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Definition

 

The individual struggling with an eating disorder is usually obsessed with food, diet and often body image to the point where their quality of life suffers, and their health is at extreme risk from their long-term poor or inadequate diet. Most sufferers of an eating disorder do not recognize that they have a problem and they will refuse treatment and attempt to hide their behavior from others. Eating disorders affect both males and females and can cause serious physical problems, and at their most severe can even be life threatening.

 

When to seek Help?

 

Because of its powerful pull, an eating disorder can be difficult to manage or overcome by the individual. Eating disorders can take over one’s life. One may think about food all the time, spend hours agonizing over what to eat, and exercise to exhaustion. One may feel ashamed, sad, hopeless, drained, irritable and anxious. Individuals may also have a host of physical problems because of their eating disorder, such as irregular heartbeats, fatigue, bowel troubles and dizziness. If an individual is experiencing any of these problems, they should seek psychological and medical help.

 

Red flags for friends and family:

 

Skipping meals.

Making excuses for not eating.

Eating only a few certain “safe” foods (usually those low in fat and calories) Adopting rigid meal or eating rituals (such as cutting food into tiny pieces or spitting food out after chewing)

Cooking elaborate meals for others, but refusing to eat them themselves. Withdrawing from normal social activities.

Persistent worry or complaining about being fat.

A distorted body image (such as complaining about being fat despite being underweight)

Not wanting to eat in public.

Frequent checking in the mirror for perceived flaws.

Wearing baggy or layered clothing.

Repeatedly eating large amounts of sweet or high-fat food.

Use of dietary supplements or herbal products for weight loss

 

Possible Complications of Eating Disorders:

 

Eating disorders cause a wide variety of complications, some of them life-threatening. The more severe or long lasting the eating disorder, the more likely you are to experience serious complications. Complications may include:

Death

Heart disease

Depression

Suicidal thoughts or behavior

Absence of menstruation (amenorrhea)

Bone loss

Stunted growth

Seizures

Digestive problems

Bowel irregularities

Kidney damage

Severe teeth decay

High or low blood pressure

Type 2 diabetes

Gallbladder disease

 

 

Causes of Eating Disorders:

 

The exact cause of eating disorders is unknown. As with other mental problems, there may be many causes. Possible causes of eating disorders include:

 

Biology. There may be genes that make certain people more vulnerable to developing eating disorders. People with first-degree relatives — siblings or parents — with an eating disorder may be more likely to develop an eating disorder too, suggesting a possible genetic link. In addition, there is some evidence that serotonin, a naturally occurring brain chemical, may influence eating behaviors.

 

Psychological and emotional health. People with eating disorders may have psychological and emotional problems that contribute to the disorder. They may have low self-esteem, perfectionism, impulsive behavior, anger management difficulties, family conflicts and troubled relationships.

 

Society. The modern Western cultural environment often cultivates and reinforces a desire for thinness. Success and worth are often equated with being thin in popular culture. Peer pressure and what people see in the media may fuel this desire to be thin, particularly among young girls.

 

Certain situations and events might increase the risk of developing an eating disorder. These risk factors may include:

 

Being female. Teenage girls and young women are more likely than teenage boys and young men to have eating disorders.

 

Age. Although eating disorders can occur across a broad age range — from pre-adolescents to older adults — they are much more common during the teens and early 20s.

 

Family history. Eating disorders are significantly more likely to occur in people who have parents or siblings who’ve had an eating disorder.

 

Family influences. People who feel less secure in their families, whose parents and siblings may be overly critical, or whose families tease them about their appearance are at higher risk of eating disorders.

 

Emotional disorders. People with depression, anxiety disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder are more likely to have an eating disorder.

 

Dieting. People who lose weight are often reinforced by positive comments from others and by their changing appearance. This may cause some people to take dieting too far, leading to an eating disorder.

 

Transitions. Whether it’s heading off to college, moving, landing a new job or a breakup, change can bring emotional distress, which may increase your susceptibility to an eating disorder.

 

Sports, work and artistic activities. Athletes, actors and television personalities, dancers, and models are at higher risk of eating disorders. Eating disorders are particularly common among ballerinas, gymnasts, runners and wrestlers. Coaches and parents may unwittingly contribute to eating disorders by encouraging young athletes to lose weight.

 


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