Mental Health

What is an Eating Disorder?

What is an Eating Disorder?

Key Takeaways

  • Eating disorders can include not eating at all, or overeating.
  • Eating disorders, if left untreated, can lead to serious health issues.

Eating disorders are mental disorders that affect an individual's eating pattern, habits, and diet. The most common types of eating disorders are bulimia, anorexia, and binge-eating disorder, all of which affect the diet habits of a person considerably. These conditions are often characterized by eating extremely small quantities of food or severe overeating. People with eating disorders are often overly concerned about their body weight and appearance. Apart from the abnormal eating habits and behavior, eating disorders may also affect the physical health of a person. Those who have eating disorders since childhood may have impaired growth and development, in addition to issues in their mental and social wellbeing.

This psychological disorder affects both men and women, but is more common in women. The disorder usually begins in adolescence or early adulthood. It may also start in childhood or later in life. People with these disorders are usually 15% below the normal body weight and always relate their self-worth to their body weight. One in 100 females are found to be affected by anorexia. Eating disorders may be caused by a number of factors including psychological issues, genetics and family relationships.

Some of the risk factors for this condition include:

  • Family history of eating disorders, substance misuse, or depression
  • Being overly concerned about body image
  • Having other conditions, like obsessive disorder or anxiety disorder
  • History of sexual or emotional abuse
  • Extreme stress

Common symptoms of eating disorder include:

  • Negative self-image
  • Denial of hunger and skipping meals
  • Unusual eating habits
  • Extreme changes in body weight
  • Frequent weighing
  • Lack of adequate sleep
  • Excessive exercise
  • Constipation
  • Dry skin
  • Presence of skin rashes
  • Dental cavities and erosion of tooth enamel
  • Hair loss

People with eating disorders may deny that they have one. Many may tend to be very anxious or depressed. Fortunately, most eating disorders can be treated successfully with timely help. Antidepressant medications and cognitive behavioral therapy are recommended in treating the condition. Cognitive therapy helps to replace the negative, inaccurate thoughts about body image with a positive self-image. For anorexia, doctors may recommend medical monitoring, nutritional feeding, and psychological treatment.

Eating disorders should not be left unattended, as they may lead to a number of serious complications. It may lead to health problems, including kidney diseases and heart disorders. If you know anybody with symptoms of eating disorders, do get them medical attention. Early diagnosis and treatment of the condition are key in improving the condition and preventing other complications.