All About Eating Disorders
People with eating disorders typically have a difficult relationship with food and body image.
There are several types of eating disorders, each involving different symptoms. Anyone can have an eating disorder, regardless of race, gender, sexuality, and other demographics.
According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, eating disorders affect at least 9% of the world’s population. Eating disorders affect mental and physical health. They can be life threatening if left untreated.
Learning more about eating disorders can be an essential first step in figuring out the right treatment options and support for you or someone you know.
Types and symptoms
Each eating disorder has its own set of symptoms, but many people will have a combo of eating disorder symptoms. Your condition and how it affects you will be unique to you.
Eating disorders can affect your physical and mental health. They can also have a big influence on your behaviors.
Common eating disorders include:
A. Anorexia nervosa. Anorexia is marked by symptoms like restricting how much food you eat.
B. Bulimia nervosa. Bulimia involves a cycle of bingeing and purging, where someone eats a lot of food and then uses some method to get rid of it.
C. Binge eating disorder (BED). People with BED eat large amounts of food and feel out of control, as if they can’t stop eating.
D. Avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID). In ARFID, people restrict the amount and type of food they eat, but don’t feel distress about their weight or body image.
E. Pica. This eating disorder involves someone eating things that aren’t food, like dirt or paint.
Rumination disorder. People with this condition regurgitate their food by rechewing, reswallowing, or spitting it out over a period of 1 month.
F. Other specified feeding or eating disorder (OSFED). This diagnosis is given when someone has symptoms of eating disorders but doesn’t meet the criteria for one of the eating disorders above.
People with eating disorders tend to be preoccupied by or unable to stop thinking about food, weight, and body image. This can take a significant emotional and mental toll.
Some psychological symptoms of an eating disorder include:
- Often thinking about food, weight, and body image
- Feeling anxious, irritable, guilty, or ashamed
- Feeling “flat” or a lack of emotions
- Changing mood
- Body image distortion, such as believing you appear larger than you really are
Eating disorders can significantly impact your physical health. Drastic changes in eating, purging, and other behaviors can affect your health and body.
Physical symptoms of eating disorders may include:
I. Changes in weight — either up, down, or fluctuating
II. Feeling cold all the time
II. Dizziness , fainting, or feeling lightheaded
III. Swelling around your jaw area, a sign of continued vomiting.
IV.stained or discolored teeth and tooth decay from vomiting.
V. stomach problems, like constipation, cramps, or pain
dehydration and nutritional deficiencies.
While eating disorders can cause these physical symptoms, along with others, not everyone will have them. Eating disorders and their effects look different from person to person.
Certain behaviors are common in people living with eating disorders. People are often secretive about their behaviors around food and body image. These behaviors can make people feel increasingly isolated or guilty.
Behavioral symptoms can include:
- Wearing baggy clothes or many layers of clothing.
- Frequently eating alone and avoiding meals with other people or in public
- Rigid thinking about food, body image, or weight, such as thinking of certain foods as either good or bad.
- Isolating from other people.
Causes and risk factors
Experts are still trying to understand what exactly causes eating disorders. It’s important to note that eating disorders aren’t a simple “vanity” issue, but a complicated mental health condition.
Many people use eating disorder behaviors to cope with distressing emotions and experiences.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), some contributing factors can increase a person’s likelihood of developing an eating disorder:
Genetics. Having a family history of eating disorders or other mental health conditions can raise someone’s chances of developing an eating disorder.
Environmental factors. Growing up in a culture that equates a certain body type with success or happiness can place pressure on people to meet unrealistic standards.
Psychological factors. People who are unhappy with how they look or deal with perfectionism may have a higher risk. Having a mental health condition, like anxiety, can also increase someone’s risk.
Having one or more of these risk factors doesn’t mean you’ll have an eating disorder.