What Are Eating Disorders?

People have a difficult time understanding disorders or diseases that attack the mind. These include: depression, anxiety, behavioral disorders, and eating disorders. Eating disorders can impact mood and emotional well-being. They can also greatly change a person’s eating behaviors. In conjunction with one another, these issues can cause a big change in a person’s weight. That in turn can create a poor self-image.

That’s why these kinds of disorders can lead to other physical and mental problems.

The most common eating disorders are bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa. Part of the problem is with today’s society. We make people — young women, especially — believe that the ideal image of a body is extremely thin. They begin to both crave and idolize that image. People with either of these eating disorders are more likely to feel obese or criticize themselves for being fat. This is true even when the person with the disorder is extremely underweight.

We know that other disorders like obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) or substance abuse are directly correlated with eating disorders. One doesn’t necessarily precede the other in either direction. Some researchers feel that eating disorders are on occasion hereditary. Anorexia and bulimia can be fatal if not diagnosed and treated.

A lesser known disorder is called binge eating disorder. Those with bulimia will eat large amounts of food only to purge it afterward. But those with binge eating disorder will chronically eat. The disorder is often associated with other complications like diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. Those who suffer from the disorder feel out of control.

Symptoms of binge eating disorder include: emotional distress, eating rapidly and excessively at least once a week, eating when not hungry, eating alone, and feelings of guilt.

Treatment for most eating disorders begins by addressing emotional problems associated with the disorder in question. Likely the first step is therapy. Victims of these disorders can’t begin to change their own habits without first understanding why they have these dangerous thoughts and emotions. There are various medications that help some victims.

Alongside therapy, patients must receive support from family, friends, nutritionists, and routine general medical care.

You can help someone suffering from an eating disorder by being empathetic to their condition. They need to know they have your love, affection, and support no matter what. Victims might not want to hear about potential treatment — or even acknowledge that they have a problem. Consult with treatment providers in your area about how to find professional help for your friend or loved one.