Do you have an uncontrollable relationship with food, obsess about your body image or weight, or feel anxious about eating certain foods? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might have an eating disorder.
Eating disorders can impair your physical, psychological, and social functioning and diminish your body’s ability to receive proper nourishment. There are many types of eating disorders, each exhibiting different characteristics, symptoms, and side effects.
Understanding Eating Disorders
An eating disorder is a complex mental health condition in which the person affected experiences significant disruptions in their eating behaviors and related thoughts or emotions.
Eating disorders are not a lifestyle choice. Most types of eating disorders include the severe limiting of food, food binges, or purging behaviors like vomiting or over-exercising.
The myth is that eating disorders are not as serious as other mental health disorders. The unfortunate truth is that health complications related to eating disorders can be fatal. The key to a good outcome is a prompt diagnosis and access to treatment.
What Causes Eating Disorders?
Varying factors cause eating disorders in different people. People may experience eating disorders because of cultural ideals, unhealthy coping skills due to trauma, or mental health issues.
Factors causing eating disorders include:
- Brain Structure and Biology – A person’s brain chemistry and other biological factors may play a role in eating disorders.
- Personality Traits – People with neuroticism, perfectionism, impulsive behavior, troubled relationships, or low self-esteem can be at a greater risk for eating disorders.
- Societal Pressure – The cultural affinity for thin, photoshopped, sculpted bodies fueled by raw foods, cleansing, and smoothies are a few ways in which eating disorders may be influenced through advertisements, magazines, and social media.
- Trauma – People who experience trauma can develop an eating disorder due to seeking something to have control over.
The Most Comment Eating Disorders
There are a variety of eating disorders that people experience. The six eating disorders explained below are the most common ones.
1. Anorexia Nervosa
Anorexia Nervosa is a person’s refusal to maintain a minimally normal body weight, intense fear of gaining weight, and significantly distorted perception of the shape and size of their body. They prevent weight gain by restricting or avoiding food intake. With an intense fear of becoming overweight, people with Anorexia Nervosa are extremely thin, and they employ self-starvation, often through intermittent binge eating, followed by purging.
It is one of the most serious eating disorders and can be fatal. It has a higher death rate than any other mental health issue.
Signs and symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa include:
- Brittle hair and nails
- Dizziness or fainting from dehydration
- Dramatic weight loss; low body weight
- Intolerance of cold
- Lack of menstrual periods
- Muscle weakness and loss
- Severe constipation and bloating following meals
- Pale, dry skin
2. Bulimia Nervosa
People with Bulimia Nervosa eat large amounts of food in short periods, then purge by using inappropriate methods to avoid weight gain. People with this disorder often eat until the point of being painfully full. Common purging techniques include vomiting, fasting, laxatives, diuretics, enemas, or excessive exercise to override calorie intake and alleviate stomach aches.
Signs and symptoms of Bulimia Nervosa include:
- Swollen glands and roundness in the jaw area
- Chronic sore throat
- Tooth cavities or sensitivity as stomach acid erodes the tooth enamel
- Disappearing food or unexplained empty wrappers or food containers
- Frequent trips to the bathroom following meals
- Bloodshot eyes
- Chronic bouts of constipation (resulting from laxative abuse)
3. Binge Eating Disorder
This disorder is the rapid consumption of abnormally large quantities of food while unable to control this behavior. These binge eating episodes average once a week for at least three months.
Signs and symptoms of binge eating disorder:
- Consuming large amounts of food within a short time
- Eating until you’re uncomfortably full
- Eating when you aren’t hungry
- Feeling guilt, shame, or distress about your eating habits
- Hiding while eating
- Rapid eating
4. Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder
Most commonly seen in children, Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) occurs in people who don’t consume enough calories, to grow and develop properly due to limitations in the amount or types of food consumed.
People with ARFID often find the sensory characteristics of food troubling and are disinterested in foods with specific colors, smells, tastes, and textures. They also lack essential nutrients that can hinder weight gain and vertical growth in children and cause adults to experience weight loss.
Signs and symptoms of ARFID include:
- Fear of choking or vomiting
- Reliance on nutritional supplements
- Difficulty eating with others
- Severe nutrient deficiencies
- Significant weight loss
- Stunted growth in children
People who repeatedly eat things that aren’t food and have no nutritional value may have Pica, an eating disorder that frequently occurs in children. People diagnosed with Pica don’t usually have an aversion to food. But they eat non-food items like chalk, charcoal, clay, cleaning products, cloth, dirt, hair, metal, paint chips, paper, pebbles, or soap. Those with Pica are at risk for intestinal blockages and may be at an increased risk for poisoning, infections, and gut injuries.
6. Rumination Disorder
Rumination disorder is an individual’s uncontrollable and frequent regurgitation of food they previously swallowed to their mouth to re-chew it, then re-swallow or spit it out. It is common to see this diagnosis in infants, children, and individuals with intellectual disabilities.
In rumination disorder, the food is effortlessly regurgitated, and the person appears calm. Belching, burping, halitosis, and signs of psychological symptoms such as depression or anxiety can all result from a rumination disorder.
Finding Help and Support
If you identified with the description, signs, or symptoms described above, it might be helpful to complete this screening for more insight.
With proper medical care, people with eating disorders can create healthy eating habits and restore their mental and physical health. All Counseling’s online therapist directory is easy to use and can help you find a therapist who specializes in helping those who suffer from eating disorders.