Eating disorders are a serious and complex mental disorder, most likely due to the overemphasis on thinness in society and the constant attention given to this problem. It is more common in women and adolescent girls, because women are more concerned about their appearance than the male sex. Eating disorders are characterized by the fact that eating becomes a way of controlling one’s appearance. Overeating and weight gain are often associated with various negative emotions as a way of eating them away.
Genetic, biological, psychosocial and environmental factors are involved in eating disorders. In North America, the most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa.
Types of Eating Disorders
The most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. In addition, it is worth noting such a form of bulimia as extreme compulsive eating, in which all food is eaten in a short period of time.
Anorexia (anorexia nervosa)
With anorexia, the weight is at least 15% below the expected weight for age and height. The person suffering from anorexia thinks he is too fat, even if he is underweight, and is always very afraid of gaining weight. He is constantly restricting himself from eating. Anorexia usually develops gradually. Weight loss can be slow or fast. It often comes as a complete surprise to loved ones that the person who is constantly around them suffers from anorexia.
Physical symptoms of anorexia include :
- Hormonal disruption, and as a consequence the absence of menstruation;
- Slow heart rate;
- Cold extremities;
- Decrease in the amount of subcutaneous fat;
- Mild anemia and low blood sugar (glucose) are common;
People with bulimia also think they are too fat and are afraid of getting fat. They are constantly preoccupied with food and have an overwhelming desire to eat.
Bulimia is an eating disorder characterized by repeated, uncontrollable, or compulsive episodes of overeating, followed by actions to get rid of the food eaten through inducing vomiting or using laxatives, enemas, or diuretics.
Some people do not cleanse their bodies after eating. Instead, they overeat, consuming up to 20,000 calories in one meal, and then try to compensate by fasting or excessive exercise. Bulimic patients have occasional bouts of compulsive overeating (from once a week to several times a day).
Bulimia nervosa affects women about 3 times as often as men.
Young people with bulimia are aware that their eating habits are not normal. They experience feelings of guilt and shame. As a result, they often hide their symptoms for a long time and struggle to accept treatment.
Physical symptoms of bulimia :
– Menstrual cycle disorders ;
– Disorders of salt metabolism and elevated levels of amylase, an enzyme involved in starch digestion;
– Damage to dental enamel;
– Mental symptoms associated with eating disorders, up to affective, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorders;
Bulimia is often associated with impaired self-control and may be accompanied by alcohol or drug abuse.
Eating disorders are serious: You need specialist help.
Talk to your doctor for advice. The sooner you seek help, the better your chances of recovery.
Treatment consists of restoring nutritional status and psychotherapy. Anorexia is often so severe that in addition to a general practitioner, a psychiatrist specializing in eating disorders is involved in therapy. At the beginning of treatment, it is preferable to direct attention not only to the patient, but also to his family, because psychological support from the environment is extremely important. After the initial phase, long-term supportive treatment follows. In some life-threatening cases, the patient may be referred to compulsory treatment.
Medication treatment is usually initiated by a specialist. There is no specific treatment for anorexia, but the accompanying symptoms are treatable. For example, with the help of antidepressants.