Understanding Eating Disorders: Causes, Treatments, and Solution
Understanding Eating Disorders: Causes, Treatments, and Solution
06 Jun 2024

Eating disorders are severe, multifaceted mental health conditions that impact an individual's emotional and physical well-being. Individuals who suffer from eating disorders come to have unhealthy associations with food, beauty, and weight. Eating disorders include bulimia, binge eating disorder, and anorexia.

Treatments exist for eating problems. Untreated eating disorders can cause potentially fatal issues for their sufferers.

What is the prevalence of eating disorders?

Numerous intricate aspects, such as mental health concerns, brain biology, personality traits, cultural and social norms, genetics, and personality traits, might contribute to eating disorders.

Eating disorders come in several forms. Some people can suffer from multiple eating disorders. Types consist of:

  • Anorexia nervosa: Individuals who suffer from this disorder severely restrict their intake of food and calories, often to the point of starving. Anorexia can affect people of any size. It is typified by an insatiable need to reduce weight and a refusal to consume portions of food that are appropriate for your body type and level of activity.

  • Individuals diagnosed with bulimia nervosa binge or think they ate a lot of food in a short period. To get rid of the food and calories, they could force themselves to vomit, use laxatives, or engage in excessive exercise.

Binge eating disorder (BED): Compulsive eating behaviours are exhibited by individuals with BED. They consume large amounts of food in a short time or believe they have consumed large amounts. But following a binge, they don't fast or work off their calories. Instead, they feel uncomfortable being full and could experience sadness, regret, guilt, or humiliation.

For whom are eating disorders a risk?

At any age, eating disorders can emerge. All racial, ethnic, and gender identities are impacted. It is untrue that eating disorders mainly impact women and girls. Men and boys are in equal danger. You may be more vulnerable to eating disorders if you have certain conditions, such as:

  • Family history of addiction, depression, or eating disorders, among other mental health conditions.

  • A background of trauma, either emotional, sexual, or physical.

  • Personal history of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), sadness, or anxiety.

  • Dieting's past.

What are the other factors?

  • Diabetes (up to 25% of women with Type 1 diabetes go on to develop an eating disorder) is one of the additional variables.

  • Engagement in sports like modelling, gymnastics, swimming, wrestling, and jogging emphasizes a thin image.

  • Significant life changes include moving, getting divorced, or starting a new work or school.

  • A tendency toward perfectionism.

Signs and Origins

What leads to eating disorders?

Eating disorders emerge due to complex social, environmental, and genetic interactions. When they feel that other elements of their lives are difficult to control, some individuals with eating disorders may resort to drastic methods to restrict their food intake or food groupings. When someone has a food obsession, it becomes an unhealthy coping mechanism for unpleasant feelings or emotions. Therefore, eating disorders are less about food and more about learning good coping mechanisms for your feelings.

What signs of eating disorders are present?

Sometimes, an individual's look may not indicate that they suffer from an eating issue. An eating disorder can affect people of any height or weight. People with eating disorders frequently have altered perspectives on or relationships with food, which is not reflected in their physical appearance. Each type has its specific eating disorder symptoms. Since eating disorders frequently resemble dieting, diagnosing one can be challenging. Alternatively, an individual grappling with an eating problem could be unwilling to communicate their eating issues. You might observe the following general changes if you or a loved one suffers from an eating disorder:

  • Mood swings.

  • Fatigue, lightheadedness, or fainting.

  • Hair loss or thinning.

  • Frequent trips to the restroom following meals.

  • Abrupt weight loss or unexplained weight shifts.

  • Abnormal sweating or flashes of heat.

Additional alterations might be:

  • Eating by yourself or not wishing to eat with others.

  • Excluding oneself from social interactions and friends.

  • Food hiding or being thrown away.

  • Obsession with diet, exercise, calories, or losing weight.

  • Food customs (eating in private, chewing food for longer than necessary).

