What is an eating disorder?
An eating disorder is an mental illness that causes serious disturbances in a person’s everyday diet. Eating disorders can start by eating extremely small amounts of food or severely overeating. The condition may begin as just eating too little or too much but obsession with eating and food over takes over the life of a person leading to severe changes. This can also result in abnormal eating patterns are distress and concern about body weight or shape. These can also cause other mental illnesses such as depression, substance abuse etc If an eating disorder develops at a young age it can cause severe impairment in growth, development, and overall mental and social well-being.
Most Common Eating Disorders
Anorexia Nervosa – This is when a person as an intense fear of being overweight and becoming fat. This fear of being overweight can be so strong and overwhelming that some people force them self to starve them self to become as thin as they think they should be. This can be an ongoing battle when the person is obsessed with the thought of food and has a constant fight in their mind, denying how hungry they are.
Bulimia Nervosa – is when a person eats large quantities of food in as short period of time then vomits, uses laxatives (purging) to lose weight.
General Sign and Symptoms Of an Eating Disorder
Its also important to note that eating disorder symptoms is different with each particular type of eating disorder.
*Making excuses for not eating.
*Eating only a few “safe foods” , usually food which is low in fat and calories
*Constantly checking packaged foods to check the fat and calories content.
*Constant worrying and complaining about being fat.
*Not participating in social activities
*Distorted body image of themselves – . Complaining of being fat when they are actually really underweight.
*Not wanting to eat in public.
*Wearing baggy or old clothing.
*Constantly eating large amounts of sweet or high fat foods.
*Eating in secret
Signs and Symptoms of Anorexia
Anorexia is the most common eating disorder, anorexia is basically when someone becomes obsessed with being thin even to the point of starvation.
*Refusal to eat
*Denial of hunger
*Fear of gaining weight
*Distorted view on self image
*Obsession with exercise.
*No mood or lack of emotion .
*Feels irritable all of the time
*Afraid of eating in public.
*Withdraws from their social life.
*Thin appearance/ dry skin
*Can’t sleep or have trouble sleeping.
*Constantly feeling cold.
*Feeling dehydrated/ low blood pressure.
What can cause an Eating Disorder?
There is no exact cause as to how an eating disorder can develop. However there are three key factors that can usually contribute to eating disorders, these are biology / genes, psychological and emotional health and society. Your family genes/ biology can contribute to being a cause if there may be genes that make certain people more easy or vulnerable to develop an eating disorder, for example people who have family members such as brothers, sisters, parents etc who have an eating disorder may be more likely to develop one too. Also there is research suggesting that a chemical in your brain called serotonin can influence eating disorders as well. Your psychological and emotional health is a major cause because people who already have mental and emotional health problems
What can you do to help someone who has an Eating Disorder?
Helping someone with an eating disorder can be the hardest thing to help someone with. You can help them by giving them an opportunity to talk about their feelings. If they don’t want to talk about their feelings or simply don’t feel comfortable make it clear that you still are there for them and that you do care and that you will be there for them if they do want to talk to you about it. You can also encourage them to get professional help such as counselling or too see their GP. Then if they agree to get professional help but are worried about going to see them, you could offer to go along with them.
What can you do to help yourself?
If you do have a real serious eating problem you need the help and support of family, friends and professionals. Getting help early on from people who are experienced in treating eating disorders is really important.
The first step to getting help is to contact your GP or doctor, they will then need to check that your symptoms, such as extreme weight loss is not because of another underlying physical illness.
If there is no physical cause behind your eating disorder , your eating problem needs to be addressed both physically and emotionally. You can address the problem physically by changing your eating pattern, and addressing the problem emotionally by identifying the feelings behind it.
Your GP or your doctor should be able to offer you advice and they can also give you access to professional help such as clinics and organisations that specialise in helping people with eating disorders.