Eating Disorder Overview

Eating disorder is a serious psychiatric condition characterized by poor eating behaviors. In some cases, obsessions with weight or body shape can be a sign of an eating disorder. This can affect a person’s mental and physical health – other times it can be life-threatening.

It’s estimated that more than 30 million Americans suffer from Bulimia and anorexia. Also, recent statistics show that many people die from eating disorders than bipolar, depression, and psychotic disorders.

Types of eating disorders

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia is a life-threatening eating disorder characterized by eating a large amount of food and then purging to get rid of the extra pounds. Once someone has binge, they can control the food they eat. For instance, someone can eat 10,000 calories within hours but to compensate for the binge, he will show behaviors like fasting or vomiting. If you have this disorder, you may judge yourself severely for your self-perceived flaws. The only way you can overcome this problem is to have a healthy eating pattern. Some of the behavioral signs of bulimia include:

  • Using diuretics and laxatives after eating
  • Using herbal products to get rid of extra weight
  • Secrecy eating
  • Obsessively weighing food or counting calories
  • Dieting
  • Making frequent trips to the washroom after eating

Psychological and physical signs include:

  • Gastrointestinal problems after using laxatives
  • Feeling fatigued
  • Depression and irritability
  • Feeling preoccupied with food

If you have bulimia, you should consult your healthcare provider immediately. If you’re reluctant to seek treatment, you should look for someone you can confide with. While the cause of bulimia is unknown, this condition is mostly associated with biology, emotional health, genetics, and societal expectations.

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia Nervosa is a disorder characterized by the fear of gaining weight. People with this disorder can restrict the amount of food they eat including self-starvation. The common symptoms of anorexia include behavioral and emotional issues. It can be difficult to identify the symptoms, especially if a person looks extremely thin.

Behavioral symptoms

  • Exercising too much
  • Restricting food intake through fasting and dieting
  • Use of laxatives and herbal products

Psychological symptoms

  • Anxiety around mealtimes
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Being sensitive to comments related to body weight and size
  • Distorted body image

Physical signs

  • Checking in the mirror frequently for perceived flaws
  • Being unable to maintain normal body weight
  • Fatigue or low energy
  • Being unable to maintain a healthy body weight
  • Fainting or feeling dizzy


This is an obsession with healthful eating. Such people are fixated to healthy eating which may damage their wellbeing. While most people with this condition report that they started well, the innocuous lifestyle changes can give a negative effect. A normal American food consists of carbohydrates, fat, sugar, and dairy is recommended. Some foods also have ambiguous labels like `bad’ or `good’ attached to them. For the untrained eye, it can be difficult to identify if someone is suffering from malnutrition.

Someone with Orthorexia has restrictive food eating habits. They avoid eating the entire food groups and may sometimes eat raw foods. This brings us to the question, what is the difference between healthy eating and Orthorexia? Well, this condition goes beyond healthy eating. Some can develop obsessive rituals with food and have no medical reason for their intake. If they don’t follow the diet, they feel ashamed or guilty. Of course, their daily functioning revolves around food.

Some of the signs and symptoms that you have Orthorexia include:

  • Being concerned about the health of the ingredients
  • Cutting out on the number of foods
  • Being stressed when `healthy’ food is not available
  • Negative thoughts about unhealthy food

Behavioral signs include

  • Avoiding pesticides, sugar, animal products, salt, and other unhealthy ingredients
  • An increase in the intake of vitamins and herbal supplements
  • Reduction on the type of food eaten
  • Being afraid to take food prepared by others

Binge eating disorder

Binge eating disorder is characterized by the urge of being unable to control the amount of food you eat. Because there’s no compensatory behavior to negate the loss, people tend to be obese or overweight.

While the exact cause of binge is unknown, many factors contribute to this situation. For instance, there’s a strong correlation between difficulty coping with feelings, low self-esteem, and body dissatisfaction. The biological factors also play a key role. This can be genetic mutations or hormonal irregularities. Finally, it can be caused by traumatic situations like social pressure to be thin, a history of sexual abuse, etc. Since most individuals suffering from this disorder are ashamed of their situation, the symptoms are always hidden. Some of the emotional and behavioral symptoms include:

  • The feeling of stress and anxiety
  • Inability to stop or control what you eat
  • Continuing to eat even when full
  • Lack of satisfaction on the amount of food you eat

Unlike bulimia, a binge is associated with complications like diabetes type-2, gallbladder disease, depression/anxiety, gastrointestinal problems, insomnia, and more. While most binge-eating problems are short-lived, they can be recurrent if left untreated.

What are the risk factors for eating disorders?

Eating disorders can affect people of all ages or religions. The risk factors can range from environmental, psychological, or biological. They can include body image dissatisfaction, history of being bullied, mental health issues/depression, and body image dissatisfaction.

Although eating disorders appear during teenage years and adulthood, they can also develop during childhood or adulthood. Keep in mind that someone may appear healthy but they are seriously ill.

Treatment for eating disorders

According to medical professionals, most people with eating disorders are at risk of developing medical complications or committing suicide. Don’t be surprised to find out people with eating disorders have other medical conditions like anxiety and depression. Depending on the type of disorder, the treatment can range from nutritional counseling, medical care monitoring, psychotherapy, or a combination of all these approaches.

The treatment can also include bringing body weight to a healthy level, restoring adequate nutrition, stropping binge-eating behaviors, and reducing excessive exercise. A therapist can also use a cognitive-behavioral approach or talk therapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy focuses on eliminating the negative patterns and identifies problematic beliefs as a healthy way to cope with emotions.

Most professionals also recommend eating disorder therapy as a holistic approach to treat the problem. It also helps the sufferers recognize the thoughts tied to the illness. Other therapies that may be helpful include dialectical behavioral therapy, medical nutrition therapy, and art therapy.

The key to recovery is to find an eating disorder specialist. A professional will decide on the treatment plan that suits the underlying problem.

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