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Eating Disorders Guide: Types, Causes and Prevention

Eating Disorders Guide: Types, Causes and Prevention

by Mehr Jan · December 9, 2020

An eating disorder is a common condition which many are not aware of.

Have you ever experienced moments where you are spending most of your day thinking about food and your body image?

If it is affecting your daily functioning and your routine, you might have an eating disorder.


Eating Disorder 101

Considered to be on a continuum, there is more to an eating disorder than just food. It is identified with having complicated health conditions and mental concerns.
It isn’t something to ignore. You will probably require assistance and medical specialists to intervene as well as will need psychological advice. According to National Eating Disorders organization in USA alone about 20 million women and 10 million men have this eating disorder at some point in their life.
These numbers are scary and they continue to escalate.

This guide will look into findings of new research to determine what is defined as an eating disorder, what types are recognized, the symptoms and causes, as well as treatment plans. Let’s begin:

eating disorders focus on unhealthy eating habits

Many of these eating disorders aim at dangerous eating habits. Why they are a nuisance to the body is because they affect your body shape and nutritional intake.
In some cases they are even more troublesome as besides the digestive system they also affect the heart and teeth and mouth.

These odd eating patterns are common in teens and young adults; however they can happen in your later years too, if triggered by emotional conflicts like depression, stress or anger.
But here’s the good news- eating disorders can be treated.
You can come back to healthy eating routine and save yourself from serious complications arising.
Now we will look into the three most types of Eating Disorders:


Types of Disordered Eating

Anorexia Nervosa

If you are facing this disorder, you will likely have concerns and anxiety of gaining weight. It is when you face a certain obsessive fear and a denial on what weight constitutes a healthy body.
There is an unrealistic vision on what is healthy. It is a condition when you will be extremely cautious of what you are putting in the mouth.
If you suffer from this condition, you will be cautious of what you put in the mouth. Despite it not being the truth, they think they are overweight. In fact they might be underweight.
It is a highly dangerous condition when your weight drops. You will have serious concerns like anorexia, brain damage, multi-organ failures as well as brain loss and infertility.
It can also lead to death if not treated timely.

Bulimia Nervosa

bulimia involves binge eating and throwing up

This disorder is when you are involved in binge eating. It is when there is overeating involved.
This is the proceeded with forced vomiting and use of laxatives.
If you have this disorder you have a fear of weight gain. You are also extremely depressed and unhappy with your current weight and how you look.
A person suffering will always feel guilt over the condition and the purging is done hidden from others.

This condition too needs to be treated effectively to avoid a harmful state like gastrointestinal problems, severe dehydration, even heart problems.

Binge Eating and Purging Disorder

This form of condition defines having no control over your eating habits. This is different from bulimia because the eating phase isn’t followed by the compensatory acts of forceful vomiting and extreme levels of exercising.

Anyone suffering from this condition is likely obese. They indulge in guilty pleasures which are unhealthy and there is lack of control.

People with this disorder are engulfed in deep feelings of guilt, depression, embarrassment and stress as they eat large amounts of good. They have an increased risk of developing medical conditions like cardiovascular disease. Many are subjected to mental illnesses too.


This kind of disorder is one where the patient is consuming things which aren’t really food. They hold no nutritional value and a person consumes them constantly without benefit. This includes items like clay, paper, cotton etc.

Rumination Disorder

This is a complex and not a very common order. It is when you re-chew; re-swallow food which isn’t completely digested on a constant level. As well as keep on spitting out food.
The food isn’t digested so it isn’t acidic. Why it occurs to some people isn’t certain but there are behavioral therapies that can help.

Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder

This is a disorder where you don’t meet your nutritional or energy needs. It leads to rapid weight loss and can cause health issues like nutritional deficiencies.


