Eating Disorders – What it is, Causes and Treatments

Eating Disorders – What it is, Causes and Drug Treatments. Additionally, Eating Disorders are serious conditions related to persistent eating behaviors that negatively affect your health, your emotions, and your ability to function in important areas of life. The most common Eating Disorders are anorexia nervosa , bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder . Most eating disorders involve focusing too much on your weight, body shape and food, leading to dangerous eating behaviors.

These behaviors can significantly affect your body’s ability to get adequate nutrition. Eating Disorders can harm the heart, digestive system, bones, teeth and mouth, and lead to other diseases. Eating Disorders usually develop in the teen and young adult years, although they can develop at other ages. With treatment, you can return to healthier eating habits and sometimes reverse serious complications caused by the eating disorder.

Causes of Eating Disorders:  The exact cause of Eating Disorders is unknown. As with other mental illnesses, there can be many causes, such as:

Genetics: Certain people may have genes that increase their risk of developing Eating Disorders . People with first-degree relatives — siblings or parents — with an eating disorder may be more likely to develop an eating disorder as well.

Psychological and Emotional Health: People with Eating Disorders may have psychological and emotional issues that contribute to the disorder. They may have low self-esteem, perfectionism, impulsive behavior and troubled relationships.

Society: Success and worth are often equated with being thin in popular culture. Peer pressure and what people see in the media can fuel this desire to be thin.

Symptoms of Eating Disorders:  Symptoms vary depending on the type of eating disorder. Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and compulsive disorder are themost common Eating Disorders .

Anorexia Nervosa: Anorexia Nervosa  (an-o-REK-see-uh) Nervosa – often simply called anorexia – is a major  potentially life-threatening Eating Disorder that features an abnormally low body weight, intense fear of gaining weight, and a distorted perception of weight or shape. People with anorexia use extreme efforts to control their weight and shape, which often significantly interferes with their health and life activities.

When you have anorexia, you limit calories too much or use other methods to lose weight , such as excessive exercise, use of laxatives or dietary aids, or vomiting after eating. Efforts to reduce your weight, even when underweight, can cause serious health problems, sometimes to the point of deadly death.

Bulimia Nervosa:  Bulimia (boo-LEE-me-uh) nervosa – commonly called bulimia – is a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder. When you have bulimia, you have bingeing and purging episodes that involve feeling out of control over your eating. Many people with bulimia also restrict their eating during the day, which often leads to more bingeing and purging.

During these episodes, you usually eat a lot of food in a short amount of time and then try to get rid of the extra calories in an unhealthy way. Out of guilt, shame, and intense fear of gaining excess weight, you may force yourself to vomit (purging bulimia), exercise too much, or use other methods, such as laxatives, to get rid of calories (non-drinking bulimia).

If you have bulimia, you are probably concerned about your weight and body shape, and you may judge yourself harshly and severely for your self-perceptive flaws. You may be at a normal weight or even slightly overweight.

Binge Eating Disorder:  When you have binge eating disorder, you regularly eat too much food (binge) and feel a lack of control over your eating. You may eat quickly or eat more food than intended, even when you are not hungry, and you may continue to eat long after you are uncomfortably full.

After a binge, you may feel guilty, disgusted, or embarrassed by your behavior and the amount of food you consumed. But you don’t try to compensate for this behavior with excessive exercise or purging, as someone with bulimia or anorexia might. Shame can lead to eating alone to hide your bingeing. A new round of bingeing usually takes place at least once a week. You can be normal weight, overweight or obese.

Other Eating Disorders:  Other Eating Disorders include Uncontrolled Appetite, Rumination Disorder, and Avoidant/Restrictive Eating Disorder.

Uncontrolled Appetite from Inedible Items:  Uncontrolled appetite from ingesting inedible items is eating persistent non-food foods such as soap, cloth, talcum powder or dirt over a period of at least one month. Eating these substances is not appropriate for the person’s developmental level and is not part of a specific cultural or social practice.

Persistent eating of these non-food items can result in medical complications such as poisoning, intestinal problems, or infections. Uncontrolled appetite from ingesting inedible items often occurs with other Eating Disorders , such as autism spectrum disorder or intellectual disability.

