Eating disorders can cause an array of mental and physical illnesses. All individuals can experience eating disorders – no specific age group, gender, or ethnicity are affected by eating disorders. Eating disorders are treatable, although, if left untreated, they can cause havoc on the body and the mind.
A friend, a loved one, or even an acquaintance you know, might suffer from an eating disorder or has suffered from one. National Eating Disorder Awareness Week (Feb. 21-Feb. 27, 2022) is a week that provides hope and support to those impacted by eating disorders along with spreading awareness and verifying facts around the misunderstandings of eating disorders.
Studies vary as to the root cause of an eating disorder, however, current research shows they are caused by various psychological, biological, cultural, and social factors.
Common Types of Eating Disorders
1. Anorexia Nervosa
Most individuals recognize this eating disorder. It is one of the most common eating disorders. This disorder involves many factors revolving around strictly controlling food intake and body image.
- Extreme weight loss/physical appearance looks frail/fragile
- Calorie restriction/refusal to consume certain foods
- Denies being hungry
- Fear of gaining weight
- Excessive exercise/constantly weighing self
- Obsessive focus on body weight and body image
- Skipping meals
- Making excuses to not eat
- Withdrawing from normal hobbies and interests
- Rapid weight loss
- Bringing/making own meals at family gatherings (not eating what family is eating)
2. Bulimia Nervosa
This disorder is also familiar to most. It includes binge eating (consuming too much food that causes discomfort), which leads to purging (forced removal of food) the large consumption of food.
- Forced vomiting
- Laxative/diuretic/enema abuse
- Excessive exercise
- Calluses on knuckles (from induced vomiting)
- Purging evidence/disappears after eating (often to the restroom)
- Uncomfortable eating around others
- Oral health issues (discolored teeth, swollen cheeks/jaw)
3. Binge Eating Disorder
This specific disorder involves consuming a large amount of food rapidly and sometimes in secret until painfully full.
- Feeling out of control with food
- Eating fast
- Eating in secret
- Feeling shame/guilt after eating
- The disappearance of foods in a short period of time
- Steals/hoards food
- Frequently diets
- Low self-esteem/feelings of guilt and shame
- Eating alone due to embarrassment (because of the amount of food consumed)
- Weight fluctuations
Mental Health & Eating Disorders
Eating disorders cause physical health problems, but they can also cause severe mental distress and illnesses. Eating disorders can also stem from a previous mental disorder or trauma.
Facts from the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA):
- Two-thirds of people with anorexia also showed signs of an anxiety disorder several years before the start of their eating disorder.
- Childhood obsessive-compulsive traits, such as perfectionism, having to follow the rules, and concern about mistakes, were much more common in women who developed eating disorders than women who didn’t.
- Approximately 1 in 4 people with an eating disorder have symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- Personality disorders often coincide with eating disorders.
- Depression and other mood disorders co-occur with eating disorders quite frequently.
- The best-known environmental contributor to the development of eating disorders is the sociocultural idealization of thinness.
- By age 6, girls especially start to express concerns about their own weight or shape. 40-60% of elementary school girls (ages 6-12) are concerned about their weight or about becoming too fat. This concern endures through life.
- Weight stigma poses a significant threat to psychological and physical health. It has been documented as a significant risk factor for depression, low self-esteem, and body dissatisfaction.
Please take this week to educate yourself on eating disorders and their warning signs. If you know someone or if you are someone struggling with an eating disorder, there are various resources and healthcare professionals who can guide you in the right direction to seek help.
How and Where to Seek Help:
- An online chat is available Monday-Thursday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Fridays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Call the Helpline at 800-931-2237. It is available Monday-Thursday from 10 a.m.- 8 p.m. and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Text the Helpline at 800-931-2237 – available Monday-Thursday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and Fridays from noon to 4 p.m.
Other Resources from NEDA:
- Phone: 501-664-0091
- Email: EDCOFARK@GMAIL.COM
11321 Mabelvale West Rd. Suite 304
Little Rock, AR 72103