Eating disorders

Last updated date: 03-Jun-2022

CloudHospitalEating DisordersGeneral Health

4 mins read

Eating disorders

Eating disorders are psychological conditions that cause unhealthy eating habits. Eating disorders are mental health conditions shown by an obsession with food or body shape. They can affect anyone, but young women are more prone to developing eating disorders. Eating disorders are about more than just food use abnormalities as they are complex mental health conditions that often require medical and psychological experts to help improve the condition. In severe cases, eating disorders can cause serious health problems and may even result in death, if left untreated. Those with eating disorders can have a variety of symptoms.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, “the global rate of eating disorder prevalence doubled from 3.4 per cent of the population to 7.8 per cent between 2000 and 2018” (more than doubled during the eighteen years). Those with eating disorders may have a variety of symptoms. However, most commonly, symptoms include the severe restriction of food, food binges, purging, vomiting, or over-exercising. Some of the more common types of eating disorders and their common symptoms are:

Anorexia nervosa. Anorexia nervosa is likely the most well-known eating disorder. It generally develops during adolescence and tends to affect more women than men. People with anorexia generally view themselves as overweight, even if they are clearly not. They tend to constantly monitor their weight, avoid eating certain types of foods, and severely restrict their calories. Anorexia is officially categorized into two types - the restricting type and the binge eating & purging type. Those with the restricting type lose weight solely through dieting, fasting, or excessive exercise. While those with the binge eating and purging type may binge on large amounts of food or eat very little. In both cases, after they eat, they purge using activities like vomiting, taking laxatives or diuretics, or exercising excessively.

Bulimia nervosa. Bulimia nervosa is another well-known eating disorder. Like anorexia, bulimia tends to develop during adolescence and appears to be more common among women than men. People with bulimia frequently consume very large amounts of food in a short period of time. Each binge eating episode usually continues until the person becomes painfully full.  Binges can happen with any type of food but most commonly occur with foods the individual would normally avoid, then attempt to purge to compensate for the calories consumed and relieve gut discomfort by forced vomiting, fasting, using laxatives, diuretics, enemas, and excessive exercise. While symptoms may appear very similar to those of anorexia nervosa, individuals with bulimia usually maintain a relatively normal weight, rather than becoming very underweight.

Binge eating disorder. Binge eating disorder is believed to be one of the most common eating disorders. It typically begins during adolescence, although it can develop later on in life. Individuals with this disorder have symptoms similar to those of bulimia or the binge eating subtype of anorexia. They consume unusually large amounts of food in relatively short periods of time and feel a lack of control during the binges. People with binge eating disorder do not restrict calories or use purging behaviors, such as vomiting or excessive exercise, to compensate for their binges. People with binge eating disorders are often overweight or obese. This may increase their risk of medical issues associated with obesity and result in problems such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

A couple of the less common eating disorders include:

Pica. Pica is a type of eating disorder that involves eating things that are not normally considered food. Individuals with pica crave non-food substances, such as ice, dirt, soil, chalk, soap, paper, hair, cloth, wool, pebbles, laundry detergent, or cornstarch. Pica can occur in adults, as well as children and adolescents. That said, this disorder is most frequently observed in children, pregnant women, and individuals with mental disabilities. Individuals with pica are at increased risk of poisoning, infections, gut injuries, and nutritional deficiencies. Pica may be fatal, depending on the substance consumed.

Rumination disorder. Rumination disorder is a newly recognized eating disorder. It is a condition in which a person regurgitates food they have previously chewed and swallowed, re-chews it, and then either re-swallows it or spits it out. This rumination typically occurs within the first 30 minutes after a meal. Unlike medical conditions such as acid reflux, this is a voluntary action. This disorder can develop during infancy, childhood, or adulthood. In infants, it tends to develop between 3–12 months of age and often goes away on its own. Children and adults with the condition usually require therapy to resolve it. For infants, if unresolved, rumination disorder can result in weight loss and severe malnutrition that can be fatal. Adults with this disorder may restrict the amount of food they eat, especially in public, which may lead them to lose weight and become underweight.

Eating disorders are mental health conditions that usually require treatment. They can also be damaging to the body if left untreated. If you have an eating disorder or know someone who does, seek professional help from a doctor who specializes in eating disorders.

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