There are times when one cannot eat due to a fight or because one has received a piece of bad news. Similarly, there can also be occasions where one has eaten more than usual. It is not unheard of, especially when the family gets around during the holidays. Both these situations are something that we have heard of or experienced first-hand—skipping a meal here and there or eating more during the festive season. These are not eating disorders, which are much more complex.
So, what qualifies as an eating disorder? What does it mean? How does it impact those who live with this condition? Also, did you know that approximately one million Canadians live with an eating disorder diagnosis? Read on to learn more.
1) What Is an Eating Disorder?
An eating disorder is a health condition where the person uses food to cope with situations or feelings. It primarily includes a person having a problematic relationship with food that consists of unhealthy eating behaviours. For instance, an eating disorder can result in binge eating and it can also result in starving oneself due to fear of putting on weight. One of the impacts of certain eating disorders is that it can lead to excessive worrying about body weight and shape. Some of the other maladaptive eating behaviours that come under an eating disorder include purging, which also happens due to fear of putting on weight.
An eating disorder can affect both genders and is found in people with different body types. However, strong evidence suggests that teenagers between the ages of 13 and 17 are commonly affected by eating disorders.
2) What Are the Different Types of Eating Disorders?
The different types of eating disorders include - Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder, ARFID, also known as Avoidance Restrictive Food Intake Disorder, and Otherwise Specified Feeding and Eating disorders. These are classified under mental health conditions. Those living with these use the control of food to cope with complicated feelings or situations.
3) Symptoms of Different Types of Eating Disorders?
Anorexia Nervosa - is a mental health condition where the person goes in self-starvation mode. The fear of being fat takes over, resulting in a preoccupation with one's body image and weight. There is an unhealthy obsession with losing weight, where a person constantly feels overweight, irrespective of being thin in reality. These eating disorder symptoms include consuming minimal amounts of food, almost close to starving oneself and progressively becoming more restrictive regarding eating habits, exercising too much, using diet pills, constantly making personal remarks about being fat, and denying feeling hungry. This eating disorder generally starts at puberty. Studies have shown that almost 90-95 percent of those diagnosed with anorexia are female. Evidence suggests that within ten years of anorexia nervosa, nearly 10 percent of people living with this mental health condition will die from anorexia or its complications.
The health impacts of anorexia nervosa in its progressive stages can include muscle weakness, signs of starvation consisting of pasty skin and palms or feet soles turning yellow. Additionally, it can also cause hair loss, irregular or no menstrual periods, reduction in bone density, depression, greater risk of heart failure, irritability, lack of focus or difficulty concentrating. Finally, eating disorder like anorexia nervosa affects the gastrointestinal where lack of nutrition and food leads to severe stomach issues.
4) Is There Treatment for an Eating Disorder?
Eating disorders can indeed be complicated. Treatments may include a combination of psychological, nutritional and medical help. Psychological treatments for eating disorders like anorexia nervosa may consist of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), family-based therapy, and dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT). All of the above are evidence-based treatments that have been able to help people living with different types of eating disorders. With the support and help of a trained psychologist, you can learn to manage your emotions, maintain a healthy weight and experience an overall improvement in physical and psychological health.
It's not easy to witness a close friend or family live with the effects of any eating disorder. It's helpful to remember that there is help available for anorexia nervosa. So, whether you are looking for support and treatment options for yourself or someone you love, you are not alone because there is hope and help. Healing is possible. So, don't be afraid to take that first step.
If life feels out of control, don't hesitate to seek the help of a psychologist. At Ward & Associates Psychological Services, we provide therapy for eating disorders, anxiety disorders, couples counselling, PTSD Treatment, and more in Sherwood Park. We also offer video counselling for clients anywhere in Alberta. Book an appointment now!