Rumination Disorder: Rumination  disorder is repeatedly and persistently regurgitating food after eating, but it is not due to a medical condition or another eating disorder such as anorexia, bulimia, or an eating disorder. Food is brought back to the mouth without nausea or gagging. Sometimes the regurgitated food is refilled and retrieved or spit out.

The disorder can result in malnutrition if food is spit out or if the person eats significantly less to avoid the behavior. Rumination disorder may be more common in childhood or in people with intellectual disabilities.

Avoidant Disorder / Restrictive Food Intake:  This disorder is characterized by not meeting your minimum daily nutrition requirements because you have no interest in eating; You avoid foods with certain sensory characteristics, such as color, texture, smell, or taste; Or you are worried about the consequences of eating, such as the fear of choking. Food is not avoided for fear of gaining weight.

The disorder can result in significant weight loss or lack of weight in childhood, as well as nutritional deficiencies that can cause health problems. Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder is not diagnosed when the symptoms are part of another eating disorder, such as anorexia, or part of a medical problem or other mental disorder.

When to See a Doctor:  Due to its powerful pull, an eating disorder can be difficult to manage or overcome on your own. Eating Disorders can practically take over your life. If you have any of these problems, or if you think you may have an eating disorder, seek medical help.

Urging a Loved One to Seek Treatment:  Unfortunately, many people with Eating Disorders may not think they need treatment. If you’re worried about a loved one, get them started by talking to a doctor. Even if your loved one isn’t ready to acknowledge having a food problem, you can open the door by expressing concern and a desire to listen.

Be alert to eating patterns and beliefs that can signal unhealthy behavior, as well as peer pressure that can trigger Eating Disorders . Red flags that may indicate an eating disorder include:

  • Skipping meals or making excuses not to eat
  • Adopting an overly restrictive vegetarian diet
  • Excessive focus on healthy eating
  • Make your own meals instead of eating what your family eats
  • Withdrawing from normal social activities
  • Persisting concern or complaint about being fat and talking about losing weight
  • Frequent mirror checking for perceived defects
  • Repeatedly eating large amounts of sweets or high-fat foods
  • Use of dietary supplements, laxatives, or herbal weight loss products
  • excessive exercise
  • Calluses on nodules induce vomiting
  • Problems with losing tooth enamel which can be a sign of repeated vomiting
  • Leaving during meals to use the bathroom
  • Eating a lot more food at a meal or snack than is considered normal
  • Expressing depression, disgust, shame or guilt about eating habits
  • eat in secret

If you are concerned that your child may have an eating disorder, contact your doctor to discuss your concerns. If necessary, you can get a referral to a qualified mental health provider for treatment.

Eating Disorder Risk Factors:  Certain situations and events can increase your risk of developing an eating disorder. These risk factors can include:

  • Being Female:  Teenage girls and young women are more likely than teenagers and young men to have anorexia or bulimia, but males can also have Eating Disorders .
  • Advanced Age: While Eating Disorders can occur across a wide age range – including childhood, adolescence, and older adulthood – they are much more common during the teens and early 20s.
  • Family History:  Eating Disorders are significantly more likely to occur in people who have parents or siblings who have had an eating disorder.
  • Mental health disorders: People with depression, anxiety disorder, or obsessive-compulsive disorder are more likely to have an eating disorder.
  • Diet: People who lose weight are often reinforced by positive comments from others and by their variable appearance. This can lead some people to take a diet too far, leading to an eating disorder.
  • Stress: Whether it’s going to college, moving, landing a new job, or a family or relationship issue, the move can bring stress, which can increase your risk for an eating disorder.
  • Sporting, artistic and artistic activities: Athletes, actors, dancers and models may be at increased risk for eating disorders. Coaches and parents can unwittingly contribute to Eating Disorders by encouraging young athletes to lose weight .

