Eating Disorders and Recovery
May 12, 2023
Sasna Nawran, Low Entropy Volunteer Writer
Please note that this article discusses eating disorders.
Eating disorders are behavioral conditions characterized by eating habits that affect psychological, social and physical functions negatively. They are considered among the deadliest mental illnesses. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, around 70 million people live with eating disorders around the world. Anorexia, bulimia and avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) are some of the common types of eating disorders.
Anorexia is a condition characterized by abnormally low body weight. People with anorexia relate thinness with self-worth, and they have an extreme fear of weight gain. They consistently find flaws in their body shape and weight. Therefore, these people tend to lose weight severely through unhealthy food restrictions, fasting, misuse of drugs such as laxatives and diuretics, self-induced vomiting and excessive exercise.
Frequent skipping of meals, eating foods that are lower in calories, frequently checking in the mirror for flaws in the figure, lying about how much food is taken and showing difficulty eating in public are some of the behavioral symptoms of anorexia.
Avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) is also characterized by abnormally low body weight like anorexia, but there is no distress over the body’s shape or weight. This condition was called “the feeding disorder of infancy and childhood” in the past. People with ARFID are very selective and picky with food items, so they tend to consume fewer calories, which is not enough to maintain basic body functions. They also lack appetite and interest in food. This condition is common in middle childhood.
Bulimia is an eating disorder characterized by binge eating and purging. This condition is more common in women than in men. People with bulimia appear to be of normal weight. These people often have episodes in which they do not have control over the amount of food they eat. They tend to eat a large amount of food at once, until they are painfully full, and then self-induce vomiting, misuse laxatives or exercise excessively to get rid of the calories. People with bulimia also relate self-esteem and self-worth with body weight.
Eating disorders can be caused by genetics; personality traits such as perfectionism, neuroticism and impulsivity; biological factors and social pressure. There is a greater chance of a person being diagnosed with an eating disorder if he or she has parents or siblings with an eating disorder.
In modern times, youngsters who are vulnerable to the pressures of the online world often have a distorted view of body image and self-esteem. Our society is obsessed with being slim and relates it with beauty and success. But this is false. Every individual is unique, and it is completely normal to have different body sizes and shapes. We must create awareness about this issue and form a culture where all body sizes and shapes are accepted.
Excessive obsession over body weight and shape, frequent dieting, extreme mood swings, feeling uncomfortable eating in public, and excessive concern about diet, calories and foods are some common symptoms of having an eating disorder. It is important to remember that eating disorders can be cured with proper treatment. Therefore, it is advisable to visit a medical professional if you suspect that you have any of the above eating disorders.
Navigating anorexia, bulimia, ARFID or any other eating disorder can be overwhelming and isolating. This effect can be reduced by talking to close friends, joining eating disorder recovery groups, participating in nutrition counseling and/or going for talk therapy. The National Eating Disorders Association is an organization that helps and supports people with eating disorders. One can get help from them by visiting their website (https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/help-support).
If you have a friend or a family member who has an eating disorder, it is important to support them. Recovery from an eating disorder might take a long time. At times, a person might relapse into earlier unhealthy behaviors, and they might face extreme stress. So as a friend, you should be patient with them, listen to them and try to involve them in social activities, as these people can become socially restricted.
If they are not treated properly, eating disorders can cause heart issues, problems related to the digestive system, weak bones and many other medical complications. They can also lead to anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts. Thus, it is advisable to seek treatment at the earliest stages, as eating disorders are completely curable with a combination of behavioral changes, medication and therapy.
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