Eating Disorders

Story by Jada McCullough

Eating disorders are mental health disorders that affect your thoughts about food and eating behaviors. These disorders can cause you to eat more or less than what you actually need. Contrary to what some believe, these disorders are medical conditions and are not a choice. Because they often keep you from getting proper nutrition, they can lead to other health issues as well. 

While there isn’t necessarily one exact cause for eating disorders, researchers believe that they can be caused by many factors interacting together. These include genetics, biological, psychological, and social factors. Researchers are still learning more about eating disorders, which are extremely complex. Anyone can have an eating disorder but they tend to be more prevalent among women. These disorders often develop during teenage years or during young adulthood, but they can also affect children and older adults.

The earlier an eating disorder is diagnosed the better because then treatment can begin. People who have eating disorders are at a higher risk for suicide, depression, and other mental health disorders, as well as medical complications. There are many treatment plans available and they tend to be tailored to individuals and their specific needs. These treatments could include individual, group, and family psychotherapy. Medical care and monitoring is important so that care can be provided for the complications associated with eating disorders. Also, nutrition counseling can be used to help individuals with their eating habits and to help them reach and maintain the weight healthiest for them. Also, medications such as antidepressants and mood stabilizers have been found to help.

The signs and symptoms of eating disorders can vary depending on the disorder. People with anorexia nervosa might believe they are overweight even if they are actually underweight. They tend to spend a lot of time weighing themselves, while also restricting how much they eat, and exercising excessively. This eating disorder has the highest mortality rate of mental disorders. Some affected may die of starvation and others commit suicide.

Individuals with bulimia nervosa have frequent moments when they eat extremely large amounts of food due to a feeling of lack of control. After these episodes, these individuals may try to make up for the overeating by forcing themselves to vomit, using laxatives, fasting, and excessively exercising. People who have bulimia nervosa can be any size. They may also have extremely inflamed and sore throats, as well as swollen salivary glands.

Individuals who suffer from binge-eating disorder lose control over their eating and participate in eating excessive amounts. The difference between this disorder and bulimia nervosa, is that following the binge-eating these individuals don’t try to compensate for it through exercise, vomiting, or fasting. Therefore, many people who have binge-eating disorder are overweight and obese. Some other symptoms associated with this disorder include eating even when you’re not hungry. As well as eating quickly during a binge episode and feeling distressed and ashamed about your eating habits. This disorder happens to be the most common eating disorder in the United States.

Due to the serious nature of eating disorders, it is important to seek help if you or someone you know might have one. Health care providers can diagnose eating disorders by looking into your medical and family history as well as asking questions concerning your relationship with eating and exercise. When responding to these questions, it is important to be as transparent and honest as possible. The physicians will also do a physical exam and may run blood, urine, and other medical tests to rule out any other conditions that could cause your symptoms. 

If you or someone you know have an eating disorder, there are tools and services available to you. The National Eating Disorder Association, have many services that you can find at https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/.