Eating disorder is a mental disorder that is characterized by irregular eating and severe body image issues. Eating disorders may include too little or too much food intake which affects the overall wellbeing of the person.
Eating disorder is extremely common in women. Especially modern urban women are at high risk, though men are catching up fast. Women aged 15-24 commonly report eating disorders. Reports also show that people as young as 7 may also develop symptoms of eating disorders.
There are three types of eating disorder, namely, anorexia nervosa, bulimia and binge eating.
• Anorexia nervosa
Anorexia nervosa is eating disorder and is characterized by irrational fear of weight gain. Individuals suffering from anorexia nervosa are obsessed with their weight. These individual tend to exercise and diet to such a point that their body weight is grossly below optimum. These individuals perceive themselves as over weight even if they are extremely under weight. They self starve to a point that it imposes serious threat to life and wellbeing.
Bulimia is characterized by simultaneous episodes of over eating and purge through techniques of vomiting, laxative abuse, extreme dieting or exercising, drug or alcohol abuse. People suffering from this eating disorder usually are unhappy with their size and shape. The binge and purge cycle is typically done in secret and is usually associated with a feeling of shame and guilt. Bulimia affect 1-3 percent of women and an increasing number of men. Bulimic often suffer from physiological issues such as gastrointestinal problems, severe dehydration and heart diseases.
• Binge eating
Binge eating is characterized by uncontrollable eating. Individuals suffering from binge eating usually lose control over what and how much they eat. Unlike bulimia, binge episodes are not followed by compulsive behaviour like vomiting, laxative abuse and so on. The individuals suffering from this disorder are likely to be obese and may develop many cardiovascular diseases.
Causes of Eating Disorder
Eating disorders are complex in nature. Though the exact cause of eating disorder is not unknown, but it is caused because of the interplay of biological, psychological and environmental factors.
Biological factors include:
• Hormonal imbalance
• Genetic makeup
• Nutritional deficiencies
Psychological factors include:
• Poor self esteem
• Poor body image issues
Environmental factors include:
• Childhood trauma
• Peer pressure
• Poor family dynamics
• Professional requirements
Signs and symptoms of eating disorder
Some of the signs and symptoms of eating disorder are mentioned below. They are:
• Chronic dieting even when the person is underweight.
• Obsessed with fats and calories
• Constant weight fluctuations
• Following a pattern of eating, even when it is negatively impacting body
• Switching periods of overeating and fasting
• Avoiding social functions
Treating eating disorders
Since eating disorder is a psychological disorder, so just like other disorder consulting a psychologist or psychiatrist is always prescribed. Taking steps without consulting the health professional can do more harm than good.
Some steps of treating eating disorder are :
• Medical care and monitoring: Treating of the health issues caused due to eating disorder is of primary importance. Thus medical care and monitoring is of utmost importance.
• Nutritional intake: It involves restoring normal weight and stabilizing the same. Proper and balanced diet is of prime importance in this stage.
• Therapy: Therapeutic help can help the individual to know about the underlying cause of eating disorder. It not only help individual to overcome the disorder, by also help develop self confidence and self esteem.
• Medication: Medication is helpful in dealing with anxiety and mood disorder that is usually associated with eating disorder. However medication should only be consumed when prescribed by a health professional.
The combination of the treatments can be extremely helpful in dealing with eating disorders.