Eating disorders are quite common in the USA, an estimated 28 million people (about the population of Texas) develop an eating disorder at some point in their lives. Have you suddenly started binge eating or have you seen a drastic change in your food habits? If yes, chances are you might have an eating disorder.  

An eating disorder can be dangerous for your health, so, it is particularly important to know what its symptoms and treatment are, to avoid damaging your health.  

Keep reading this article to learn about eating disorders.  

An eating disorder is a condition where you develop an unhealthy relationship with food which leads to serious health problems. It can severely disturb people’s eating behaviors and their feelings and emotions leading to an unhealthy preoccupation with food, body weight, and shape.  

If you find yourself developing any of these factors, it’s an early sign that you are developing an eating disorder. This mostly develops in kids and young adults, although it can happen at any age. But it is treatable, and people can easily return to their normal eating habits by taking treatment.  

Here are 6 common types of eating disorders:  

Anorexia nervosa:  

This eating disorder is very severe and can be life-threatening in some cases. People develop abnormal weight because of the unusual fear of gaining weight and have distorted perspectives regarding weight or shape. They try to do everything to control their weight and shape, which interferes with their diet, nutrition, and lifestyle.  

Bulimia nervosa:  

In this eating disorder, people develop episodes of binging and purging that are mostly affected by feelings and emotions (stress, depression, and anxiety). People eat too much at one time; then they start feeling guilt and shame or fear of weight gain. And then they start doing everything to get rid of those calories such as forced vomiting, exercising too much, or using laxatives.  

Binge eating disorder:  

In this type of eating disorder, you start eating too much food regularly and do not have any control over your food habits. You eat quickly and eat more even if you are not hungry. You might feel guilt or shame when thinking about it, yet you do nothing.  

Rumination disorder:  

People develop the habit of regurgitating food persistently and repeatedly after eating. Regurgitating may not be intentional but sometimes it can be rechewed or spit out. People with this eating disorder often have malnutrition because they eat less to avoid this behavior.  

Avoidant food intake disorder:  

As the name implies, people start avoiding food at any cost. This doesn’t happen to avoid weight gain; they don’t like the food because of its characteristics (such as smell, taste, color, and texture), or worry about the consequences of eating (like fear of choking). This disorder results in weight loss or failure to gain weight.  

Pica: 

This type of eating disorder is extremely dangerous because people start to pick up food to eat that does not provide any nutritional value (instead it can lead to infections, gut injuries, and nutritional deficiencies). People start eating sand, chalk, dirt, ice, soap, paper, hair, cloth, wool, pebbles, laundry detergent, or cornstarch. That’s why it is sometimes fatal. Most people who have intellectual problems like autism and schizophrenia develop this disorder.
 

Symptoms  

Eating disorder symptoms can vary.  

Mental and behavior signs you notice: 

  • Feeling dramatic about your weight loss 
  • Avoid or feel shy about eating in public 
  • Preoccupied with weight, food, calories, fat percentages, or dieting 
  • Complaints about having constipation, cold intolerance, abdominal pain, etc. 
  • Excuses to avoid eating 
  • Intense fear of weight gain or being fat 
  • Wearing more clothes to hide weight loss 
  • Extremely limiting or restricting the type of food consumed 
  • Refusing to eat certain foods 
  • Deny being hungry 
  • Express the need to burn calories 
  • Repeatedly weighing oneself 
  • Patterns of binge eating and purging 
  • Developing rituals around some food 
  • Excess exercising mostly when you eat more on that day 
  • Cooking meals for others without eating anything 

   

Physical signs you might notice: 

  • Having stomach cramps 
  • Difficulty in concentrating  
  • Lab test results (like low hormone levels, low potassium, low blood cell counts, slow heart rate).  
  • Tiredness 
  • Fainting  
  • Feeling cold most of the time 
  • Sleep problems or difficulty falling asleep 
  • Menstrual problems 
  • Dry skin 
  • Thin nails and hair 
  • Muscle weakness 
  • Poor wound healing 
  • Weak immune system  

If you have two or more symptoms, you should visit a psychiatrist to confirm that, whether you have an eating disorder or not.  

Risk factors 

Eating disorders can affect anyone at any age. But most young people and kids develop this in their childhood.  

Certain factors can lead to eating disorders, including:  

  • Family history:  Eating disorders are more likely to develop when someone in the family has had an eating disorder before.  
  • Other mental health disorders: People who suffer from eating disorders are more likely to have mental problems such as depression, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorder.  
  • Dieting and starvation: Dieting is a risk factor for an eating disorder. People start avoiding food which leads them to starvation. Starvation affects mental health, leading to mood changes, rigidity in thinking, anxiety, and reduction in your appetite. Starvation makes you lose weight which makes changes in your thinking abilities (like you can develop restrictive eating behavior). It is hard to get back into normal eating habits.  
  • Stress: Stress is something you can’t avoid, and stress is one of the biggest risk factors that can easily lead to eating disorders. Whenever people are stressed, they start eating food to ease their minds.  

Treatment  

To treat eating disorders, you might need to take multiple combinations of therapies and treatments. It is better to start treatment early, as delayed/late treatment can have complications, and the chances of suicidal tendencies are high. 

Treatment depends on the type of eating disorder you have. Treatment is given through nutrition education, psychotherapy, or medication. In case your condition is serious you need to get hospitalized.  

  • Nutrition education: No matter what your weight, doctors or nutritionists can design a diet plan that helps you to achieve your goals and helps to understand the meaning of nutrition in the diet.  
  • Psychotherapy: Also known as talk therapy, it’s used to change unhealthy habits associated with food and eating patterns. This therapy includes: 
  • Family-based therapy (FBT): FBT is used to treat children and teenagers. The family is involved in making sure that the child learns and will develop healthy eating habits and weight.  
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT is commonly used to treat bulimia and binge-eating disorders. You learn how to monitor and change your eating habits or moods, develop problem-solving skills, and explore healthy ways to manage your stress.  
  • Medications: Medications can not cure eating disorders but can help to manage some symptoms. It can help to control the urges to binge or purge or manage unhealthy preoccupation with food and diet. Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications help to manage depression or anxiety, which are linked to eating disorders.  
  • Hospital care: If you develop any serious problems, such as malnutrition, your doctor might recommend that you get hospitalized. Some mental health clinics specialize in treating people with eating disorders. They offer day programs as well. Specialized eating disorder programs take a long time to show any visible improvements in comparison to more intensive treatment.  

Anyone can develop eating disorders. Noticing the signs and prompt treatment can improve your condition quickly.  

Want to know how you can prevent eating disorders?  

Call us at 718-DORAL-55 to get a free consultation with a Doctor/Psychiatrist.