What You Need to Know About Eating Disorders

Bountou Sylla, Staff Writer

Many individuals experience the challenges of an eating disorder and are not even aware of it in their lives. However, an eating disorder is more than just trying to be strict on yourself so you don’t gain weight or trying various diets. 

According to American Psychiatric Association, “eating disorders are conditions characterized by served and persistent disturbance in eating behavior and associated distressing thoughts and emotions. They can be very serious conditions affecting physical, psychological and social function.” 

As stated by the American Psychiatric Association, there are different types of eating disorders that include “anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, avoidant restrictive food intake disorder, other specified feeding and eating disorder, pica and rumination disorder.” 

As reported by the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), eating disorder symptoms include some emotional or behavioral actions such as “Preoccupation with weight, food, calories, carbohydrates, fat grams, and dieting and skipping meals or taking small portions of food at regular meals.” It is important to understand that eating disorders play a major role in emotional health.

Other key concerns for those who suffer from eating disorders include  “extreme concern with body size and shape” as well as physical issues such as  “dizziness, especially upon standing, Fainting/syncope, Noticeable fluctuations in weight, both up and down, Muscle weakness, Dry skin and hair, and brittle nails.” The main thing to understand with an eating disorder is that it has a lot of things to do with one’s physical and psychological.

The three main eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. Taken together, eating disorders affect up to 5% of the population. Eating disorders mostly affect people between the ages of 12 to 35 years old. While studies show that these three main disorders are more common in women, eating disorders can happen to any gender and at any age, states the American Psychiatric Association.

The American Psychiatric Association reports that eating disorders can lead to medical complications such as malnutrition because of purging behavior and heart and gastrointestinal problems as well as other potentially fatal conditions. But, with proper medical care, evidence suggests that genes and heritability play a part in why some people are at higher risk for an eating disorder, but these disorders can also afflict those with no family history of the condition. By getting treatment one can resume healthy eating habits and recover emotional and psychological health. 

It is important to understand the impact of eating disorders on peoples’ physical health, but it is also important to recognize the fact that people can also experience significant emotional issues as well. According to the Mayo Clinic, eating disorders can also lead to suicidal thoughts or behavior, problems with growth and development, social and relationship problems, and work and school issues.

The American Psychiatric Association notes that eating disorders can happen because of several different things. The most common one is mood, anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder or it can be related to drug and alcohol abuse and can be caused by mental or emotional health and dieting, and starvation, stress.

It is important to be able to recognize the signs of an eating disorder in order to help someone you know who is suffering from one.  If you suspect someone you know has an eating disorder, the helpguide.org advises that you can assist that person in a number of ways beginning with getting them support such as medical treatment, nutritional counseling, or therapy. There are different types of therapy that one can get, including individual therapy, family therapy, and group therapy). Another resource for more information is the National Eating Disorders Association or call 1-800-931-2237 (National Eating Disorders Association).