Eating disorders are psychiatric and psycho-social health challenges that involve complex negative eating behaviors that impact one’s health, emotions, and the ability to properly function well in an important area of life. Eating disorders are of different types, but anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder are the most common ones.
Eating disorders can occur in people of any size, shape, weight, gender, age, culture, or socioeconomic group. It can cause them to have or experience long-term psychological impairment in social and functional roles. This can affect them in the area of psychiatric and behavioral problems. Medical complications cannot be ruled out, including social isolation, disability, and a high risk of death which often result from medical complications.
Because of the psychiatric and behavioral problems attached to people with eating disorders, the impact is not only felt by the individual but often by the person’s entire family or circle of support.
Eating disorders most times occur with other psychiatric disorders like mood and anxiety challenges, obsessive disorder, and alcohol and drug abuse problems. Genetic inheritance also plays a part in the possible risk of having an eating disorder.
Causes: The likely cause of eating disorders varies from one person to the other. But the most common causes are:-
- Research has shown that genetic inheritances have been associated with people with ED.
- Environment Factor: At home, pressure from family especially in young people can lead to ED.
- Stress: Out of frustration through stress and the urge to cope with it, some people develop eating disorders.
The body system is arranged in a way that it releases chemicals when stimulated by the brain to function in the area of need. In some cases, an imbalance of these chemicals arises. Either is too high or too low, and such chemical imbalance can lead to an eating disorder.
- Personality Trait: Some people can also develop ED because of their personality traits. Your character attributes can never leave you.
- Social Pressures: Women are pressured by society to be thin, while men are pressurized to be large and muscular. This kind of social pressure can lead to eating disorders if such individuals decide to follow the dictates of society.
Types of Eating Disorders: The major classification of eating disorders according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) are divided into three categories with other sub-categories. These classifications are made based on the presenting symptoms and the frequency of their occurrence. Examples are:-
- Anorexia nervosa
- Bulimia nervosa
- Binge eating disorder (BED)
Other eating disorders are:-
- Other Specified Feeding/Eating Disorders (OSFED)
- Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)
- Unspecified Feeding or Eating Disorder (UFED)
- Rumination Disorder
Anorexia nervosa: This eating disorder is life-threatening and it is characterized by an intense fear of gaining weight, an abnormally low body weight, and a distorted perception of weight or shape. Because of this mindset, people with anorexia go to extreme lengths in controlling their weight and shape, which often have an impact on their health and life activities sometimes to the point of deadly self-starvation.
Bulimia: Bulimia is a condition associated with people that have episodes of bingeing and purging and this involves having the feeling of lack of control over eating. People with bulimia eat a large amount of food within a short time, and getting rid of the extra calories becomes a problem, and most times they get rid of it in an unhealthy way.
Some people might force vomiting; others might overstretch their bodies with exercise, or use other methods like laxatives, to get rid of the calories. Most people with bulimia preoccupied their minds with weight gain and body shape, and this results in judging themself severely and harshly because of their self-perceived mistakes.
Binge-Eating Disorder: Binge-eating disorder is the condition where someone has the affinity of regularly eating too much food (binge) without a lack of control. This eating disorder might prompt you to eat quickly or eat more food than intended, and you might continue eating long after you’re uncomfortably full.
Most times, people with this disorder might feel guilty, disgusted, or ashamed because of their eating behavior and the quantity of food consumed. But this group of people differs from those with anorexia and bulimia disorders in that they don’t indulge themselves with excessive exercise or purging. At times they eat alone to hide their bingeing because of embarrassment.
Other Specified Feeding/Eating Disorder (OSFED): This type of disorder arises when an individual does not reach the clinical threshold for proper diagnosis but displays eating disorder symptoms. Examples can be found in people with all the symptoms of anorexia but without low body weight. And a person with all the symptoms of bulimia but does not binge nor purge as frequently as expected.
Unspecified Feeding or Eating Disorder (UFED): This condition is used to classify people that exhibit specific behaviors or reduction in functioning, and at the same time they do not meet the criteria to be categorized to any of the eating or feeding disorders.
Pica: This condition is used to describe an individual who repeatedly consumes non-food materials such as chalk or paper, or edible items of no nutritional value as ice. When this type of behavior occurs for more than a month, it calls for or warrants clinical attention, and then it can be diagnosed as Pica.
Rumination Disorder: Rumination eating disorder occurs when food is repeatedly and persistently regurgitated after eating, and this eating disorder has nothing to do with such an eating disorder as anorexia, bulimia, or binge-eating disorder. Usually, after eating, food is brought back up into the mouth without nausea or gagging, and this is not intentional. Depending on the individual, sometimes these regurgitated foods are re-chewed and re-swallowed and at times spit out.
If the food is constantly spat out or if the person eats less just to prevent this kind of occurrence, it can lead to malnutrition. And this kind of condition is common in infancy but reduces as the baby matures.
Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder: This disorder arises when someone does not meet the daily minimum nutritional requirements because of personalized feeding habits like having no interest in that particular food or avoiding the food because of certain sensory characteristics, such as color, texture, smell, or taste. The fear of choking after eating can also result in avoiding food, and this is quite different from the fear of gaining weight.
The kind of disorder most times results in weight loss and nutritional deficiencies that can cause health problems if not arrested in time.