Eating disorders are very grim conditions where you are so anxious about food and weight you cannot seem focus on anything else. The well-documented eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder. If you have an eating disorder, be aware that serious physical complications and mental issues can be lethal. It is reported most people with eating disorders are female, but males also have disorders disrupting their body functions. Treatments for eating disorders involve psychotherapy, nutrition education, counseling with family members, medications and often hospitalization.
Anorexia nervosa means you are obsessed with food. You are generally thin but refuse to eat to the point of self-starvation. Watch out if you or someone you know refuses to eat and denies being hungry, has an overwhelming fear of weight gain, and exercises excessively. Other symptoms of anorexia nervosa include distorted self-image, lack of emotion, irritability and fear of eating in public.
Anorexia nervosa can bring you low blood pressure, irregular heartbeats and a feeling of always being cold. You will have dry skin and abdominal pain. Constipation is a symptom as is trouble sleeping and the appearance of downy hair on the body.
Bulimia nervosa brings on episodes of bingeing and purging. You eat a large amount of food as quick as you can and rid yourself of the calories by vomiting or by excessively exercising. Those with bulimia nervosa often have damaged teeth and gums from vomiting, swollen salivary glands in their cheeks and sores in the throat and mouth. You may find you are always dehydrated, have irregular heartbeats and sores on knuckles and hands.
Often someone with bulimia nervosa is a drug or alcohol abuser to get through the constant dieting and fasting. Your digestive system will be damaged and you will continue going to the bathroom after eating or even during meals. If you feel you can”t control your eating behavior, you may be a victim of bulimia nervosa.
Binge eaters or binge eating disorder is represented by eating excessive amounts of food. You usually do not compensate for this over eating with exercise or purging but you often eat when you are not hungry and continue eating after you are uncomfortably full. Binge eaters feel guilty or ashamed which triggers a new episode of over eating. Those who are binge eaters may be normal weight, can be overweight and often are obese.
Symptoms include eating to the point of pain, eating more than you need, eating as fast as you can, and feeling you eat just to eat. You often eat alone to avoid comments and staring, and you are disgusted with yourself over how much you have eaten.
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It is difficult to stop eating disorders yourself. You may find your eating disorder has taken over your life and you need distractions to stop thinking about food all the time or agonizing over what and where to eat. You exercise to the point of exhaustion. Eating disorders can bring on feelings of sadness, shame and anxiety. Because of your eating disorder you have irregular heartbeats, fatigue, bowel and menstrual troubles. If you match any of these symptoms, do make an appointment with a doctor as soon as possible.
If you find that you or a loved one is resisting treatment urge them to talk about it. Most people with eating disorders tend not to acknowledge having issues with food. Red flags that indicate an eating disorder can be:
- Skipping meals
- Collecting recipes, but not using them
- Withdrawing form social activities
- Persistent worry about being fat
- No wanting to eat in public
- Frequent checking in mirrors for perceived flaws
- Wearing layered or baggy clothing to hid weight loss or gain
- Eating only a few certain foods that are low in fat and calories
- Using laxatives or over the counter weight-loss drugs
- Using medications that are diuretics
- Watch for food hoarding and eating in secret
Encourage healthy-eating habits and avoid dieting. Make sure visited websites promote healthy eating rather than eating disorders as a lifestyle. Talk about healthy body images no matter what shape or size you or your loved one is. Avoid joking about adults or children who are overweight. Build self-esteem and resilience. If you feel that there is an eating problem or you see hoarding food, dissatisfaction with appearance, severe dieting or exercising get help as soon as you can. Eating disorders can be life-threatening.
If you feel like you or someone you know my have an eating disorder, take our quick quiz and get more information. Eating Disorder Quiz