What does it mean having an eating disorder?

You may have heard it somewhere, you may be wondering what it might be, but do you finally know what it is? do you know how it comes about? Eating disorder is a condition in which a persistent and serious eating disorder occurs and is associated with disturbing thoughts and feelings about food, body, and image. This disturbed diet can cause very serious conditions that can affect a person’s physical, psychological, and social life. But who can have an eating disorder? Eating Disorders are non-discriminatory, they can occur in women and men of any age, with a higher incidence in women in adolescence and early adulthood, ethnicity policy (American Psychiatric Association, 2021).

But which are the types of eating disorders?

  • Anorexia Nervosa (significant weight loss, excessive weight gain and a feeling of ‘thickness’)
  • Bulimia nervosa (signs of overeating, frequent visits to the bathroom, smell of vomit)
  • Overeating / Night Overeating (hidden episodes of overeating, feelings of disgust, guilt after overeating)
  • Orthorexia (exclusion of certain foods & consumption of “healthy foods”
  • Avoiding / Restricting food intake (limited range of foods consumed, weight loss)
  • Pica (consumption of other things instead of food, toothpaste, soap, hair, etc.)
  • Ruminant Disorder (Sucked food may be chewed again, swallowed or spit out)
  • Forced exercise (where it ceases to be a pleasure and interferes in other areas of the person’s life
  • Unspecified eating disorder

(National Eating Disorder Association, 2022)

But what, when how and where we eat cease to be a pleasure and becomes a nuisance? Which are the signs?

Behavior Indications

  • Weight loss behaviors, diet and food control become essential in the life of the individual
  • The concern of food, weight, calories, grams of food
  • Difficulty eating in front of other people
  • Food-related rituals (eg eating only one food or group of foods [eg spices], chewing too much, not allowing food to touch each other)
  • Frequent check in the mirror for body size and shape
  • Intense mood swings

Physical Signs

  • Cycle disorders
  • Gastro-esophageal problems
  • Problems with the gums, teeth (due to vomiting), skin, nails
  • Fluctuations in weight (excessive weight loss, or many ups and downs)
  • Other health problems, such as anemia etc.

But what can lead to the development of an eating disorder?

Food is not the problem, on the contrary food is essential for our survival. There are of course many factors that can contribute to its development, i.e., biological, such as relatives with an eating disorder or a history of mental illness (anxiety disorder, depression, addictions), or the existence of type 1 diabetes. The psychological factors that can contribute are perfectionism, dissatisfaction with their body image, a history of anxiety disorder, or forced behavior to follow the “should” and the “right”. Of course, family, and social environment can also contribute to eating disorders, such as trauma (abuse), social stigma, bullying at school, teasing, ideal body image and patterns, social media and communication. It is almost never ONE reason that can lead a person to develop an eating disorder. It can appear in athletes, men, women, younger or older. That is why a holistic approach to the problem is important.

Diagnosis is only the first step towards recovery from an eating disorder. Treatment includes a combination of psychological and nutritional support, along with medical and psychiatric follow-up. Treatment should address the symptoms of the eating disorder and its medical consequences, as well as the psychological, biological, interpersonal, and cultural forces that contribute to or perpetuate the eating disorder. There is therefore the possibility for a person with an eating disorder to be cured and be well  with the appropriate support.

 

American Psychiatric Association. (2021, March). psychiatric.org. Ανάκτηση από https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/eating-disorders/what-are-eating-disorders

National Eating Disorder Association. (2022). Ανάκτηση από https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/information-eating-disorder