, through which the patient tries to compensate for the large number of calories consumed – vomiting, fasting, excessive exercise, and use of laxatives.
Compulsive Eating Disorder
It involves recurrent episodes in which a person consumes large amounts of food very quickly, when not hungry, to the point of discomfort. What happens?
The person feels that they are losing control when eating;
She feels self-loathing, guilt, which causes her to re-enter a vicious circle of compulsive eating;
The feeling of shame does not automatically cause the affected person to stop eating compulsively.
The difference between bulimia and binge eating is that, as previously stated, in bulimia the patient resorts to compensatory behaviors, which they believe cancel out the large number of calories consumed. These behaviors are not found in compulsive eating, the patient is not aiming to “undo” the weight gain.
Treatment of Eating Disorders
Because of the very negative effects that these disorders can have on a person’s body, mind, and life in general, professional intervention is important. With the exception of severe forms with an indication for hospitalization (depression with suicidal risk, altered physical condition especially from an electrolyte point of view, unfavorable evolution in external regime), for eating disorders treatment outside the classic hospitalization system is recommended.
Notable results in eating disorders are recorded by Brief Strategic Therapy or the Maudsley Method, support groups or Dialectical Behavioral Psychotherapy (DBT).
“Classical cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy (CBT) or “enhanced” CBT-e represents the most promising alternative for changing unhealthy eating habits subsumed by irrational attitudes and beliefs related to figure and weight. Lasting between 3 and 6 months, with additional follow-up sessions to prevent relapses, CBT offers an active process of psychological intervention that leads to a regular eating pattern, without diets or compensatory behaviors (such as evacuation or purgatives, physical exercises excessive, etc.), with the client’s responsibility for change, by combining cognitive and behavioral procedures”, psychotherapist Gabriela Stroian
For more details and for a direct discussion with a specialist in the management of eating disorders, for you or for someone close to you who is experiencing these problems, we advise you to contact the professionals of the Bellanima Clinic with confidence.