Diet and Nutrition

Signs You Have An Eating Disorder

Signs You Have An Eating Disorder

Key Takeaways

  • The two most common types of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.
  • A large factor in the development of eating disorders in young individuals is peer pressure.
  • The tell-tale symptoms of anorexia nervosa are poor skin and hair and low body fat.

Eating disorders are mental disorders that are characterized by a number of unusual eating habits. Anyone can be affected by an eating disorder. Although most cases of eating disorders involve women, men are also susceptible. Eating disorders are described as any eating abnormalities that harm the body. The two most common types of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Binge-eating disorder is also relatively common. Some rarer types of eating disorders are pica and rumination disorder. Eating disorders do not include obesity, which has a class of its own.

Eating disorders can be caused by various situations. A large factor in the development of eating disorders in young individuals is peer pressure and various other social factors. Treatment for eating disorders is absolutely necessary, because prolonged suffering can cause serious damage to the body. These include weight gain, weight loss, nutritional deficiencies and sometimes death.

Signs You Have An Eating Disorder 

Anorexia Nervosa

This is one of the most common eating disorders. The telltale symptoms of anorexia nervosa are poor skin and hair, low body fat and sooner or later, organ failure. Another crucial indication of people with anorexia is skipping meals. These people will say that they have already eaten or will eat later but are in fact just skipping meals altogether. In addition, people with anorexia develop a complex that causes them to aim for a weight even less than what is normal and healthy for their age. Aside from limiting their food intake and starving themselves, they may exercise a lot, to the point of excess. Anorexia nervosa is indicative of a number of underlying emotional issues. Complications arising from anorexia may include osteoporosis, infertility, and irreparable damage to the organs. 

It is thought that genetics may be a contributing to anorexia, since identical twins have a higher chance of both having anorexia than fraternal twins. A cultural emphasis on being thin and idolizing a body type that boasts thinness also contributes, driving young women to starve themselves in an attempt to achieve this 'ideal'. Adolescent sufferers from anorexia are typically 'Type A', overachieving, eager-to-please perfectionists, with a strong desire to please their parents. 'Aesthetic' sports such as gymnastics, diving, and ballet are thought to produce athletes with a higher risk of developing anorexia. As of 2013, two million people all over the world suffered from anorexia. 

The main goal of treating anorexia is to bring the individual back to a healthy weight, with a specific BMI that varies according to the individual's age, height, and body type. Although the majority of those suffering from anorexia will only experience a singular episode, it can sometimes continuously reoccur, with the individual battling it constantly. In these cases, cognitive behavioral therapy is highly recommended, since it targets psychological factors that are a massive component of developing an eating disorder.

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia nervosa, also one of the most well-known eating disorders, is very dangerous. People with bulimia are known to purge after eating. Purging can be done in several ways, but the most common methods are throwing up food immediately after consuming it, and the use of laxatives. People with bulimia may eat normally, overeat or limit their food intake but will purge after their meals. A common sign of bulimics is going to the bathroom right after a meal. If you suspect someone may have bulimia, you are advised to watch their post-meal habits carefully.

Peer pressure and societal influences associated with body image, depression, anxiety, trauma and being female are some of the risk factors for the development of bulimia nervosa. This condition can lead to serious complications such as heart problems, depression, missed periods in women, digestive problems and dehydration. Excessive vomiting can also completely destroy the enamel that coats our teeth, resulting in weak teeth that may crack and break. Bulimia is more common among those who have a relative suffering from bulimia. The exact reason for this is unknown, but is believed to be connected to a number of other biological factors that predispose an individual to suffering from an eating disorder.

The primary method of treatment used to help push out bulimia is cognitive behavioral therapy, which focusing on altering thinking patterns to ones that promote a healthier lifestyle. It is proven to be more effect as a long-term treatment. However, when bulimia in an individual is excessive, hospitalization may be required to ensure they are consuming adequate foods and liquids. Antidepressants my be administered to help regulate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which contribute to the prevalence of depression in an individual, since depression puts someone at a higher risk for developing an eating disorder.

In 2013, it was thought that bulimia nervosa affected almost six and a half million people worldwide. Social factors and the media are thought to be highly constituent factors, since bulimia is more common in developed countries than developing countries. About two to three percent of women will be affected by bulimia at some point in their lifetimes. 

Binge-Eating Disorder

Binge-eating disorder (BED) is characterized by binge eating, but without the purging that comes with bulimia. It tends to garner less media coverage and attention than anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. It is present in about 2% of adults in the United States each year.

Signs of binge-eating disorder are when an individual eats more than what someone would normally eat in the same situation, followed by a feeling of intense guilt and self-disgust. The individual may starve themselves and then cave in, eating a significantly larger amount of foo than one would normally eat at a meal. They may also eat alone because they are embarrassed of how much they are eating. For binge-eating to progress to binge-eating disorder, it has to be recurrent, occurring 2-3 times a week. Someone who binge-eats does not necessarily suffer from binge-eating disorder. 

Research indicates that binge-eating disorder can be induced by various environmental factors, like trauma. One study discovered that women with binge-eating disorder had experienced either a single traumatic event or a continuous slew of stress and adversity for up to a year prior to developing the disorder. 

Other Tell-Tale Signs of Eating Disorders

People suffering from eating disorders may have any of the following signs:

  • Extreme mood swings and personality changes. People with any type of eating disorders usually have low self confidence, doubt their self constantly and put them down.
  • Hyperactivity and restlessness.
  • Obsessive or rigid eating habits – refuses to eat in front of other people or cuts food into tiny pieces.
  • Prefer to be isolated, cuts ties with friends.
  • Wearing layers of loose clothes to hide their weight loss and also to keep their body warm.
  • Throwing away large quantities of food.
  • Not finishing a meal.
  • Secretly hiding or hoarding foods.
  • Makes excuses for not eating.
  • Encourages other people to eat.
  • Enjoys watching others eat.
  • Become extremely busy so as to avoid food, meals and hunger.
  • Have swollen glands, tooth decay, dry pale skin and and puffy face (for bulimics)
  • Making excuses for disappearing after meals.
  • Adopting altered and harmful food habits.
  • Adopting food fads

If you or a loved one is suffering from an eating disorder, immediate medical help is needed to prevent the condition from progressing.