An eating disorder is an illness that causes serious disturbances to your everyday diet, such as eating extremely small amounts of food or severely overeating. A person with an eating disorder may have started out just eating smaller or larger amounts of food, but at some point, the urge to eat less or more spiraled out of control. Severe distress or concern about body weight or shape may also characterize an eating disorder.
Eating disorders are real, treatable medical illnesses. They frequently coexist with other illnesses such as depression, substance abuse, or anxiety disorders. Eating disorders frequently appear during the teen years or young adulthood but may also develop during childhood or later in life.
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Common eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder.
Anorexia is a serious eating disorder that is associated with an intense fear of food and weight gain. Individuals become obsessed with food and heavily restrict their intake, starve or exercise compulsively. While anorexia revolves around food and weight, it rarely has anything to do with those things. Typically, people with anorexia use food and other unhealthy behaviors, such as exercising excessively, to cope with painful emotions.
There's a range of reasons why a person develops anorexia, and a range of symptoms - from mild to severe. Anorexia can be fatal. In fact, it has one of the highest mortality rates of any mental illness. But effective treatments are available, and if you're struggling with anorexia, recovery is possible. The key is to work hard and be honest with your treatment team.
Signs & Symptoms
Many factors combine to cause anorexia. Individuals with close family members with anorexia are at greater risk for anorexia. Several chromosomes have been linked to anorexia. Also, some traits, including perfectionism, low self-esteem and anxiety, are associated with anorexia. Our society's emphasis on thinness plays a contributing role, as does peer pressure, being involved in weight- or appearance-based activities (such as dancing, gymnastics, wrestling) and events that trigger emotional distress.
There's a common myth that anorexia can be fixed if the person just starts eating; however, since there's so much more to anorexia than food, this isn't the answer. Also, many sufferers think of the behaviors associated with anorexia as a useful way to cope. Remember that anorexia is an illness that creates disordered thoughts, and treatment helps with this.
The first focus of treatment is restoring a healthy weight with proper nutrition. Depending on the severity of anorexia and the complications, some people may require emergency hospitalization. If individuals refuse to eat or are badly malnourished, they may require some time in the hospital.
There are also eating disorder treatment facilities that offer outpatient - day programs that you attend - and inpatient - you sleep there - options. There, individuals usually see a team of professionals and participate in individual and group therapy, nutrition education and other treatment activities.
Others might see a therapist weekly. Individual therapy helps sufferers adopt healthy ways of coping, reduce anxiety and change negative thoughts and behaviors. In family-based therapy, families work together to resolve conflicts and help the sufferer maintain healthy behaviors. Group therapy with a professional therapist can also help, and gives people the opportunity to connect with others. If you think you or someone you know is struggling with anorexia, it's important to speak up and get help.
Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by frequent episodes of binge eating, followed by frantic efforts to avoid gaining weight. Overeating becomes a compulsion. And instead of eating sensibly to make up for it, you punish yourself by purging, fasting, or exercising to get rid of the calories.
This vicious cycle of binging and purging takes a toll on your body and emotional well-being. But the cycle can be broken. Treatment can help you develop a healthier relationship with food and overcome feelings of anxiety, guilt, and shame.
It's important to note that bulimia doesn't necessarily involve purging - physically eliminating the food from your body by throwing up or using laxatives, enemas, or diuretics. If you make up for your binges by fasting, exercising to excess, or going on crash diets, this also qualifies as bulimia.
Am I Bulimic?
Ask yourself the following questions. The more “yes” answers, the more likely you are suffering from bulimia or another eating disorder.
Steps to bulimia recovery
Helpguide.org. All rights reserved. Helpguide.org is an ad-free non-profit resource for supporting better mental health and lifestyle choices for adults and children. Full Article
Helpguide: Bulimia Nervosa: Comprehensive overview of the signs, symptoms, treatment and help for bulimia nervosa.
Mayo Clinic: Bulimia Nervosa Treatment: An overview of treatment options, including drugs, for bulimia nervosa.
Binge Eating Disorder
We all overeat from time to time: taking an extra helping at Thanksgiving dinner, or having dessert when you're already full. But for binge eaters, overeating is regular and uncontrollable. You use food to cope with stress and other negative emotions, even though afterwards you feel even worse. The symptoms of binge eating disorder usually begin in late adolescence or early adulthood, often after a major diet.
The key features of binge eating disorder are:
People with binge eating disorder struggle with feelings of guilt, disgust, and depression. They worry about what the compulsive eating will do to their bodies. They desperately want to stop binge eating, but feel like they can't.
Signs of binge eating disorder
Ask yourself the following questions. The more "yes" answers, the more likely it is that you have binge eating disorder.
Obesity and binge eating
Over time, compulsive overeating usually leads to obesity. Obesity, in turn, causes numerous medical complications, including: Type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer, gall bladder and heart disease.
Treatment and help for binge eating disorder
While there are many things you can do to help yourself stop binge eating, it's also important to seek professional support and treatment. Health professionals who offer treatment for binge eating disorder include psychiatrists, nutritionists, therapists, and eating disorder and obesity specialists.
An effective treatment program for binge eating disorder should address more than just your symptoms and destructive eating habits. It should also address the root causes of the problem - the emotional triggers that lead to binge eating and your difficulty coping with stress, anxiety, fear, sadness, and other uncomfortable emotions.
If obesity is endangering your health, weight loss may also be an important goal. However, dieting can contribute to binge eating, so any weight loss efforts should be carefully monitored by a professional.
Binge-Eating Disorder Resources
Created Fall 2012 by SRJC Web Development Team