An eating disorder is a person’s compulsion to either eat or avoid eating. It negatively affects his or her physical and mental health. Those who are not knowledgeable about this condition usually assume that a person with an eating disorder has a problem with food. People suffering from this condition do not have a problem with the food per se. They are actually having problems with some aspects of their lives and they are projecting this through their eating habits.
Eating disorders are all-encompassing — they affect every part of a person’s life. Too often, a person suffering from this disorder is so preoccupied with food and weight issues that they have little interest in anything else.
While it’s true that this disorder mainly affects women between the ages of 12 and 35, the risk is also applicable to other groups. Eating disorders are also an issue to people belonging to different ethnic and racial groups, with the only variation being the specific nature of the problem and the risk factors.
Common Types of Eating Disorders
The most common types of eating disorders are as follows:
- Anorexia nervosa. The afflicted person is driven by fear of becoming overweight and as such, goes on a deliberate and sustained dieting process resulting in significant weight loss.People who have this condition are called anorexics. They consider themselves as fat, regardless of what their actual weight is. They do not recognize themselves as underweight — some feel “fat” even at 80 lbs. Due to this feeling, they often try to avoid food and intaking calories at all costs. An estimated 10 to 20% of those afflicted by anorexia nervosa die of complications related to it.Most anorexics are also perfectionists. They tend to set unattainable standards for themselves and when they don’t meet them, they look for parts in their lives they can control to compensate, such as food and weight.
- Bulimia nervosa. People with the bulimia nervosa condition go through a cyclical pattern of binge eating followed by crash dieting or purging. The purging usually comes as an overcompensation driven by guilt for the intake of excess calories.Bulimics have different methods of binges, and they have different binge foods as well. Some people describe their binges as a physical high. The reasons they binge may also be different. Bulimics binge for their own personal reasons. The binge leads to the person feeling guilt or shame, and then the person tries to compensate by purging the food as a way to make up for their “mistake”. The purging leads to a feeling of being famished and empty, again leading an uncontrollable binge. The vicious cycle continues.
- Binge-eating disorder. Those suffering from binge-eating disorder regularly eat excessive amounts of food, sometimes lasting for hours at end. They may eat long after satisfying their hunger, and may even continue even though they’re uncomfortably full. Many people who suffer from this disorder use food as a way to cope with feelings and emotions in their lives that they do not want to feel.
Getting Rid of Eating Disorders
To treat these eating disorders, you should try the following:
- Psychotherapy. The main goal of psychotherapy is to exchange the bad habits that make people binge or purge food with healthy ones. With psychotherapy, a person can learn to monitor his or her moods, develop specific problem-solving skills, and handle stress, which is often a big factor in the development of these disorders. Family and group therapy may also be helpful for some people.
- Hospitalization. Serious cases of eating disorders, especially anorexia, often need hospitalization in order to be more closely monitored and supervised. The hospitalization may either be in a medical or psychiatric ward, depending on the problem. There are also clinics that specifically treat people with eating disorders.
- Medications. There is no known medication for eating disorders; however, some pills may help control the urges to binge or purge and manage excessive preoccupations with food and dieting.
Here are more tips on how you can help alleviate the symptoms while the problem is being treated:
- Stick to the plan that’s been formulated by the doctors.
- Make sure that you get all the vitamins and minerals via supplements.
- Don’t isolate yourself from your friends and family members. They’re important in helping you get through the whole treatment process.
- Resist the urge to weigh yourself or frequently check yourself in the mirror.
- Get regular medical check-ups.
An eating disorder should never be taken lightly. If you’re suffering from this disorder, do yourself a favor and surround yourself with people who care. They can help you get back to a normal life as soon as possible.