There are three common types of disordered eating: dieting, emotional eating, and pica. Each can be a cause or symptom of an eating disorder and require treatment.
Eating disorders are a serious mental health condition that can affect both individuals and their families. They can impact self-esteem, relationships with other people, and overall quality of life.
The most commonly known eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. However, there are many other irregular behaviors that can qualify for an eating disorder diagnosis. These behaviors are more subtle, but can still impact an individual’s wellbeing.
1. Dieting (overeating): Using restrictive diets to lose weight and control body image can be a common type of disordered eating. This behavior can be a sign of low self-esteem and a negative view of one’s body. It can also lead to feelings of failure and guilt, which may contribute to overeating.
2. Emotional eating: Often, individuals with disordered eating patterns turn to food as a way to cope with uncomfortable emotions such as anger, sadness, or frustration. It can also be a coping mechanism for trauma or grief.
3. Pica: Consuming items that are not considered food can be a form of disordered eating, especially in young children and pregnant women. This could involve eating clay, dirt, soil, chalk, soap, paper, hair, wool, pebbles, laundry detergent, and cornstarch.
4. Exercise and obesity: In addition to consuming excessive amounts of calories, those with disordered eating also often focus on exercising excessively, even when it’s not healthy or beneficial. They may use exercise as a way to compensate for the calories they consume, or as a way to purge themselves of unwanted calories.
5. Physical symptoms: Some people with disordered eating may experience chronic stomach issues or frequent gastrointestinal distress. These symptoms can be a warning sign of an eating disorder, as they are linked to the nutritional deficiencies that occur from an unhealthy relationship with food.
6. Other behaviors: If someone has disordered eating patterns, they may develop rituals around the meals they eat and the way they eat them. For example, they might always start a meal with a salad.
7. Other symptoms: If someone has disordered eating patterns, their weight can fluctuate rapidly. This can lead to feelings of extreme stress and anxiety as they try to maintain a stable body weight.
8. Other underlying factors: Some people with disordered eating patterns have other underlying conditions, such as anxiety or depression. If they do, these can contribute to an increase in their disordered eating behaviors and lead to a relapse.
10. Identifying and seeking help: If you notice a pattern of abnormal eating or an unhealthy relationship with your body, it’s important to seek support. An experienced eating disorder specialist can help you understand your behaviors and determine if treatment is necessary.
It’s critical to get help if you are struggling with disordered eating, as it can be very dangerous for your physical and mental health. The sooner you start to treat your condition, the faster you can heal and feel better about yourself.