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Food For Thought – The Complexities of Eating Disorders

Nmesoma Okwudili


April 3, 2023

Eating disorders are characterised by abnormal eating habits that negatively impact a person’s physical or mental health. It is one of the most lethal mental illnesses, coming in second only to opioid overdose. Although eating disorders can affect people of any gender at any age, they are most common in women aged 12 to 35. These disorders typically begin with an obsession with food, body weight, or body shape, which leads to serious health consequences and, if left untreated, death.

Eating disorders are caused by a variety of factors, according to experts. One of them is genetics. Individuals who have relatives or a family history of eating disorders appear to develop an eating disorder.

Personality traits can also contribute to the development of an eating disorder. According to a 2015 research review, neuroticism, perfectionism, and impulsivity are three personality traits that are frequently associated with an increased risk of developing an eating disorder. The perceived pressure to be thin, cultural desires for thinness, and media exposure that promotes these ideals are all possible triggers for this condition.

Common eating disorders include anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder. Pica, rumination disorder, and restrictive food intake are examples of less common eating disorders. Each type of eating disorder has different symptoms, but all involve an intense focus on food and eating issues, with some involving a strong focus on weight.

Anorexia, a common eating disorder, typically develops during adolescence or early adulthood and affects more women than men. People with anorexia frequently perceive themselves as overweight despite being extremely underweight. They frequently monitor their weight, avoid certain foods, and severely restrict their calorie intake.

Anorexics, a term used to describe people suffering from anorexia, use other methods to lose weight, such as excessive exercise, the use of laxatives or diet supplements, and vomiting immediately after eating. Brittle hairs/nails, cold intolerance, menstrual period cessation, muscle weakness, osteoporosis, bone thinning, fatigue, and depression are all symptoms of anorexia. Anorexia can be extremely harmful to the body, resulting in heart, brain, or multi-organ failure and death in severe cases. Individual, group, or family psychotherapy, medications, and nutritional counselling are all used to treat anorexia.

Bulimia, also known as bulimia nervosa, is a well-known and potentially fatal eating disorder. It is characterised by recurrent, uncontrollable, or obsessive binge eating, which is usually followed by an inappropriate method of attempting to eliminate the food consumed.

Although it can appear earlier or later in life, bulimia usually appears in late adolescence or early adulthood. Females are three times more likely than males to develop bulimia nervosa, which has a lifetime prevalence of around 1%. Bulimics frequently purge through self-induced vomiting or the use of laxatives, enemas, or diuretics. Some bulimics never purge. Instead, they may binge-eat, consuming up to 20,000 calories at once, and then compensate with other behaviours such as fasting or overexercising. Bulimics may binge unintentionally at any time, from once a week to multiple times a day.

Bulimia symptoms include chronic sore throat, frequent trips to the bathroom right after meals, dental decay caused by stomach acid erosion of tooth enamel, swelling of the salivary gland in the cheeks, and many more. Outpatient cognitive behavioural therapy and antidepressants are used to treat bulimia.

The most common chronic illness among adolescents is binge eating disorder. This disorder’s symptoms are similar to those of bulimia and anorexia. People suffering from binge eating disorder experience binge eating episodes in which they consume large amounts of food in a short period of time, feel as if they have no control over their eating, and are distressed by the activity.

This is comparable to bulimia nervosa. However, unlike those suffering from bulimia nervosa, they do not frequently resort to compensatory measures such as fasting, exercise, or the abuse of laxatives to get rid of the food. Binge eating disorders can lead to obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease.

Common symptoms of binge eating disorders include eating faster than usual, eating until uncomfortably full, eating large amounts of food on a regular basis, feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed or very guilty after a binge, and many more. Individual or group cognitive behavioural psychotherapy, as well as several antidepressant medications, are the most effective treatments for this disorder.

Eating disorders, for example, usually necessitate treatment. They can harm the body if left unattended. Those suffering from such conditions should seek assistance from close friends or relatives, as well as make an appointment with an eating disorder specialist in your area or seek assistance from a healthcare provider who specialises in eating disorders. However, recovery may take some time, and some people may relapse and experience the symptoms again, but it is critical to seek medical attention if symptoms persist.





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