3 Common Reasons Why People Have Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are complex conditions and experts are still learning about what causes them. However, they are known to result from people attempting to cope with painful emotions and feelings by controlling food. Over time, this will damage their physical and emotional health and self-esteem. People with eating disorders have a distorted view of their weight and body shape, and feel an intense fear of gaining weight. They often use unhealthy behaviors such as excessive dieting, bingeing and purging to try to avoid gaining weight.

Researchers know that some of the risk factors for eating disorders include genetics, a history of mental illness and certain personality traits. Having a first degree relative (a parent, sibling or child) with an eating disorder increases the likelihood that a person will develop an eating disorder. A history of a traumatic experience, including sexual or physical abuse, may also increase the risk for developing an eating disorder. Other risk factors include a history of depression, anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). People with eating disorders often have a high level of perfectionism and are highly dissatisfied with their appearance.

Binge eating disorder (BED) is characterized by episodes of consuming large amounts of food in a short period of time. Then, due to guilt or shame, they engage in compensatory behavior to prevent weight gain such as vomiting or extreme exercise. Some people with binge eating disorder also engage in other forms of malnutrition such as skipping meals or changing their insulin doses. This can cause serious medical problems like dehydration, heart complications, acid reflux and nutrient deficiencies.

Bulimia nervosa is another type of eating disorder that involves cycles of binge eating followed by purging. This is a dangerous and life-threatening condition that causes a variety of health problems, including dental and digestive issues, dehydration, electrolyte imbalances and even death. People with bulimia are preoccupied with weight and body shape and have severe and harsh self-judgments of their appearance.

Athletes and people who are extremely preoccupied with their athletic performance are at higher risk for developing an eating disorder. The risk is particularly high for female athletes who play sports requiring a lot of physical exertion. This is sometimes called Female Athlete Triad Syndrome.

Several different types of eating disorders exist and they can affect all genders, ages and ethnicities. The most common types of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, which is characterized by an unhealthily low body weight and an extreme fear of gaining weight; bulimia nervosa, which involves alternating episodes of bingeing and purging; and other specified feeding and eating disorders, which includes symptoms such as lack of interest in food, refusing certain textures or avoiding specific foods without a medical reason. Regardless of the type of eating disorder, people who have them are suffering from severe malnutrition and often suffer from other health problems, such as heart disease and depression. These health problems can be avoided with the right treatment. Despite this, many people with eating disorders do not seek help because they are often ashamed of their symptoms or believe they can overcome them on their own.



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