Complications of Eating Disorders:  Eating Disorders cause a wide variety of complications, some of which are life-threatening. The more severe or long-lasting the Eating Disorders , the more likely you are to experience serious complications such as:

  • significant medical problems
  • depression and anxiety
  • Suicidal thoughts or behavior
  • Problems with growth and development
  • Social and relationship problems
  • Substance use disorders
  • Work and school problems
  • Death

Diagnosis of Eating  Disorders: Eating disorders are diagnosed based on signs, symptoms and eating habits. If your doctor suspects you have an eating disorder, he or she will likely perform physical and psychological exams and order tests to identify the diagnosis. You can see a doctor and mental health provider for a diagnosis. Exams and tests often include:

  • Physical Exam:  Your doctor will likely examine you to rule out other medical causes for your eating problems. He or she may also order lab tests.
  • Psychological Assessment:  A doctor or mental health provider will likely ask about your thoughts, feelings and eating habits. You can also request the completion of psychological self-assessment questionnaires.
  • Other Studies:  Additional tests may be done to check for complications related to your eating disorder. Assessment and testing can also be done to determine your nutritional requirements.
    Diagnostic criteria:

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association, lists criteria for various eating disorders. This manual is used by mental health providers to diagnose mental conditions and by insurance companies to reimburse treatment.

Each eating disorder has its own set of diagnostic criteria. Your mental health provider will review your signs and symptoms to see if you meet criteria for a specific eating disorder. Some people may not meet all the criteria, but they still have an eating disorder and need professional help to overcome or manage it.

Eating Disorder Treatments:  Treating an eating disorder often includes a team approach. The team often includes medical providers, mental health providers and nutritionists – all with experience in eating disorders. Treatment depends on your specific type of eating disorder. But in general, it typically includes psychotherapy, nutrition education, and medication. If your life is at risk, you may need immediate hospitalization.

Psychotherapy:  Psychotherapy, also called talk therapy, can help you learn how to replace unhealthy habits with healthy ones. This may include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT):  CBT is commonly used in the treatment of eating disorder, especially for bulimia and compulsive disorder. You learn to monitor your eating and mood, develop problem-solving skills, and explore healthy ways to deal with stressful situations. Psychotherapy can also help improve your relationships and your mood.
  • Family Therapy (FBT):  FBT is an evidence-based treatment for children and adolescents with Eating Disorders . The family is involved in ensuring that the child or other family member follows healthy eating patterns and maintains a healthy weight.

Weight Normalization and Nutrition Education:  If you are underweight due to an eating disorder, the first goal of treatment will be to start regaining your healthy weight. No matter what your weight, nutritionists and other health care providers can provide information about a healthy diet and help design an eating plan to help you achieve a healthy weight and learn normal eating habits.

Hospitalization:  If you have serious health issues, such as anorexia that has resulted in severe malnutrition, your doctor may recommend hospitalization in a medical or psychiatric ward. Some clinics specialize in treating people with Eating Disorders. Some may offer day programs rather than full hospitalization. Specialized eating disorder programs may offer more intensive treatment for longer periods of time.

Medications:  Medication cannot cure an eating disorder. However, certain medications can help you control cravings for ingesting or purging, or manage excessive food and diet concerns. Drugs like antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications can help with symptoms of depression or anxiety, which are often associated with eating disorders.

Alternative Medicine: Alternative  medicine is the use of an unconventional approach rather than conventional medicines. Complementary medicine is an unconventional approach used alongside conventional medicine. Usually when people turn to alternative medicine it is to improve their health.

But there are numerous dietary supplements and herbal products intended to suppress appetite or aid weight loss, and these products can be abused by people with Eating Disorders . Such products may have potentially dangerous interactions with other medications.

Additionally, weight loss supplements or herbs can have serious side effects such as irregular heartbeat, confusion, nausea, dizziness, and nervousness. Talk to your doctor before trying any alternative medication. Natural, does not always mean safety. Your doctor can help you understand possible risks and benefits before trying treatment.

Reduce Stress and Anxiety:  Complementary treatments can help reduce anxiety in people with Eating Disorders . Such treatments can help people with Eating Disorders by reducing stress, promoting relaxation and increasing a sense of well-being. Examples of complementary treatments that reduce anxiety include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Massage
  • Yoga
  • Meditation

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