Eating disorders are increasingly on the rise. This is worrying as studies show that young people between the ages of 15 and 24 who suffer from anorexia are 10 times at risk of dying compared to their same-aged peers. These disorders may unfortunately not be taken seriously which only brings despair, anger and frustration on the person going through them We will look into six specific diagnoses: (1) Pica, (2) Rumination Disorder (RD), (3) Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID), (4) Anorexia Nervosa (AN), (5) Bulimia Nervosa (BN), and (6) Binge Eating Disorder (BED).
Those who suffer from pica consume items that have non-nutritional value and this is the only Eating Disorder that can be diagnosed together with another eating disorder. A person with pica might eat paint chips, stones, paperclips, metal scraps and other objects which indeed can potentially lead to poisoning, brain damage, nutritional deficiencies, blockages in the digestive tracts, infections and tears in the lining of the oesophagus or intestines.
People with rumination disorder regurgitate food and then either chew it again, swallow it or spit it out. People with this disorder might manage to hide it and they may experience guilt and shame. Some symptoms include repeated regurgitation of food, weight loss, bad breath and tooth decay, indigestion and stomach aches.
Avoidant/Restrictive Food intake disorder entails a broad set of eating disorder behaviours. The person refuses to eat a food item, however, not because of physical limitations. Although similar to anorexia in terms of intense restrictions on the amount and type of food one eats, people with ARFID are not preoccupied with how they look, their shape or their size. Someone with ARFID consumes little calories for their bodies to work properly which leads to weight loss, dizziness, trouble concentrating, weakened immune system, feeling cold and low iron and thyroid levels. Other symptoms might involve shame or difficulty eating around others, fears of choking and dressing in several layers to hide weight loss or retain heat. Anxiety disorders, those on the spectrum of autism, and ADHD can also be linked to ARFID.
The most known eating disorder is anorexia nervosa which manifests itself by intense fear of gaining weight which most often leads to starvation. Although the person might lose a lot of weight and look thin and malnourished, there is still a perception that they are overweight. This disorder often develops during puberty and the majority of suffers are female. Psychological, environmental and social factors can contribute to the development of anorexia. The sufferer beliefs that life would be much better if they were thinner. Self-esteem is based on how your body looks, might lead to insomnia and a relentless obsession over weight gain. Other signs include excessive worrying about food, dieting and calories, excessive exercise, no interest in social activities, lie about how much food has been eaten and avoiding eating in public.
Bulimia nervosa involves a binge on food, followed by purging later on. Someone with bulimia might not lose a lot of weight. Eating is out of control and excessive, and the person purges with the intention of not gaining weight from the food that has been eaten. Binging can make the person feel ashamed however purging brings with it a temporary false sense of relief. Naturally, it is hard on the digestive system and dehydration, mineral imbalance can lead to heart or kidney problems. The stomach can be affected due to repeated vomiting together with hormonal problems, acid reflux and tooth and gum disease. The brain is also affected and is it often linked to depression and anxiety.
Binge eating disorder is when someone overeats compulsively as a way of coping with emotions or stress. It is an ongoing psychological problem and a vicious cycle were the person binges to relieve tension or numb negative feelings, only to feel the negative feeling again soon after. The person loses control and might hoard food and eat it secretly. This can be accompanied with unusual food rituals and abnormal eating patterns. Complications include obesity, sleep apnea, high blood pressure, shortness of breath, diabetes and heart disease.
Eating disorder treatment depends on your particular disorder and your symptoms. It typically includes a combination of psychological therapy, nutrition education, medical monitoring and sometimes even medications. Eating disorder treatment also involves addressing other health problems caused by an eating disorder such as anxiety, stress and regulation of emotions. Remember that help is out there and professionals will be ready to help you manage your problem and regain control over it.