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Knowing if you may have an eating disorder.

Disordered eating is a mental health condition characterized by an obsession with food or the shape of one’s body and is found mostly among young women though it can affect anyone. These persons typically have low self-esteem and ineffective nutritional coping techniques, have issues with the image of their body, have a lack of perceived control and can have no feeling of identity within society.

Eating disorders can be caused by several factors:

1. Pressures, norms or ideals from their culture

2. Lack of control in their life

3. Low self-esteem

4. Feeling inadequate

5. Ideal definitions of what a good body is

6. Physical or sexual abuse that may have occurred in the past

7. Loneliness, depression, anger, anxiety

8. Trouble in personal or family relationships

9. Being teased about weight in the past

10. Issues with expressing emotions

Emotions can direct how eating disorders manifest themselves, though strict eating and an inability to adjust to environmental stressors usually start this behaviour. Restricting oneself from food can cause the individual to rebound and overindulge in it after the period has ended. I’ve seen food easily used as drugs by clients to overcome negative emotions and put up with stress.

Anorexia Nervosa

This is what comes to mind when persons hear of eating disorder and it occurs mostly in females, during adolescence. Persons experiencing this will severely starve themselves resulting is significant weight-loss, fatigue and an affected metabolic rate.

Symptoms include:

(1) being considerably underweight

(2) a distorted body image, inclusive of the denial of being significantly underweight

(3) an eager pursuit of being thin and reluctance to maintain a healthy weight

(4) very restrictive eating habits

(5) an intense fear of gaining weight despite being underweight

(6) influence of perceived body shape on self-esteem

This mental illness carries one of the highest death rates with problems including (1) amenorrhea in women (2) anaemia (3) abnormal heart rhythms (4) bone loss and fracture (5) heart failure (6) lung problems (7) kidney problems (8) constipation (9) nausea

Bulimia Nervosa

Like Anorexia, this eating disorder is well known and occurs less in men than women, in early adulthood. Persons experiencing this consumes an unusually large amount of food in a specific period of time and feel unable to stop. Following binging, the individual will abuse laxatives or diuretics, induce vomiting, fast or exercise intensely, with the intention of preventing weight gain. Persons with Bulimia usually maintain normal body weight rather than being underweight.

Symptoms include:

(1) recurring episodes of binge eating with loss of control

(2) recurring inappropriate purging behaviours to avoid weight gain

(3) self-esteem being excessively influenced by their shape or body-weight

(4) fear of gaining weight, despite being or normal body weight.

Majority of the complications come from purging and include :

(1) erosion of dental enamel and salivary gland enlargements

(2) acid reflux

(3) severe dehydration

(4) fluid and electrolyte imbalances

(5) irritation of gut

Binge Eating Disorder

Similar to bulimia is binge eating which is experienced during adolescence or early adulthood mostly. The difference here is that after the episodes of over eating, purging does not follow. Following long term diets as well as depression can encourage persons to binge eat where they eat more rapidly than normal until they become uncomfortable, feeling guilty, disgusted or depressed.

Symptoms include:

(1) consuming enormous amounts of foods rapidly, in secret and until uncomfortably full, despite not feeling hungry

(2) loss of control during binge eating

(3) feeling distressed, ashamed, disgusted, when thinking about the binge eating behaviour (4) not using purging techniques, such as calorie restriction, vomiting, excessive exercise, or laxative or diuretic , to compensate for binging

People with binge eating disorders usually have obesity or overweight complications with increased risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.

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