An eating disorder can be described as a mental disorder characterised by an abnormal eating pattern that negatively affects a person’s physical and mental health.
Those with eating disorders can have a variety of symptoms. However, most include the severe restriction of food, food binges, or purging behaviours like vomiting or over-exercising. In severe cases, eating disorders can cause serious health consequences and may even result in death if left untreated.
Below are the most common types of eating disorders you should know.
1. Anorexia nervosa
This is a potentially life-threatening eating disorder that is characterised by self-starvation and excessive weight loss. Anorexia is likely the most well-known eating disorder. It generally develops during adolescence or young adulthood and tends to affect more women than men.
The disorder is diagnosed when a person weighs at least 15% less than their normal/ideal body weight. Extreme weight loss in people with anorexia nervosa can lead to dangerous health problems and even death.
Common symptoms of anorexia nervosa include: being considerably underweight compared with people of similar age and height, very restricted eating patterns, an intense fear of gaining weight or persistent behaviours to avoid gaining weight despite being underweight, a relentless pursuit of thinness and unwillingness to maintain a healthy weight, a heavy influence of body weight or perceived body shape on self-esteem, a distorted body image, including denial of being seriously underweight.
2. Bulimia nervosa
Like anorexia, bulimia tends to develop during adolescence and early adulthood and appears to be less common among men than women.
Bulimia is a psychological eating disorder in which you have episodes of binge eating (consuming a large quantity of food in one sitting). During these binges, you have no sense of control over your eating.
Afterwards, you try inappropriate ways to lose weight such as forced vomiting, fasting, laxatives, diuretics, enemas, and excessive exercise.
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3. Binge eating disorder
Binge eating disorder is another common eating disorder. It begins during adolescence and early adulthood, although it can develop later on.
People with this disorder usually consume large amounts of food in relatively short periods of time and feel a lack of control. They do not restrict calories or use purging behaviours, such as vomiting or excessive exercise, to compensate for their binges.
Common symptoms of binge eating disorder include
- Eating large amounts of foods rapidly, in secret and until uncomfortably full, despite not feeling hungry.
- Feelings of distress, such as shame, disgust, or guilt.
- No use of purging behaviours to compensate for the binging.
People with binge eating disorders often have overweight or obesity. This may increase their risk of medical complications linked to excess weight, such as heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
4. Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder
This disorder is characterised by failing to meet your minimum daily nutrition requirements because you don’t have an interest in eating; you avoid food with certain sensory characteristics, such as colour, texture, smell or taste; or you’re concerned about the consequences of eating, such as fear of choking.
The disorder can result in significant weight loss or failure to gain weight in childhood.
What You Can Do About Eating Disorders
This would involve weight restoration and stabilisation, guidance for normal eating, and the integration of an individualised meal plan.
Therapy is a fundamental part of treatment because it affords an individual in recovery the opportunity to address and heal from traumatic life events and learn healthier coping skills and methods for expressing emotions, communicating and maintaining healthy relationships.
Some medications may be effective in helping resolve mood or anxiety symptoms that can occur with an eating disorder or in reducing binge-eating and purging behaviours.
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