Binge eating and eating disorder
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Do you have eating disorders?

What is an eating disorder?

" Barbie and diets are only the doorways to a much bigger problem. The real issues are inside. Being overweight is not nearly as dangerous as what we put our bodies through to get thin," - Stacey Handler

An eating disorder is a complex and chronic illness. Nothing ever happens in a fraction of a second. It takes a long time to develop an eating disorder. It takes an even longer time for its treatment to be successful.

To be very precise an eating disorder is an abnormal and extremely unhealthy eating pattern, which is harmful to a person's normal physical well being. It is a disorder, which involves both eating too much, and not eating enough. Purging or bingeing after eating is also termed an eating disorder.

Eating disorders are usually found in females rather than males, (though evidence shows males are now tending to succumb more nowadays). It is usually more prevalent in the age group of fifteen to twenty five. Being slim and young is what most female's dream of and this in turn results in the development of life threatening disorders.

Adolescents need a balanced diet. In adolescence the nutritional requirements are very high due to their accelerated physical, biochemical and emotional development. It is a period when that final growth spurt occurs. There is also an increased demand for energy, protein, minerals and vitamins. So when the requirements are very high any deficiency in nutritional intake will cause problems which will follow them for rest of their lives

The causes of eating disorder are numerous, but the main cause is thought to be psychological factors. These are related to abnormal obsessions with the amount of food eaten by the sufferer and their subsequent gain in weight. It is a voluntary appetite control where the subsequent alteration in the person's eating pattern can be controlled by them.

The major eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, hyperphagia, orthorexia, pica, food phobia, and rumination.

The amount and the pattern of eating depends on many factors such as peer pressure, food availability, ethics in families, their own appetite, imitating role models, concerns about gaining weight, and psychological factors. Eating disorders though often start as a mild complication and lead to serious heart and kidney failure and ultimately can lead to death.

Eating disorders may also lead to the following problems:
electrolyte imbalance, amanorrhoea, thinning of hair, functioning of the heart decreases, dental caries, hypothermia, bone mass decreases, liver function is altered, ulcers in oesophagus, reduced immunity in the body and low blood pressure.

Identifying an eating disorder is as important as its treatment. They are easily treatable if the patient is willing to undergo the treatment. Treatment should always start with psychiatric treatment followed by behavioral modification, nutritional counseling and medical treatment.

Some of the famous personalities in recent times and in the past who are thought to suffer from these eating disorders are:

Marie Osmond, Princess Diana, Princess Victoria, Mary-Kate Olsen, Victoria Beckham, Emma Balfour, Fiona Apple, Eliza Donovan, Jessica Alba, Kate Dillon, Roseanne Barr, Tracy Shaw and Karen Carpenter.

To avoid all these problems, always eat healthy, have a regular exercise pattern and be cheerful.

What causes an Eating Disorder?
Experts have established a number of reasons into the causes of different types of eating disorders although they have not narrowed these down to any one cause. A person with an eating disorder may have a number or just one of the following factors which leads them to stuffing, starving and purging themselves.

Biological Factors Causing an Eating Disorder
According to experts, genetic factors may account for over 50% of the risk of developing anorexia nervosa. However research is still being conducted into the links of genetics and bulimia and binge eating disorder.

A person's temperament particularly to food is thought to be genetically determined at least in part. People with certain personality types such as obsessive compulsive and those that are sensitive-avoidant are found to be more prone to eating disorders.
Research has also indicated that certain genetic factors can predispose individuals to perfectionism, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive behaviours and thoughts. These people also tend to develop specific types of eating disorders.

Research has shown that people who have a mother and/or a sister with anorexia nervosa are 12 times more likely to develop the disorder themselves compared to those who have no family history. They are also 4 times more likely to develop bulimia nervosa.
Once a person starves stuffs or purges themselves, their behaviour alters the chemistry in the brain, producing a sense of peace and euphoria, whilst temporarily suspending any dealings and anxiety and depression. Some doctors and nutritionists believe that eating disorder sufferers use food for medicinal purposes to stop any feelings that are painful or distressing.

Psychological Factors
Those who develop an eating disorder tend to be perfectionists, having unrealistic expectations of themselves and others around them. Although they often achieve the tasks they set themselves, they still feel inadequate and often defective. They also tend to view the world as black and white – meaning that everything is either good or bad – people have either won or failed – they are either fat or slim. They believe that being as thin as possible, even though that might mean in hospital fighting for their life is the best thing possible.

Many people use an eating disorder to take control of their lives and themselves. Although they appear strong and look as though they winning their battles with food, inside they feel weak, victimised, defeated and resentful.

Those with eating disorders tend not to have a sense of identity and attempt to mould themselves into a socially approved product.

Those families who have a member with an eating disorder tend to be overprotective. Parents who place too much value on appearance can unconsciously cause an eating disorder especially those who criticise their children’s bodies – even light heartedly.
Rigidness and an inability to resolve conflict are often found in those families which include a member suffering from an eating disorder. There are often too high expectations for achievement and success making children unable to discuss any anxieties, fears, doubts and imperfections. Consequently, problem solving is performed by manipulating food and weight and appearance.

Diagnosis of an Eating Disorder
When a person experiences an abnormal eating pattern, an eating disorder may be suspected by their family and friends.

There are a number of things to look out for if you suspect someone has an eating disorder:

They include the following:

If the body weight is much less than the ideal weight of the person according to their height and weight.
Looking at the patient's history, life pattern, behavior pattern, and taking note of any physical symptoms that have occurred due to their eating pattern.
A bulimic can be diagnosed by noting the quantity of their food intake and the duration between one meal and the next. (They are often close together and the person consumes a large volume of food.
A bulimic can be diagnosed by noting the quantity of their food intake and the duration between one meal and the next. (They are often close together and the person consumes a large volume of food.
Is that person prone to frequent vomiting and do they seem to rely on laxatives.
Have they in recent times engaged in dieting/ fasting or a very grueling exercise pattern?
Do they persistently worry about their weight, shape and looks?
Do they appear depressed, do they have low self confidence, self esteem,
Do they appear uncertain or scared about life in general
Do they appear to posses an obsessive compulsive disorder and feelings of loneliness
Have they lost their immediate social group,
Do they experience mood swings
Do they have an inability to think and make good judgments?
Have they developed a high inferiority complex?
Do they have disorders in the teeth such as erosion of the enamel, dental caries, glossitis and cracks in the lips.
Hyperacidity in the stomach and esophagus, continuous blood vomiting, constipation, difficulty in gastric emptying, irregular and total absence of menstrual cycle is a problem which affects those with an eating disorder
Testing on their blood counts often show electrolyte imbalances in their potassium, calcium, sodium and magnesium levels. This is because the absorption in the body is reduced.
Bone density test, electrocardiogram, liver, kidney, thyroid test and x-rays should be checked out as severe eating disorders affect major organs in a short period of time.
Do they have an inability to concentrate and perform well

These are only some of the symptoms to be looked for when checking for an eating disorder. It is a good idea to check for others with your doctor or health care professional.

Another wayto check for an eating disorder is to ask them the Scoff questionnaire.
If the person responds yes to the following then he/ she may be diagnosed with an eating disorder

S do you always feel full
C do you have control over your eating pattern
O how much weight have you lost recently
F do you think you always looking fat
F do you always think about food

Many people who suffer from an eating disorder go to great lengths to disguise it. It's important that the families of those who are more prone to developing an eating disorder are aware of the dangers involved.

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DISCLAIMER: Information on this website is not presented by a medical practitioner and is for educational and informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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