The cause of eating disorders is usually not known. But the involvement of genetics, brain biology, and cultural pressures have been implicated.These conditions are mostly associated with eating restriction, binging, purging and other measures that are carried out to stay thin or to relieve the emotional distress.It is estimated that 1 in every 100 women suffers from some kind of eating disorder in her lifetime. They are rare but can be life-threatening.
Some of the most common eating disorders are as follows.
Anorexia nervosa is characterized by extreme restriction to food intake because of their intense fear of getting fat, even if they are fatally thin. This is a life-threatening eating disorder, with death in about 20% of the patients.Although found in both males and females, it is 10 times more common in females. It usually starts in teenage and young women and may last life-long in some cases. However, recovery is possible.The fear of gaining weight is usually associated with low self-esteem, which forces them to eat a very little amount of food, fasting for a long time in between meals, and/or excessive exercise to stay thin. Some may even use laxatives in order to lose weight.
Anorexia nervosa is relatively easier to identify, as the sufferer drastically starts losing weight, and ends up severely underweight. The nutritional deficiencies can further lead to complications like total cessation of menstruation, brittle hair, and nails, reduced bone strength, etc.
“A patient of bulimia exhibits out of control binge eating, usually junk food, which is then followed by purging that is self-induced in order to compensate for overeating.There is usually a long period of fasting before eating a large amount of food, beyond fullness, consumed in a very short period of time. This is usually followed by behavior like using their fingers to induce vomiting and.or use of laxatives, diuretics and enemas to lose weight,says Dr.Bruce L,a fitness expert who blogs at irunnerblog.
Unlike anorexia nervosa, the weight of the patient is usually normal and therefore it is usually not that easily caught. However, some signs that might indicate bulimia are:
- binge eating episodes, usually associated with the feeling of lack of self-control over eating.
- presence of calluses over the knuckles
- tooth decay due to stomach acid
- dehydration and electrolyte imbalance
There may be other complications present, like increased risk of miscarriage, aspiration of food into lungs, sore throat, hoarseness of voice, etc.
This is the most common eating disorder of all.As the name suggests, this involves episodes of binge eating, in which a person consumes a huge amount of food in a very short period. But unlike bulimia nervosa, there is no compensatory behavior like purging, use of laxatives, diuretics, etc, to lose those calories.
Binge-eating disorder quite often exists as a coping mechanism for depression and anxiety. There is a sense of relief during the episode of binging, but there is a feeling of guilt and shame afterward for consuming a large amount of food.Because there is no compensatory behavior, a person with a binge-eating disorder is usually overweight or obese.
Some indicators of the binge-eating disorder include, eating a large amount of food in a short period of time even when not hungry, insisting to eat alone because of the feeling of embarrassment, and low-self esteem and feeling of guilt. The complications in binge-eating disorder are usually associated with obesity, like type 2 diabetes and heart diseases;
Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)
Previously known as a selective eating disorder, ARFID is an eating disorder that is characterized by the consumption of only selective food. They usually have a very narrow spectrum of food that they tend to consume. The aversion to other types of food can be due to the texture, smell, taste, previous bad experience with food and sometimes even brand of that particular food. Sometimes the avoidance is towards an entire group of foods like they might avoid all fruits, or all vegetables, or all products from the same brand,
People with this disorder usually manage to maintain a healthy weight. But there may be certain nutritional deficiencies present, and they may also tend to depend on dietary supplements to fulfill their nutritional requirements. They may also avoid social gatherings in order to hide their eating habits.This disorder is quite frequently seen in people with autism and anxiety disorders, as they tend to avoid trying new things. However, it's not necessary that everyone with this disorder will have autism or anxiety disorder.
There are no set diagnostic criteria for this disorder, and the diagnosis is made by exploring the eating habits, dietary preferences, aversion to certain foods and the presence of nutritional deficiencies, etc.
Pica is a psychological disorder that is characterized by the presence of a strong appetite for non-nutritive, inedible materials, like chalk, paper, hair, metal, stones, soil, etc.Eating such objects is common in children and that behavior in very young children wouldn't be considered as pica. When older children and adults exhibit this behavior for at least 1 month, only then the diagnosis of pica can be made.Pica can cause serious health complications in the form of intestinal obstruction, nutritional deficiencies, intoxication, and even parasite infestations.
"Pica may be associated with other mental disorders, and quite often seen in children and adults coming from disordered families, parental neglect, maternal deprivation, and other emotional traumas and family issues. Although they are quite commonly seen in pregnancy also, as well as in certain nutritional deficiencies like iron and zinc deficiency.Again, there are no specific diagnostic criteria and the diagnosis is mostly based on clinical history and exams," says Dr. Debanjan Banerjee, a mental health specialist at Doctorspring.
Treatment of Eating disorders:
Eating disorders may be a bit difficult to overcome but recovery is very much possible. They are usually associated with other mental and emotional issues and therefore it is important to address those issues also along with behavioral modifications. The entire treatment structure would depend on that and may vary from person to person.
Medications and therapies like CBT, dialectical behavioral therapy, etc may be indicated and helpful in these cases.
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