Eating disorders are the second deadliest type of mental illness, leading to over 10,000 deaths each year. It’s a quick and quiet killer that often takes loved ones by surprise. Do you know what signs to look for?
There are many different types of eating disorders, and each has its own unique set of symptoms and behaviors. Many of these behaviors look a lot like “healthy” behaviors. They can even resemble the advice promoted by popular fitness influencers on the internet.
There is a lot of secrecy involved in the illness, which makes these dangerous habits even harder to spot.
We’ve created this brief guide to eating disorders to help identify these symptoms in those you love. We’ve included details about the most common eating disorders below. Keep reading and you might save a life.
What Are Eating Disorders?
Foremost, an eating disorder is any psychological disorder involving abnormal eating habits. To qualify as an eating disorder, it should cause emotional distress and impact an individual’s quality of life. You can learn more about what qualifies as an eating disorder by consulting the DSM.
Anorexia nervosa involves the extreme restriction of calories. Individuals suffering from the disorder typically experience constant fear of weight gain that impacts their daily life.
The danger comes when sufferers eat so little that they cannot maintain their bodily functions. This leads to hair loss, loss of menstrual period, and organ failure.
Bulimia nervosa involves binge eating. Binge eating is eating more than is comfortable or necessary. It’s then followed by purging: vomiting, fasting, use of laxatives, or excessive exercise.
Individuals who experience this behavior are not necessarily underweight. It’s very common for those who purge to experience tooth decay, gastrointestinal issues, and swelling of the face.
Orthorexia is a fixation on “health,” which may involve eating exclusively “healthy” foods. It sometimes looks like extreme adherence to a popular diet plan, such as keto. Those with orthorexia will not eat anything outside of their list of “safe” foods.
Orthorexia is a new phenomenon and does not yet have its own entry in the DSM. Even so, this behavior can lead to malnutrition, and often yields extreme anxiety on a daily basis.
Binge Eating Disorder (B.E.D.)
Binge eating disorder involves excessive, out-of-control eating, often in secret. This is different from bulimia as B.E.D does not involve purging after a binge. These individuals feel out of control during a binge and then experience extreme shame in the aftermath.
Many of the effects of B.E.D are emotional, leading to low self-esteem and depression. At times, individuals with this condition also experience GI issues, extreme weight fluctuations, and metabolic syndromes.
There Is Help for These Common Eating Disorders
If you or someone you love is struggling with one of the above eating disorders, help is out there. Treatment options range from outpatient nutritional counseling to full-time residential treatment. Eating disorders can lead to long-term medical issues if left unchecked, so make wellness a priority.
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