What is an Eating Disorder?

Paris Hilton, Victoria Beckham, Anushka Sharma and Kalki Koechlin. What's common amongst these names? These are the names of supermodels or actresses known all over the world. But there is one more thing which is a common thread amongst all these divas, and that is their eating disorders.

I am going to tell you in detail about eating disorders, the causes, and the ways in which you can treat them.

What is an Eating Disorder?

As per US English Oxford Dictionary, an ‘Eating Disorder' refers to“Any Range of psychological disorders characterized by abnormal or disturbed eating habits (such as anorexia nervosa)”. Basically, eating disorders happen when you become overly conscious of your weight and develop a sort of fear of everything you consume, thinking that it would make you fat or obese. While in reality you are doing nothing but starving yourself, in an extremely unhealthy manner.

What are the types of Eating Disorders?

  • Anorexia Nervosa

This is the most common type of disorder, where a person develops a psychological fear of gaining weight. As a result he/she avoids and skips meals, develops inappropriate eating habits and become obsessively thin.

  • Bulimia Nervosa

This is the most life threatening eating disorder, where a person has frequent episodes of binge eating and subsequent purging through vomiting or taking excess dosages medicines that prevent them from gaining weight.

  • Anorexia Athletica

This is the case when a person is extremely obsessed with calorie counting and exercising, to the point of being a fanatic. They exercise to the point of tiring themselves out, in order to burn every last ounce of calorie that they might have consumed.

  • Night Eating Syndrome

This is again a very common, but perhaps a more of a household kind of eating disorder. In this case, the person consumes a quarter of his or her daily intake of calories, post dinner. In most of the cases, the affected person cannot go to sleep if they have not had their regular “night snack”. Obesity, depression, insomnia and anxiety are the common symptoms of people who are suffering from this eating disorder.

  • Orthorexia Nervosa

This is a fairly uncommon, and hard to identify kind of eating disorder. The reason being, that the people suffering from it, tend to classify the food that they consume, according to its nutritional value. They classify food into healthy and unhealthy and will consume only the first category. While it is good for the body to consume nutrients, but in this case, this amounts to  an obsession. As a result, these people suffer from loss of taste, or a point where taste does not matter.

  • Pica

This is the exact opposite of the above eating disorder. While people suffering from Orthorexia Nervosa tended to consume only the healthy and nutritional value of foods, those who are suffering from Pica have an appetite for non nutritional substances, like ice, dirt, chalk or clay.

  • Rumination Syndrome

This is more of a reflexive than conscious disorder. In this case, people have a tendency to chew the food a few times and then spit it out. It can cause substantial damage to the food pipe and also result in unhealthy weight loss.

  • Drunkorexia

This is a condition, where the affected person has the tendency to starve throughout the day, and then binge on excess alcohol and food at the end of the day. This leads to both unhealthy drinking and eating patterns.

What causes Eating Disorders?

Eating disorders can arise from a variety of causes, which are all complex and inter related. All these causes are intricately woven to each other in the fabric of our society. They lead the affected person to believe in things about appearances, which are nothing but narrow and restricted definitions of beauty. Still, a few of them, in general, have been listed down below, for your reference:

  • Psychological factors like low self esteem, feeling of inadequacy, depression, stress etc.
  • Interpersonal factors like troubled personal relationships, difficulty in expressing emotions, history of being ridiculed for weight issues, history of sexual abuse etc.
  • Social factor like being thin is a virtue of feminism and being muscular is a virtue of being a true man. The definition of beauty that is too traditional and narrow and also people’s tendency to judge on the basis of physical appearances etc.
  • Biological factors like imbalance of certain chemicals in the brain or history of eating disorders in family. Scientists are researching more, to come out with more plausible reasons for it.

How do you treat Eating Disorders?

The first thing for the treatment of every psychological disorder is to believe in possibilities. A positive belief, that cure is possible, can do wonders in boosting the will power of the affected person. It pushes him or her to make whole hearted efforts towards the path of recovery.

Seek professional help

Eating disorder, like all other psychological disorders, affects a person not only physically, but also emotionally. Early diagnosis and intervention may enhance recovery. People, who are suffering from such disorders, need to seek professional help.

Self acceptance

The path towards treatment is not easy, especially in this case, where the affected person continues to live in a state of denial. The first step is a task in itself, as patient has to first and foremost accept, that he or she is suffering from a problem or disorder, which needs to be treated. The person is supposed to listen to himself or herself, accept the problem whole heartedly and look for ways to come out of it, and be willing to seek the help of a professional.

Support from family and friends

Once there is acceptance, a specialist should be consulted. One thing should be kept in mind, that these people need constant love and support. It is not necessary that once they have accepted their problem, they will wake up with the same belief next morning. They will have a tendency to go back on what they said. So a constant support and belief in the cause is necessary, along with the help of the specialist.

Long term health plan

There should be a long term health plan, along with the professional treatment, which may include inpatient treatment, eating disorder education, individual or group therapy, nutritional counseling, family therapy, medical counseling.

Nurturing happiness

Apart from the above, keep the person happy. He or she should listen to music, read books, go to movies, get out into nature, play with pets, basically anything and everything which makes him or her genuinely happy and keeps the mind away from the disorder.

Treatment for eating disorders is purely psychological. That means that it is not meant to be done alone. The affected person needs all the love and support from the family, along with professional help.

The road to recovery is not easy, and, it is a testing time not only for the affected person, but for those who are a part of his/her life too. But in the end, it is not an impossible path, and once you have trodden along it successfully, the road to love, life, success and happiness will be open once again. After all, each new day is another chance to change your life for the better, isn't it?

One thought on “What is an Eating Disorder?

  • March 26, 2015 at 5:00 am

    Superb article. Well drawn out and with no worries about word count.

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