By Konstantina Kerpinioti,
Eating disorders constitute a fairly common phenomenon nowadays. Many people with eating disorders go to the doctor every day, in an effort to get over their problem. However, eating disorders cannot be easily overcome and, in some cases, treatment may not be effective.
Eating disorders are behavioral conditions characterized by severe and persistent disturbance in eating behaviors and associated with distressing thoughts and emotions. They can be life-threatening illnesses that disrupt physical, psychological, and social functioning.
There are many types of eating disorders:
- Anorexia Nervosa: In Anorexia Nervosa, the person who suffers from it has excessive anxiety regarding their body weight. What concerns them is not to gain any weight. Therefore, they do not consume sufficient amounts of food, and, at the same time, they exercise too much on a daily basis, without having the necessary energy that food offers. Some people with Anorexia Nervosa also intermittently binge eat or purge by vomiting or laxative misuse. As a result, people who adopt this lifestyle have low weight. Also, it is noteworthy that Anorexia has the highest mortality of any other psychiatric diagnosis.
- Bulimia Nervosa: Bulimia Nervosa is characterized by binge eating. Binge eating is defined as consuming huge portions of food in a short period of time and is related to the inability to set limits on how much you eat. Individuals who suffer from Bulimia Nervosa do not usually discuss it with other people and are embarrassed for themselves. Binges happen weekly and are typically followed by what are called “compensatory behavior”, such as fasting, vomiting, laxative misuse, or compulsive exercise to prevent weight gain. In addition, people with Bulimia Nervosa share the same thoughts and worries as those who suffer from Anorexia. Bulimia Nervosa can affect people who are underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese.
- Binge Eating Disorder: Like Bulimia Nervosa, people with Binge Eating Disorder have episodes of binge eating, in which they consume huge portions of food in a short period of time. Unlike people with Bulimia Nervosa, they do not regularly adopt compensatory behaviors to prevent weight gain.
4. Pica: In Pica, an individual consumes things continually which are not food, such as paint chips, soap, hair, etc. This attitude lasts over a month, something that makes clinical attention necessary.
5. Rumination Disorder: Rumination Disorder incorporates continuous regurgitation and re-chewing of food after eating, whereby shallowed food is brought back up into the mouth voluntarily and is re-chewed and re-shallowed or spat out. Rumination Disorder can happen in infancy, childhood, adolescence, and adulthood.
6. Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder: Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) is an eating disorder that leads to poor nutrition and choosing to eat. The causes of this disorder are the following:
- Low appetite and lack of interest in eating
- Extreme food avoidance is based on sensory characteristics of foods, e.g., texture, appearance, color, smell
- Worry about the consequences of eating, such as choking, nausea, an allergic reaction, and so on.
People who have experienced negative consequences of eating, such as an episode of choking or food poisoning, usually go through Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder afterward.
- Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorders: These eating disorders incorporate disturbances of eating behaviors. However, they do not belong in other categories, because they may differ in the frequency of the behavior or in the weight criteria.
Generally speaking, over 5% of the world’s population has been diagnosed with one of the above mentioned eating disorders. However, eating disorders are more common in adolescence or adulthood, with women between the ages of 12 and 35 being even more prone.
Have you ever wondered how eating disorders can be caused? Eating disorders have yet to be definitively identified. Nevertheless, many studies have shown that eating disorders are related to significant bodily dissatisfaction (body image disturbance) and to the obsessive idea that some aspects of one’s own body part are severely flawed and, therefore, it must be covered or fixed (body dysmorphic disorder). Additionally, the media is responsible for eating disorders, as they present unrealistic beauty standards, such as the overly-lean body of models. As a result, many people make too much effort to form an excessively thin body, which is detrimental to their health. Another factor can be a genetic predisposition toward eating disorders. For instance, should a person be a first-degree relative of someone who has had an eating disorder, they will probably have an eating disorder in the future.
Furthermore, environmental influences can lead to eating disorders. To begin with, when a child has suffered any kind of abuse (physical, psychological, sexual), it is more likely to be diagnosed with an eating disorder. Apart from that, social isolation makes people anxious and depressed. Therefore, some of them end up consuming too much food, which provides them the pleasure they are looking for. What is more, parents and peers have a significant influence on a person’s eating habits. On one hand, parents may be quite pressured towards their child when it comes to food because of the stereotypes they have adopted concerning the human body. On the other hand, children may follow extreme diets and hinder themselves from eating because their friends do so.
As you can figure out — an eating disorder is not just a simple case.