An Eating Disorder

Eating disorders are a group of illnesses characterized by an
obsession with food, weight and poor body image. These can range
from not eating enough to overeating, bingeing and purging. The common
ones are anorexia nervosa and bulimia.

Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia

Eating Disorder

What are the factors that play a role in eating disorders?

  • With the growth of social media, eating disorders are a common issue these days.
  • Eating disorders can affect people at any age but teenagers, especially girls, tend to get very obsessed with their appearance to look like their idols; and some might develop eating disorders.
  • Certain factors, like a genetic tendency or a disturbed family environment, might play a role in developing eating disorders.

What happens in Anorexia Nervosa?

  • Anorexia Nervosa is a type of eating disorder in which the affected person avoids eating to be thin.
  • Generally, people affected with anorexia are underweight and they avoid certain food groups or exercise excessively to stay thin.
  • It is a serious form of an eating disorder and it can lead to death due to excessive starvation or even suicide.
  •  A person affected with anorexia for a long period of time might have issues like constipation, brittle nails, dry hair and thinning of the muscles.

What happens in bulimia?

  • In bulimia, the affected person has bouts of excess eating which the person is unable to control.
  • These binges are followed by purging, either as vomiting or by the use of laxatives.
  • Such people tend to maintain a normal body weight.
  • They are prone to heart and kidney problems as the purging disturbs the electrolyte balance of the body.

Why is it important to detect and treat eating disorders?

  • These disorders need to be detected and managed early as they even be fatal.
  • Detecting an eating disorder in a loved one can help in early intervention which can even save their lives.

How can one detect an eating disorder?

There are some telltale signs that can help in detecting these conditions.

  • A person affected with anorexia might feel excessively cold and wear multiple layers of clothing.
  • The person might avoid eating in public or be very picky about food.
  • A person affected with an eating disorder might complain about being fat, even though underweight.
  • In the case of bulimia, there may be signs of excess eating in the form of used wrappers and food containers.
  • Sometimes, the smell of vomit is a giveaway.
  • People affected by bulimia tend to develop callouses on their hands due to vomiting.

Signs & Symptoms of an Eating Disorder

A man or woman suffering from an eating disorder may reveal several signs and symptoms, some which are:

  • Chronic dieting despite being hazardously underweight
  • Constant weight fluctuations
  • Obsession with calories and fat contents of food
  • Engaging in ritualistic eating patterns, such as cutting food into tiny pieces, eating alone, and/or hiding food
  • Continued fixation with food, recipes, or cooking; the individual may cook intricate meals for others but refrain from partaking
  • Depression or lethargic stage
  • Avoidance of social functions, family, and friends. May become isolated and withdrawn
  • Switching between periods of overeating and fasting

How is an eating disorder managed?

  • Once detected, it is very important to take a sympathetic approach to eating disorders as the affected person might be emotionally labile and embarrassed about the condition.
  • There is a need to treat these conditions by using a combined approach of family counselling, behavior modification therapy and medications.
  • The family’s involvement is very important.
  • In anorexia, monitoring the person’s food intake by a family member is quite helpful in treating the condition.
  • Cognitive behavior therapy and counselling to deal with any emotional problems is equally important as sometimes eating disorders are due to a person’s inability to deal with some emotional trauma.
  • Medical treatment is prescribed a doctor and might include anti- depressants and mood elevating medicines.
  • The doctor might also evaluate the affected person with blood counts and a check for their kidney, heart and liver functions.

Can eating disorders be prevented?

It is possible to prevent eating disorders by following these simple measures

  • Promoting a healthy lifestyle in children
  • Regulating the impact of social media on young minds can help in preventing eating disorders
  • Speaking to children regularly on the importance of a healthy body image
  • Inculcating the habit of volunteering and social service can help in changing children’s perspective and promote a healthier outlook.