Although we may all know that eating disorders have negative effects on our health, not everybody understands that they are considered to be in the classification of mental illnesses. There has been a progression of these disorders in recent years as magazine models have become thinner and social media tools promoting photo sharing and weight struggles have become more popular. The most well-known eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder.
It’s easy to assume that an eating disorder has to do with our relationships with our food, but what they truly reflect is our relationship with ourselves. Let’s take a look at what these disorders are, how to spot them and what we can do to get help.
Anorexia is a very serious mental illness that can alter the way that we see ourselves so that bodies seem to appear larger than they are, no matter how thin a body is in reality. This particular disorder includes a severe fear of gaining weight that progresses into starvation, over-exercise, or both. People suffering from anorexia may also eat small amounts of food and purge before it can cause them to gain weight. This can be a particularly difficult disorder to treat as patients often fear getting better as it will result in them getting fat; unfortunately, this often leads to malnutrition which has various negative health issues associated with it.
The majority of people living with anorexia nervosa are women, but some men also suffer from eating disorders, and it’s just as serious a problem for men as it is for women. Nearly ten percent of those suffering from this illness will die from health related problems, even during or after treatment. These problems can come from heart failure, weakened bones, and a multitude of hormonal imbalances that can lead to infertility among other things.
Another eating disorder that we know well is bulimia, which is often associated with binging and purging. Some bulimics may purge after everything they eat, or only after binging; every illness is different. The binge eating of this illness can easily make us feel as though we’ve lost control of how much we can and will eat, which is what brings on the urge to rid our bodies of the food that will surely cause weight gain in the future.
Although bulimics may also suffer from body image issues, and see themselves as being bigger than they actually are, it can be extremely difficult to diagnose because the behaviors are often kept secretive, and unlike anorexia, bulimia doesn’t always lead to a thin body type, and not all bulimics purge orally, some use laxatives, exercise frequently, or fast to get results.
Binge Eating Disorder
Binge eating disorder is often confused with bulimia, but this binging doesn’t include purging, which means that all of the food consumed stays where it is. This overeating is still considered a mental disorder as we may overeat for reasons other than hunger, such as stress, depression, or just the happiness that it seems to bring us. This illness is also referred to as overeating, because that is basically what it involves, and it can become quite serious and lead to many health related problems such as type 2 diabetes, heart issues, and obesity. It can be spotted in individuals who feel the need to eat large quantities at each meal, more than one of each meal a day, or are constantly putting something into their mouth.
Help and Treatment Options
We can help the people that we know and love to get through these eating disorders through support, communication, and positivity. If you recognize somebody who may only eat privately, visits the bathroom directly after eating and runs water or makes other sounds to disguise possible purging, or who portrays signs of poor body image then you should consult somebody you trust or a doctor on the issue.
There are treatment options for all three of these disorders among others, and while some of them do require our help to support the person experiencing the illness, others utilize residential rehabilitation centers, similar to alcoholism, to provide a safe environment where medication can be prescribed and group therapy sessions can be taken part in.