Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses that can affect an individual’s body, behavior and emotional health. They can lead to medical complications, such as heart disease and depression. The condition often co-occurs with anxiety and substance abuse disorders. However, it can also be treated with the right care.
The symptoms of an eating disorder can vary widely, but they can include extreme focus on food, low self-esteem, and a desire to achieve perfection. Anorexia nervosa is one of the most common forms of the disease. It is characterized by severe restrictions on food intake. Other symptoms of the disorder include binge eating, purging behaviors and obsessive thoughts about food. There are two major types of anorexia nervosa: atypical anorexia nervosa and restrictive anorexia. Bulimia nervosa is another eating disorder that involves frequent consumption of large amounts of food in a short period of time. Both anorexia and bulimia can be treatable with proper medical and psychological support.
There are many risk factors for eating disorders. Among them are the characteristics of the person, the environment, and genetics. Some of the personality traits that may increase the risk of developing an eating disorder include high neuroticism, perfectionism, and impulsivity. People with neurotic traits are more likely to have a high level of self-critical and anxiety-related symptoms.
A significant number of people with eating disorders are female. Women are more likely than men to suffer from anorexia nervosa. Unlike anorexia, bulimia is more prevalent among women than men. If you think you or a loved one is suffering from an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Alliance (NEDA) to find out more about resources and treatment options.
Eating disorders can be treated with medical care, medications, and cognitive behavioral therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy can help change distorted thought patterns and reduce disordered eating. Treatment should involve the individual’s family and other supportive resources. This will allow the patient to recover emotionally and physically.
Eating disorders are often caused by an underlying trauma or traumatic event. These events can be stressful and trigger an intense need to control the body and food intake. Typically, an eating disorder develops in adolescence. In addition to a traumatic event, a person’s physical appearance can be a trigger for an eating disorder. For example, if someone is overweight, that may make them fear that they will become obese. Therefore, they try to lose weight. Eventually, they stop throwing up. While the reason for this is unclear, it appears that a combination of feelings of shame, disgust and distress are enough to trigger the anorexia-type of behavior.
Individuals with eating disorders have a self-defeating cycle of fear and anxiety. For example, they may be reluctant to accept suggestions, withdraw from social activities, or even withdraw from friends. Those with eating disorders are competitive and may have trouble accepting the advice of others. Similarly, they may be prone to anxiety and feel a strong need to control the environment.