Eating disorders are serious illnesses that can endanger a person’s life and lead to severe disruption in an individual’s lifestyle. Eating disorders can distort a person’s body image and lead to unhealthy eating habits that often derail an individual’s overall diet. This obsession with controlling eating habits that lead to changes in weight are the main signals of an eating disorder. Common eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder.
People with anorexia nervosa have body image distortion and view themselves as overweight when they in fact are not. This obsession with losing the weight often leads to starvation or restrictive diets that help them reduce the excess weight they see. These individuals are usually underweight and malnutrition in reality. Anorexia nervosa patients often struggle with depression and have a higher risk of suicide especially when they feel their attempt to lose the weight has failed. A small percentage die from complications associated with starvation.
- Extremely restricted eating
- Extremely underweight
- Refusal to maintain a normal or healthy weight
- Fear of gaining weight
- Distorted body image and self-esteem
- Thinning of the bones
- Brittle hair and nails
- Severe dry skin
- Severe constipation
- Low blood pressure
- Heart damage
- Brain damage
- Organ failure
Individuals who suffer from bulimia nervosa struggle with overeating and subsequently vomit to rid themselves of the excessive eating binge. Bulimia nervosa individuals also use laxatives or diuretics, fasting, exercise, to help control their weight. Unlike anorexia nervosa, individuals with bulimia nervosa typically maintain what is considered a healthy or relatively normal weight.
- Inflamed and Sore throat
- Swollen neck and jaw area
- Worn tooth enamel and tooth decay
- Acid reflux disorder and other gastrointestinal problems
- Intestinal issues
- Electrolyte imbalance
Individuals who struggle with binge eating disorder have little control over their eating habits and typically have issues with excessive weight gain or obesity. These individuals do not work to rid themselves of the excess weight they gain from eating. Binge-eating disorder is the most common eating disorder in the United States.
- Eating unusually large amounts
- Eating even when you’re not hungry
- Eating until you’re excessively full
- Eating alone or hiding binges from friends or family
- Feeling guilty about your eating
- Frequent dieting
Eating disorders commonly begin during teen or young adulthood. They are more prevalent in women than men, although men can struggle with eating disorders as well. Women who obsess over body image are more likely to develop an eating disorder.
Treatments and Therapies
There are number of treatments available to patients with eating disorders. These treatments often include nutrition counseling and reducing harmful excessive activities that are triggered by the eating disorder such as excessive exercise and vomiting. Treatment plans are customized to individual needs and may include the following:
- Individual, group, and/or family psychotherapy
- Medical care and monitoring
- Nutritional counseling
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
With proper treatment, eating disorders can be brought under control and allow for the patient to lead a normal life.