Eating disorders can be challenging to overcome because it is both a mental and physical illness. Eating disorders do not discriminate and can be experienced by anyone from any background. While some may believe eating disorders are only about whether we eat enough, there are many other ways disordered eating can present itself. The following are diagnoses and terms that may fall under an eating disorder with brief descriptions of what they mean:
- Anorexia Nervosa-Restricting food consumption leading to significantly low body weight; fear of gaining weight; disturbed by one’s weight and appearance.
- Bulimia Nervosa-Episodes of binge eating and utilizing inappropriate ways to compensate to prevent weight gain (using laxatives, vomiting, fasting, excessive exercise, etc.).
- Binge Eating Disorder-Eating large amounts of food with the sense of loss of control, shame, and guilt.
- Orthorexia-An unhealthy obsession with healthy eating which leads to dame of well-being.
- Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder-Not consuming enough calories to maintain body functioning while also not being concerned about weight or appearance.
- Pica-Eating items that are not considered food and have no significant nutritional value.
- Rumination Disorder-Regular regurgitation of food which may be chewed, swallowed, or spit out.
- Laxative Abuse-Repeated use of laxatives with intent to get rid of unwanted calories, lose weight, etc.
- Excessive Exercise-Extreme exercise which may interfere with areas of a person’s life.
No matter which disordered eating patterns are recognized within yourself or someone you know, it is important to remember that eating disorders are not a choice. They are diseases that stem from a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and social factors. Common risk factors for developing an eating disorder can be broken down into the following:
- Biological Having a close relative with an eating disorder or mental health condition, history of dieting, negative energy balance (burning more calories than you take in), and type 1 diabetes.
- Psychological Having a perfectionist mindset, body image dissatisfaction, history of an anxiety disorder, and behavioral inflexibility.
- Social Weight stigma, teasing or bullying, internalizing the “ideal body” social definition, acculturation, limited social networks, and historical trauma.
If left untreated, eating disorders can have serious consequences that will affect an individual’s emotional and physical health. Relationships will be strained, and serious damage can be sustained by the body’s organs, potentially leading to death. Fortunately, treatment is available for those who desire a change. Recovery may be a long process and requires the help of professionals and others in a healthy support network. Treatment may consist of seeing an individual therapist for weekly sessions or participating in an inpatient program for a few months. A mental health professional can help an individual determine the level of care required to begin a life of recovery from disordered eating.
In conclusion, eating disorders can be challenging to overcome but professional help is available. The following link will assist you in finding programs and professionals to guide you through recovery: https://map.nationaleatingdisorders.org/
“When your healthy self is strong enough to deal with all that comes your way in life, you’re eating disorder self will no longer be useful or necessary.” – Carolyn Costin