During National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, we’re shining a light on this form of mental illness and sharing ways you can support the 28 million Americans who experience an eating disorder in their life.
Be aware of the various illnesses
The spectrum of eating disorders is wide and varied from well-known conditions such as anorexia nervosa to lesser-known ones like binge eating disorder.
- Anorexia nervosa – Typically developing during adolescence, anorexia nervosa leaves patients viewing themselves as overweight, constantly monitoring their weight, avoiding eating certain foods, and severely restricting their caloric intake. Once developed, this condition can pose serious risk to a person’s health and well-being.
- Bulimia nervosa – Like anorexia, bulimia develops during early adulthood and appears more commonly among women. Those suffering from this type of disordered eating experience binging periods where large amounts of food are consumed. Once discomfort sets in, they attempt to purge the calories through forced vomiting, fasting, and a variety of other compensation methods.
- Binge eating disorder – Binge eating is believed to be one of the most common eating disorders in the United States. Like bulimia, patients experience periods of unrestricted eating where they may feel a lack of control over what they eat. However, people with binge eating disorder don’t restrict calorie intake or attempt to purge what they’ve consumed. This can lead to obesity and an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and Type 2 diabetes.
- Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder – Previously referred to as “feeding disorder of infancy and early childhood,” avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) generally develops in early childhood but can persist through adulthood. Individuals with this disorder often display a lack of interest in eating that stems from a fear of trying something new or distastes for certain smells, tastes, colors, textures, or temperatures.
Understand the risk factors
Research shows that eating disorders aren’t a one-cause problem. The complex combination of genetic, biological, behavioral, psychological, and social factors can create negative associations with food and body image. Problems with disordered eating usually appear during a person’s teenage years or young adulthood, and though all people are at risk, women are twice as likely to struggle with eating disorders.
Know the symptoms
The key to successful recovery is early detection. While signs and symptoms may differ between individuals and eating disorders, in general, a person with disordered eating patterns will display a hyperfocus on weight, food, calories, and dieting.
Some other behavioral symptoms can include:
- Refusal to eat certain foods or restrictions against whole dietary categories (e.g., no carbohydrates, etc.)
- Appears uncomfortable eating around others
- Skipping meals or taking small portions of food at regular meals
Emotional symptoms may include:
- Extreme concern with body size and shape
- Withdrawal from social life and hobbies
- Frequent and extreme mood swings
Physical side effects usually include:
- Noticeable fluctuations in weight, both up and down
- Muscle weakness
- Cuts and calluses across the tops of finger joints (a result of inducing vomiting)
Advocate for treatment
If you relate to any behaviors or physical symptoms listed above, judgment-free help is available. The first step is always the hardest, but at Valley Oaks Health, we will be with you until recovery is reality.
If you recognize these signs and symptoms in a loved one, you may feel helpless. Approaching them with love and compassion may be challenging, but healing is available for both of you.
If you’re ready to have that conversation about an eating disorder, contact Valley Oaks today.