A person is said to have an eating disorder when he or she displays an abnormal attitude towards food and an obsession with body weight and shape which results in unhealthy eating habits and behavior. The most common eating disorders are Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa and Binge-Eating Disorder.
Eating disorders can be a result of many factors, but the most common is the social pressure to be thin or to have a certain body image. Other factors are: being criticized about eating habits, body shape or weight; traumatic experiences such as sexual, physical or emotional abuse or the loss of a relative or loved one; having a family history of eating disorders, depression or substance misuse.
Anorexia nervosa, one of the three main eating disorders, occurs when someone goes to extreme lengths to keep their weight as low as possible through self-starvation and excessive exercising. Bulimia nervosa occurs when someone tries to control his or her weight by binge eating and then inducing vomiting or using laxatives to rid themselves of the food eaten. Binge eating disorder is characterized by the regular occurrence of binge-eating without subsequently inducing vomiting or using laxatives.
Anorexia and Bulimia Nervosa have similar symptoms which are using body image and weight to determine self worth; and having an intense fear and/or anxiety about weight gain. Common warning signs are: frequent denial of hunger, refusal of certain foods like carbohydrates, consistently avoiding meal times and situations involving food, being absent immediately after food is eaten, displays of anxiety and frequent comments about weight gain, engaging in excessive, rigid exercise regimen and eventual withdrawal from usual friends and activities.
Like persons suffering from anorexia and bulimia nervosa, persons with binge-eating disorder also avoid meal times and situations involving food; and also eventually withdraw from usual friends and activities. They have frequent episodes of consuming excessive amounts of food quickly, during which time they feel out of control, and immediately following are feelings of guilt and shame.
All eating disorders result in adverse effects on health. Anorexia nervosa can result in slowing of heart rate and low blood pressure, muscle loss and weakness, osteoporosis, dry skin and hair loss, severe dehydration, fainting, fatigue and weakness, damage to tissues and organs including kidneys, and growth of lanugo (downy layer of hair) all over the body to help keep it warm.
Bulimia nervosa usually results in electrolyte imbalances (specifically from loss of potassium and sodium) which can lead to irregular heartbeats and possibly death; tooth decay and staining from the stomach acids released during vomiting; inflammation and possible rupture of the esophagus from frequent vomiting and chronic irregular bowel movements and constipation from overuse of laxative.
On the flipside, binge eating disorder normally results in chronic diseases such as diabetes mellitus, high blood pressure, hyperlipidemia, cardiovascular diseases, gallbladder diseases and musculoskeletal problems.
If you or anyone you know is suffering from any form of eating disorder, seek professional assistance immediately. A psychologist or counselor will help you to manage your social and psychological concerns. While a dietitian or nutritionist will provide you with healthier weight management options.
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