Eating Disorders

By- Meena Ganagani,Practicing Clinical Nutritionist,Mumbai.

Eating disorders are actually serious and often fatal illnesses that are associated with severe disturbances in people’s eating behaviors and related thoughts and emotions. Preoccupation with food, body weight, and shape may also signal an eating disorder. (1)

Types of Eating disorders

The most common eating disorders are:

  • Anorexia nervosa – when you try to keep your weight as low as possible by not eating enough food, exercising too much, or both.
  • Bulimia – when you sometimes lose control and eat a lot of food in a very short amount of time (binging) and are then deliberately sick, use laxatives (medicine to help you poo), restrict what you eat, or do too much exercise to try to stop yourself gaining weight.
  • Binge eating disorder (BED) – when you regularly lose control of your eating, eat large portions of food all at once until you feel uncomfortably full, and are then often upset or guilty.
  • Other specified feeding or eating disorder (OSFED) – when your symptoms do not exactly match those of anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder, but it does not mean it’s a less serious illness. (2)

Common signs of an Eating disorder

  • Skipping meals or making excuses for not eating
  • Adopting an overly restrictive vegetarian diet
  • Excessive focus on healthy eating
  • Making own meals rather than eating what the family eats
  • Withdrawing from normal social activities
  • Persistent worry or complaining about being fat and talk of losing weight
  • Frequent checking in the mirror for perceived flaws
  • Repeatedly eating large amounts of sweets or high-fat foods
  • Use of dietary supplements, laxatives or herbal products for weight loss
  • Excessive exercise
  • Calluses on the knuckles from inducing vomiting
  • Problems with loss of tooth enamel that may be a sign of repeated vomiting
  • Leaving during meals to use the toilet
  • Eating much more food in a meal or snack than is considered normal
  • Expressing depression, disgust, shame or guilt about eating habits
  • Eating in secret (3)

What causes them?

Experts believe that eating disorders may be caused by a variety of factors.

One of these is genetics .Personality traits are another cause. In particular, neuroticism, perfectionism, and impulsivity are three personality traits often linked to a higher risk of developing an eating disorder. Other potential causes include perceived pressures to be thin, cultural preferences for thinness, and exposure to media promoting such ideals.

More recently, experts have proposed that differences in brain structure and biology may also play a role in the development of eating disorders. In particular, levels of the brain messenger’s serotonin and dopamine may be factors. (4)

What are the treatments for Eating disorders?

Treatment plans for eating disorders are tailored to individual needs. You will likely have a team of providers helping you, including doctors, nutritionists, nurses, and therapists. The treatments may include

  • Individual, group, and/or family psychotherapy-Individual therapy may include cognitive behavioral approaches, which help you to identify and change negative and unhelpful thoughts. It also helps you build coping skills and change behavioral patterns.
  • Medical care and monitoring-including care for the complications that eating disorders can cause
  • Nutrition counseling- Doctors, nurses, and counselors will help you eat healthy to reach and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Medicines- such as anti-depressants, antipsychotics, or mood stabilizers, may help treat some eating disorders. The medicines can also help with the depression and anxiety symptoms that often go along with eating disorders. (5)

References:

  1. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/eating-disorders/index.shtml
  2. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/eating-disorders/
  3. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/eating-disorders/symptoms-causes/syc-20353603
  4. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/common-eating-disorders#anorexia
  5. https://medlineplus.gov/eatingdisorders.html

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