Eating disorders are serious medical illnesses characterized by severe disturbances in the way a person eats or compensates for eating. They are the leading cause of death in mental illness. People with an Eating Disorder often obsess over food, body weight, exercising or rituals around food. Therefore, they can impact a person’s physical and psychological health in extreme ways.
An Eating Disorder is not a lifestyle choice or phase. There are a serious, genetic, medical and psychological illnesses. Luckily, these issues can be treated and full recovery is possible.
Who is at risk with Eating Disorders?
Eating disorders don’t discriminate. Any age, gender, S.E.S. or racial background can have an eating disorder. In fact, most people with an eating disorder are not underweight. There can be many severe, physical and psychological symptoms from a person’s eating disorder. There is no such thing as needing to be “thin enough” or “sick enough” to have an eating disorder. That is to say, healthy looking people can have extremely severe eating disorders as well. Early intervention can improve and decrease treatment time, as well as cost.
Types of Eating Disorders:
People with A.N. avoid and restrict food and/or only eat small portions of certain foods. They may weigh themselves and check their body in the mirror frequently. People who suffer from A.N. may or may not feel like they need to lose weight or have an extreme fear of gaining weight. In addition, the binge-purge type may have occasional episodes of purposely throwing up and/or using laxatives in addition to a severe control of food intake.
People with B.N. have frequent episodes of eating large amounts of food and then try to make up for it after the binge. Compensation behaviors can include vomiting, extreme exercising, extreme control of food intake. Similarly, people with B.N. may also be overusing pills or insulin as well as using pills that increase waste.
Binge Eating Disorder:
Unlike Bulimia, people who struggle with binge eating disorder eat large amounts of food. However, they do not purge or fast afterwards. Binge eating is not a “willpower” or “laziness” issue and is not taken care of by “going on a diet.” Binge eating disorder is the most common but least treated/recognized eating disorder. So, if you struggle with a pattern of constant over-eating, please see a provider to be screened for B.E.D.
ARFID (Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder):
People with ARFID are defined by having strict rules around food that impact their eating (socially and/or physically). These rules are not related to a person trying to control food intake or being dissappointed with their body.
Examples include only eating certain food colors, textures or only drinking liquids for nutrient intake. Similarly, someone with ARFID may be only having a select amount of food based on fears and anxieties with other foods. Many people are young when they first show these behaviors. However, ARFID could exhibit later on, especially as a result of a trauma, surgery or illness.
OSFED (Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorder):
This category covers those who don’t match the criteria for other Eating Disorders. However, they do have a relationship with food that causes dysfunction and impairment in their physical and emotional wellbeing.
What are the warning signs & Symptoms?
- Obsession or preoccupation with food, weight, calories, dieting and/or body image
- Changes in behavior and attitude around meal time
- Feelings of isolation, depression, anxiety or irritability
- Withdrawal from friends and activities
- Development of secretive, abnormal and/or extreme food rituals, routines or eating behaviors
- Evidence of purging behaviors include throwing up, excessive exercise and misuse of laxatives and “weight loss” pills
- Stained teeth, brittle nails, lanugo (development of white hair), dry skin, hair loss or major changes in weight
What can I do about It?
If you or a loved one may be struggling with an eating disorder, contact a specialist like Jenny Helms, LCMFT to learn more about resources and support in your area. Finding help isn’t always an easy step, but it’s a crucial one.
Eating disorders are complex, psychological and medical illnesses that typically involve a treatment team. Luckily, a specialized therapist, dietitian and doctor can target all the various pieces involved in the journey to recovery. Your team can help you recover and live life on your own terms, not your eating disorder’s.
If you or a loved one is struggling with any mental health issues, please contact us today to get a compassionate and thorough intake so we can connect you with the best services possible. Hope is just a phone call away! (316) 201-6047 or contact us here.
- NEDA National Eating Disorder Association, 800-931-2237, firstname.lastname@example.org
- ANAD, anad.org