Eating disorders are significant conditions that are associated with continuous eating patterns that affects our health in a negative manner. This article will discuss about some known and not so well known eating disorders. Most eating disorders demands for emphasizing way too much attention on our weight and body shape. This leads to risky eating behaviors. Eating disorders can damage both the physical and mental aspects. They often develop in the teen and young adult years, although they can develop at other ages. In the West, eating disorders are well-known, and are well-characterized. In India, however, eating disorders do not have official overall figures.
Now let’s dive into the disorders-
Bulimia nervosa, also called bulimia, is a psychological eating disorder where one keeps on binge eating (consuming a large quantity of food in one sitting). There is no perceived control over eating behavior. People suffering from this practices unsuitable tactics for trying to lose weight, such as vomiting, fasting, enemas, or, excessive use of laxatives and diuretics.
Symptoms of bulimia include:
Consuming large amounts of food in a short time, without any self-restraint
Fear of putting on weight
Being extremely critical about our weight and body shape
These symptoms may not be easy to spot in someone else because bulimia can make people behave very secretively.
People suffering from anorexia are obsessed with weight, body shape and food intake. They have distorted images of their bodies, thinking they are fat even when they are underweight. This leads to the point of self-imposed starvation.
Symptoms of anorexia include:
If you are an adult, you have an unusually low body mass index (BMI)
Skipping meals, eating very little or avoiding eating any foods
Physical problems, such as feeling lightheaded or dizzy, hair loss or dry skin
Pica is a compulsive eating disorder in which people consume food items which have no nutritional value. Dirt, clay, and flaking paint are the most common items eaten. Less common items include glue, hair, cigarette ashes, and feces. The disorder is more common in children.
Symptoms of Pica are:
The eating behavior is not part of a culturally-sanctioned practice or a part of a community’s social norms.
Repeatedly eating nonfood items over a period of time can cause lead poisoning.
This is a condition in which people repeatedly and unintentionally spit up (regurgitate) undigested or partially digested food from the stomach, re-chew it, and then either re-swallow it or spit it out. Rumination typically happens at every meal, soon after eating. This differs from self-induced vomiting which is found in anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa because in rumination disorder the regurgitation is usually automatic and not usually intended to influence shape or weight.
Symptoms of Rumination:
Effortless regurgitation, typically within 10 minutes of eating
Abdominal pain or pressure relieved by regurgitation
A feeling of fullness
Unintentional weight loss
Binge-eating disorder is an eating disorder in which you frequently consume unusually large amounts of food and feel that you cannot prevent yourself from eating. Unlike people with binge eating disorder, people who have bulimia nervosa try to prevent weight gain after binge eating by vomiting, using laxatives or diuretics, fasting, or exercising too much.
Eating unusually large amounts of food in a specific amount of time, such as over a two-hour period
Feeling depressed, disgusted, ashamed, guilty or upset about your eating
Frequently dieting, possibly without weight loss
There is not much awareness of eating disorders. Many people suffering from these may also believe they don’t require treatment. Apart from going to a physician and also getting nutritional counseling, from the psychological aspect, one first should be given proper information on the signs and symptoms on such disorders. Family and concerned ones should also be alert for eating patterns and beliefs that may signal unhealthy behavior. This is where the role of a psychologist also comes.
When the psychologist and the patient both has identified important issues that require focus and developed a treatment plan, he/she guides the patient replace self-defeating thoughts and behaviors with more positive ones. A psychologist and patient might work together to emphasize on health rather than weight. Or a patient might keep a food diary as a way of becoming more aware of the types of situations that trigger binging.
Medication can’t cure an eating disorder. However, certain medications may help one control urges to binge or purge or to manage excessive preoccupations with food and diet. Drugs such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications may help with symptoms of depression or anxiety, which are frequently associated with eating disorders.
Such treatments may help people with eating disorders by reducing stress, promoting relaxation and increasing a sense of well-being. There is a belief that eating disorders are a Western problem and one that does not occur in India. This in itself is a barrier to diagnosis.
Let’s be aware and help others and ourselves regain control of our eating behaviors and lives.
Puja Roy is a health psychologist and is currently working as a counselor at the Institute of Neurosciences, Kolkata. You can follow her here.