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Ever since people have started becoming more woke and aware of mental health, there has been an open conversation about the various aspects and experiences of those who have suffered from it firsthand. Although the discussion has begun today, the issues have been prevalent since time immemorial.
Eating disorders have been one of the most prevalent forms of mental illness that have made our society suffer for a long time. Lady Diana Spencer, the princess of Wales battled an eating disorder post her marriage to Prince Charles. When her relationship with her husband started deteriorating, she succumbed to depression, which further led to her deteriorating health.
What is an eating disorder?
The name eating disorder does not convey the severity of the issue but an eating disorder is much more than just disordered eating. Eating disorders encompasses several psychological issues that often lead to unhealthy eating, disturbed eating, and therefore frequent changes in the body weight of the person. The patient often craves a particular kind of food and ends up consuming it in unhealthy patterns.
Unlike what most people believe it to be, an eating disorder is fatal and can eventually lead to the death of a person if not treated at the right time. Some symptoms that help in the diagnosis of an eating disorder are overeating, binge eating, avoiding food, vomiting post the binge eating episodes, and exercising heavily.
Studies suggest that women and adolescent children are more prone to suffering from eating disorders. There is no particular reason that tends to cause eating disorders but it is believed that the more emotionally disturbed a person is, the more they tend to suffer from it.
What are the causes of eating disorders?
Researchers have proved that eating disorders are often caused due to genetics. This means that eating disorders can be inherited from parents to offspring. This was proved when in some cases several pairs of twins who were separated at birth and adopted by two different families and kept apart their entire lifetime were found to be suffering from eating disorders despite the huge difference in their lifestyles.
Therefore, researchers accepted that if one of the twins suffers from an eating disorder, the other one has a probability of 50% to acquire it.
Another study revealed that neuroticism, perfectionism, and impulsivity are some character traits that were commonly found in people who suffered from an eating disorder. Certain other factors were the unrealistic body expectations portrayed in the media. The pressure on individuals to be of a particular shape and size often led them to starve themselves or overeating to gain weight as soon as possible. This gradually leads to a person feeling low in confidence and reluctant to own their body.
Brain structure and its anatomy is another factor that determines if a person shall be suffering from an eating disorder or not. If the amounts of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine that are supposed to keep a person happy and active reduce in the body, it leads to Depression.
Types of eating disorders:
Anorexia nervosa is mostly noticed in adolescents and women. Individuals very sharply monitor their calorie intake and body weight. They eat very specific kinds of food and pertain from a healthy or a wholesome meal. They tend to see themselves as overweight even if the BMR scale declares them underweight.
These individuals suffer from body image issues and gaining weight even slightly is one of their nightmares. They always tend to live in a state of denial of being underweight. These people tend to control their environment and are often seen obsessing over food and recipes.
Bulimia nervosa also develops during adolescence. But Bulimia nervosa is more commonly found in men than women. The patient often gets into binge eating episodes. They keep eating till their stomach starts to hurt. After consuming all these unnecessary and extra amounts of calories, the patient tries to shed them by forced vomiting, fasting, laxatives, diuretics, enemas, and excessive exercise.
Despite having a healthy body weight, the patient tends to see themselves as overweight and tries to overcompensate for it. Apart from deteriorating mental health and digestion, they also suffer from side effects like sore throat, swollen salivary glands, worn tooth enamel, tooth decay, acid reflux, ulcers of the gut, dehydration, and hormonal imbalance.
Binge eating disorder:
Patients with binge eating disorders tend to eat exceptionally large amounts of food in a very short period. They lose control of their body and mind when it comes to eating and often tend to eat beyond the capacity of their stomach. They do not stop until it starts to hurt. A major difference between patients with Bulimia nervosa and Binge eating disorder is that those suffering from binge eating disorder do not restrict their calories and do not overcompensate to burn the extra calories they consumed.
Pica is an extremely deteriorating eating disorder because the patient tends to crave things that are not edible and cannot be digested by the body. They often sneak out of public places and eat ice, dirt, soil, chalk, soap, paper, hair, cloth, wool, pebbles, laundry detergent, cornstarch, etc.
In this condition, the patient tends to chew their food, keep it stored in their oral cavity, regurgitates it, and chews it again. Most people confuse it with reflux, but unlike reflux, here the regurgitation is voluntary.
Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder:
Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder was earlier known as feeding disorder of infancy and early childhood. This is usually found in infants and children under the age of 7 years. They tend to feel about food and have a distaste for it.
How to treat eating disorders?
An eating disorder is a medical condition that disturbs a person’s mental and physical balance. It, therefore, needs you to seek help from a professional who could analyze your psychological and physical health and assist you to improve your health. Feel free to visit a doctor and talk about all that you have been going through.
The eating disorder usually involves binge eating, not eating at all, vomiting, etc. These are six major types namely Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder, Rumination Disorder, Pica, Binge eating disorder, Bulimia nervosa, and Anorexia nervosa. One should visit a doctor and tell them about all the symptoms. Patients suffering from eating disorders need professional help to heal their psychological and physical health issues. The trick is to not miss even the smallest indicators, which otherwise might result in something catastrophic.