Diagnoses and Examinations

How is a diagnosis made for an eating disorder?

Eating disorder diagnoses are made by medical professionals, including doctors and mental health specialists. Your primary care physician might run blood tests, conduct a physical examination, and discuss your symptoms. To learn more about your eating habits and beliefs, a mental health counsellor—such as a psychologist or psychiatrist—conducts a psychological evaluation.

Clinicians refer to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) to diagnose patients. The DSM lists symptoms for every kind of eating disorder, but it is not necessary to exhibit every symptom to be diagnosed with an eating disorder. You might also require assistance in resolving food-related problems even if you do not have an eating disorder specifically recognized in the DSM.

Handling and Medical Interventions

What consequences might eating disorders cause?

  • Only opioid use disorder is more deadly than eating disorders as a psychiatric condition.

  • Extreme activity, vomiting, or severe calorie restriction can all hurt your general health. If you leave an eating disorder untreated, you run the danger of developing significant issues with your heart, including heart failure and arrhythmia.

  • Acid reflux is often known as GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease).

  • Digestive issues.

  • Hypotension, or low blood pressure.

  • Brain injury and organ failure.

  • Teeth damage and osteoporosis.

  • Severe constipation and dehydration.

  • Infertility and aborted menstrual periods (amenorrhea).

  • A stroke.

How are disorders related to eating disorders handled?

The kind of eating disorder you have and the needs you have will determine the treatment you need. An expert can assist you in addressing and managing food-related concerns even if you do not have a documented eating disorder. Among the treatments are:

  • Psychotherapy: A mental health specialist can determine the most appropriate psychotherapy for your circumstances. Cognitive behavioural therapy helps a lot of people with eating disorders (CBT). This type of therapy assists you in recognizing and altering faulty thought processes that underpin emotions and behaviours.

  • The Maudsley method: This type of family therapy is beneficial to parents of anorexic teenagers. When a child is learning healthier eating habits, parents actively supervise their eating.

  • Medication: Individuals who suffer from eating disorders may also be suffering from anxiety or despair. These disorders can be improved by taking antidepressants or other prescription drugs. Your ideas about food and yourself, therefore, get better.

  • Nutrition counselling: A licensed dietitian with training in eating disorders might assist in developing healthy meal plans and enhancing eating habits. This expert may also provide advice on meal preparation, grocery shopping, and planning.

Having all these specialists collaborate to provide a holistic eating disorder treatment plan that addresses the behavioural, mental, and physical elements is frequently the best course of action.

The prevention

What can I do to stop having eating disorders?

Being aware of the warning signals is a helpful first step to recognizing the problem early, especially if eating disorders run in your family. Early intervention can help break harmful eating habits before they become more challenging. Additionally, receiving therapy for conditions like OCD, depression, and anxiety can lower your risk of developing an eating disorder. Set a good example for your family by eating healthfully and refraining from discussing food as "good" or "bad." Don't talk about diets, go on a diet, or criticize your appearance.

Prognosis / Outlook

What is the outlook (prognosis) for individuals with eating disorders?

Following therapy for eating disorders, many people make a full recovery and live healthy lives. Early problem detection and prompt treatment are beneficial. There are various degrees of care, such as: 

  • Outpatient therapy (counselling once a week).

  • Intensive outpatient treatment, which involves weekly sessions.

  • Treatment while hospitalized or inpatient.

How Can Samarpan Help?

Samarpan offers comprehensive assistance for individuals grappling with eating disorders, providing personalized consultations to identify signs and symptoms discreetly. Therapists employ evidence-based modalities like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), and Family-Based Treatment (FBT) to address underlying emotional triggers and foster healthier attitudes toward food and body image. Therapeutic interventions, nutritional counselling, meal support, and peer-led discussions contribute to holistic healing and sustained recovery. Through Samarpan's guidance, individuals cultivate the resilience and skills to reclaim their physical and emotional well-being.

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