What Is Eating Disorder?
Eating disorders are characterized by changes and psychological problems related to food that interfere with the physical and mental health of the individual. These changes refer to excess or lack of food. There is no specific cause for the disease, but a set of factors can trigger this disorder.
Genetic factors: Although there is still no confirmation of the genetic etiology in eating disorders, research has reported that they are more frequent in first-degree relatives. Research on family aggregation demonstrates the existence of disease transmission mechanisms in families. Studies with monozygotic and dizygotic twins also pointed out genetics as a possible participant in the causes of eating disorders.
Biological factors: It is believed that changes in brain neurotransmitters such as serotonin, the regulator of our sleep, mood, heart rate, and appetite, maybe behind the causes of the disorders.
Psychological factors: The presence of illnesses such as depression and anxiety, or low self-esteem and trauma, give strength to the appearance of the disorder, as they distort the individual’s self-image.
Social factors: This is one of the main causes of the problem. Beauty standards are the biggest villains of eating disorders, as they trigger frustration, low self-esteem, and the need for acceptance in society. The standards of beauty change with the historical period, but the pressures and consequences of them never change: the individual is always indebted to the balance.
Types of Eating Disorders
According to the International Classification of Diseases (ICDs), Eating Disorders are divided as follows: Anorexia Nervosa (includes Atypical Anorexia Nervosa), Bulimia Nervosa (includes Atypical Bulimia Nervosa), Hyperphagia associated with other psychological disorders, vomiting associated with others Psychological disorders, and other Eating Disorders.
What is anorexia?
The anorexia nervosa occurs when there is excessive weight loss intentionally or induced by the patient, and such loss would be due to the distorted body image. Individuals suffering from this disorder may use anorectics, laxatives, deliberate vomiting, purging, and excessive physical exercise to achieve the expected thinness.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the diagnosis of anorexia nervosa can be based on the following premise: body weight is kept below the expected 15%, according to each individual. Therefore, the symptoms mentioned are essential for diagnosing the patient.
A typical nervous anorexia
These are the patients who present some symptoms of anorexia nervosa, such as the constant thought about losing weight, dietary restrictions, amenorrhea, among others, but which do not fit into the clinical picture of the disorder. It is a milder degree of anorexia, but health professionals must monitor it.
Types of anorexia
According to the MSD Manual, there are two types of anorexia:
Restrictive type: People limit the amount ingested but do not binge eat or purge regularly (e.g., inducing vomiting or taking laxatives). Some people exercise excessively.
Binge eating/purging type: People binge eat and/or purge regularly.
Denying the existence of the problem is unanimous among people with anorexia, which delays the treatment of the disease. These are some behaviors they demonstrate:
- They complain about being fat even though they are very thin
- They deny that they are thin
- They think about food all the time.
- They worry about diet and body weight all the time
- They calculate how much they eat
- They accumulate, hide or discard food
- Prepare elaborate meals for others
- Skip meals; They pretend they ate or lie about how much they ate.
- Exercise compulsively.
- They dress in loose-fitting or multi-layered clothing.
- Weigh themselves several times a day.
- They assess their self-esteem based on their thinness
- They tend to develop anxiety.
- Resist treatment.
- Develop amenorrhea (interruption of menstruation in women).
- Decreased or lack of libido.
- Binge eating and/or purging by vomiting.
- Lack of interest in food;
- Intake of laxatives.
Consequences of anorexia
Anorexia is a serious disease because it affects not only the mind but also the body. “People with anorexia nervosa have a slow heart rate, low blood pressure, low body temperature and may develop thin, sparse hair or excess facial and body hair. Tissues swell due to fluid accumulation (edema). People often complain of bloating, abdominal discomfort, and constipation,” reports the MSD Manual.
To get rid of the guilt of eating food, anorexics often self-induce vomiting, eroding tooth enamel, enlarging salivary glands in the cheeks (parotid glands), and cause the esophagus to become inflamed.
Anorexia also triggers profound hormonal changes, such as decreased estrogen levels (in women), testosterone (in men), thyroid hormone, and high levels of cortisol. “If a person becomes severely malnourished, it is likely to affect the body’s major organ systems. Bone density can decrease, increasing the risk of osteoporosis”.
The mind also suffers from the problem, and many psychological illnesses can develop, such as anxiety and depression. In addition, the anorexic person’s self-esteem is in check, opening the way for all sorts of complications and propensity to abuse alcohol and other drugs.
The treatments types of eating disorders have one thing in common: restore proper nutrition. In addition, all compulsion and exaggeration should be reduced so that the patient’s eating habit becomes something pleasurable, guilt-free, and, above all, healthy.
Psychotherapy is one of the most effective methods as it helps to understand the psychological reasons that turned the food into a villain.
Monitoring, medical care, and counseling with nutritionists are fundamental in the process of treating the disorders. In addition, medicines can be prescribed to combat the origin of some disorders, such as antidepressants for depression.
In some cases, patients may need to be admitted to the hospital to ensure they maintain their optimal weight for health. For example, in the film “The minimum to live,” the protagonist, starring Lily Collins, suffers from anorexia, seeks psychological help to reverse her condition, and goes to a rehabilitation home.