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Mental Awareness, Mental Health

What is an Eating Disorder?

Cropped image of girl eating lettuce

Eating disorders are  commonly confused as a lifestyle choice rather than what they truly are: mental illnesses. The most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder (BED). Eating disorders are serious behavioral problems with over or under eating. There are no known exact causes for developing an eating disorder. Factors such as: genetics, psychological, family, society, or cultural factors and pressures may all play roles in the development of an eating disorder in an individual.  Women are more likely than men to suffer eating disorders. According to the diagnostic interview data by the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R) in 2017 the median age for binge eating disorders is 21 years-old and 18 years-old for bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa. 

Anorexia Nervosa

People who have anorexia nervosa are highly likely to have intense fear of gaining weight, regardless of their current weight. Anorexic’s can become too thin due to not eating enough because of feelings and thoughts of being fat or overweight. Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder. Health complications associated with starvation may result in death, while others die of suicide. 

Bulimia

When the person has regular episodes of over eating large amounts of food usually when the person may be feeling at a loss of control in their life and this may be a way for the person to regain some sense of control. Feelings of fear or guilt accompany episodes of binge eating. After a binge-eating episode occurs feelings of self-disgust are extremely likely to appear. Bulimia patients will follow their binge-eating episodes with purges to prevent weight gain. Purging is forcing oneself to vomit, they may also exercise excessively, or use laxatives, enemas, or diuretics such as water pills as ways to lose weight quickly. Some people with bulimia may also have anorexia. Seek medical and professional help to accurately diagnose a person. 

Binge-Eating (B.E.D.)

Binge-eating disorder or BED, is the most common eating disorder in the United States. The difference between bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder is that binge-eating patients are often overweight or obese as they do not purge immediately after their episodes. People with a binge-eating disorder lose control over the amount of food they consume. Some of the symptoms with binge-eating include: eating unusually large amounts of food in a specific amount of time during one seating, eating when you’re not hungry, or eating fast and to the point of being uncomfortably full. Other symptoms include eating alone or in secret, feeling ashamed, or  even guilty.

It is important to seek help if you or a loved one has an eating disorder or you suspect that they may, as other health problems can arise like heart or kidney problems, and in some cases it  can even lead to death. The available treatments include talk therapy, nutritional counseling, and in some cases medicine may be prescribed.

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