What is eating disorder in medical terms?
In the context of mental health, eating disorders are any disordered patterns of food and eating that interfere with an individual’s quality of life. These habits can include limiting food, purging (the unhealthy way of ridding oneself of calories) or binge eating in a short time.
Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses that affect anyone, no matter their age, gender or cultural background. They often coexist with other mental health disorders and can be life-threatening if left untreated.
The most common types of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder. Each type of eating disorder has a different set of signs and symptoms, but they all share the same root cause: a person’s preoccupation with their food, body image or weight.
Anorexia nervosa: People with anorexia eat very little or only certain types of food, usually to the point of feeling starved and out of control. They may also try to lose weight by dieting or exercising excessively, but they never feel thin enough.
Binge eating disorder: The most common form of eating disorder, binge eating involves eating a large amount of food within a short period of time, then forcing yourself to vomit or use laxatives to get rid of the excess calories. This behavior is fueled by guilt and shame, as well as an intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat.
Treatment for eating disorders is a combination of psychiatric therapy, nutrition counseling, and medication to treat any other underlying issues. Psychotherapy helps people understand distorted thoughts about their bodies, food and weight, and learn to replace these with healthier ones.
Medication for eating disorders may include antidepressants, antipsychotics, or mood stabilizers. These medicines may help people with these disorders feel less anxious or depressed, which can reduce their appetites and make them more successful in therapy.
The exact cause of eating disorders is not known, but it is thought that they may result from a traumatic experience or a stressful event in a person’s life. Other possible causes include genetics, substance abuse, and a mental illness like depression or anxiety.
In addition, the symptoms of an eating disorder may be a result of medical conditions such as malnutrition or other physical health problems that make it harder for someone to cope with their weight and body image. In these cases, a doctor can recommend additional tests to rule out medical causes of the problem.
Some people with an eating disorder also have a psychological problem that can be treated through therapy, such as low self-esteem or a need to feel in control. These problems can be addressed through cognitive behavioral therapy, which helps people rethink how they see their body.
Other conditions can lead to eating disorders such as dysautonomia, a condition that affects the autonomic nervous system. This condition can cause a variety of psychiatric symptoms, including excessive sweating, heart palpitations and stomachaches.
Those who suffer from eating disorders often hide or hoard food, particularly foods that they consider unsafe to eat. They also may hide food from family members or others in their lives who are tempted to eat it. In addition, a person who has an eating disorder may develop an obsession with certain foods or drink or become overly excited about preparing and eating food.