Eating disorders are a group of mental illnesses that involve an obsession with food, weight, and body image. They are mainly caused by a combination of social and genetic factors, but can also be triggered by life events, such as trauma. In addition, they can result in a number of psychological and medical complications. Fortunately, treatment can be successful.
Typically, eating disorders occur in adolescents and young women. However, they can affect people of all ages. People with eating disorders may have trouble managing their weight, relationships, and emotions. Their distorted view of themselves can lead to thoughts of self-harm and suicide.
There are two types of eating disorders: anorexia and bulimia. Depending on the type of disorder, patients may restrict their dietary intake, exercise excessively, or purge after they eat. Bulimia involves frequent binge eating and self-induced vomiting. Anorexia, on the other hand, is characterized by a lack of control over food consumption and a failure to maintain an appropriate body weight. Both types of disorders are related to a desire for control.
Many researchers believe that eating disorders develop because of a combination of factors. Some of the contributing factors are trauma, a faulty reward circuit, low self-esteem, and a need for control. Others are related to genetics. While it is unclear exactly how much of an effect these factors have on an individual’s development of an eating disorder, studies show that people who are born with these traits are at greater risk of developing an eating disorder.
Anorexia is a potentially fatal disorder that results in severe self-starvation. Symptoms include a loss of energy and appetite, an inability to achieve normal weight, and a distorted perception of one’s own body. Often, anorexics refuse to consider their own body weight as medically valid, and deny the existence of any serious medical conditions. Although some anorexics may be overweight, others are normal-weight. Regardless, anorexics suffer from a lack of self-worth due to their distorted body image and weight.
Approximately 20 million women in the United States suffer from some form of eating disorder. The mortality rate of people with anorexia is the highest of any mental illness. Despite the high mortality rates, eating disorders can be treated successfully. It is important to get help early on to ensure a full recovery. A health care provider can refer you to a qualified mental health professional. If you are a parent of a child with an eating disorder, you can use the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Treatment Referral Helpline to identify local providers.
When it comes to treating a person with an eating disorder, it is helpful to know what characteristics they have in common. These characteristics may help you understand how to approach a patient and how to provide support. Behavioral techniques such as dialectical behavior therapy can teach individuals to recognize and deal with negative triggers. Traditional therapies can also increase an individual’s flexibility and creativity.