Causes and Complications

Now that we have a good idea on what kind of leading and most common eating disorders exist, let’s talk about the reasons why they happen to some and not others:
A number of contributing factors can be the reason, be it biological, environmental or psychological concerns.
We will now look into the most common ones which are diagnosed:

Biological Factors

Have regular hormone functions
Genes- experts in the medical field are determining how genes play a strong role in the matter
Nutritional deficiencies play a strong role as your nutritional well-being impacts you physically and mentally

Environmental Factors

extremely thin models cause eating disorders

When it comes to environmental concerns, the following issues play a role in the onset of eating disorders:

  • dysfunctional family unit
  • Getting involved in professions and careers which aim at glamorizing being thin, like modelling
  • Promoting weight loss
  • Involving in aesthetically oriented sports like ballet, ices-skating, diving, rowing

Psychological Factors

Having a strong negative body image impacts your well-being
Poor self-esteem also impacts your abilities to lead a wholesome life
Having family and childhood traumas affects your body image and well-being awareness
Stressful transitions or life changes

Complications with Eating Disorder

There are various complications that come with these eating disorders. They can be also life-threatening.
If it isn’t treated properly, there are many complications and health risks you will encounter. These include:

  • Depression and anxiety can set in
  • Getting suicidal thoughts or behavior is triggered
  • You will face problems with having a healthy development
  • You can also be subjected to social and relationship problems
  • Those in intense disorders will also get involved in substance use disorders
  • Work and school issues can take place
  • The most horrific complication that can happen is death when left untreated


Symptoms and Prevention

Look out for the warning flags. Even if not for you, your loved one may be going through an issue or concern which can quickly escalate as an eating disorder.
There are certain patterns and beliefs that show things are troublesome. If you notice any of this, get a diagnosis done
    • Skipping meals
    • Creating excuses for not eating properly
    • Restricting food intake to certain food types only
    • Focusing only on limited or healthy eating
    • Making separate meals instead of indulging in family dining
    • Not showing interest in hanging with friends or taking part in social activities
    • Worrying constantly about weight gain
    • Exercising excessively
    • Checking mirror often for superficial flaws
    • Consuming and having extensive sugar intake
    • Opting for dietary supplements and laxatives
    • Over exertion by heavy exercising
    • If you are having tooth enamel loss, it can be due to repeated vomiting
    • Eating more than considered normal
    • Having extensive guilt and shame over your eating habits
    • Expressing depression, disgust, or guilt about eating habits
    • Eating in secret often


Prevention Techniques

While there isn’t any winning formula that will prevent you or provide a guarantee that you won’t get it, adapting certain winning strategies will help you to gain a wholesome and healthy outlook on life.
Let’s see what these are:

Adapt a Healthy Lifestyle

encourage healthy eating from an early age

What you eat and drink is followed by your children. It begins at an early age and observational skills are the factor.
If you are showing them eating less and dieting often is desired, they will follow pursuit.
Avoid that. Adapt eating wholesome meals together rand discussing with your young ones what a balanced diet is.

Talk to your child

In this day and age, there are multiple channels out there which promote and encourage starvation with glamour.

The best guidance will come from the best teachers- speak to your children. Tell them how it is unhealthy and will cause disastrous effects to your body and well being.
Correct their misperceptions and communicate on healthy eating and wise wholesome choices.

Understand the Essence of Self-image

It is critical to not follow the misrepresentation of a positive self-image.
Leading nutritionists have warned against the mainstream media portrayal of what is beautiful. Invest your time in campaigns and programmes which encourage a healthy living and nutritional awakening.
Cultivating and reinforcing this culture right at home will be progressive.

Involve a Specialist

Sometimes when you feel your loved one is on the verge of developing an eating disorder, and you are overwhelmed by what to do, seek a professional.

It is specifically to cases where children are involved.
The doctor will provide assistance as needed, guiding on eating habits as well as what medical treatments can be initiated.
They will recommend regular visits to check on height and weight percentiles as well as body mass index.


Talk to a friend

Those who are having these eating disorders are often ashamed to talk about them openly.

This is when you need to keep a check on any of the above symptoms to know if there are ant red flags.
After which you need to urge your loved one to seek help and guidance from a professional.

Even if they show disinterest in the situation and are unwilling, encourage them to communicate.
This will help them to remove the stigma to become isolated.

Talk to someone who is facing an eating disorder. This blog has laid the signs to watch out for.

A small issue can turn into a big concern if not treated and paid attention on time.

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