The term, eating disorders, refers to a group of complex mental health conditions that stem from a preoccupation with food and weight. If untreated, these conditions can lead to severe emotional, mental, and physical health problems.
There are a variety of symptoms that patients with eating disorders may display and can vary depending on which disorder they may struggle with, but common symptoms of an eating disorder include:
- Food binges
- Obsession with food, weight, or body shape
- Purging behaviors
- Severe restriction of food
Eating disorders can affect anyone at any stage of life but are often reported in adolescents and young women.
In many cases, eating disorders may occur alongside other mental health conditions such as anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and substance abuse.
The term eating disorders, as mentioned above, covers a range of conditions and as such can stem from a variety of causing including:
- Environmental factors such as cultural and peer pressure
- Mental health
- Personality traits
Common Eating Disorders
There are many different types of eating disorders that can impact people every year. The most common eating disorders reported include Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Binge Eating Disorder.
People with anorexia nervosa constantly monitor their weight, avoid certain foods, restrict calories, and may view themselves as overweight and fat even if they are severely underweight. Patients typically have low-self-esteem and can be extremely critical of themselves.
Those with anorexia may exhibit purging or binge eating behaviors. After eating patients may attempt to eliminate calories through dieting, fasting, laxatives, diuretics, and excessive exercise.
Common symptoms include:
- Depression and lethargy
- Intense fear of gaining weight
- Restricted eating behaviors and patterns
Physical symptoms may include:
- Abnormal menstrual cycle
- Brittle hair and nails
- Dry skin
- Mild anemia
Those who struggle with bulimia nervosa may be slightly underweight, normal weight, overweight, and even obese. Patients diagnosed with bulimia typically binge eat before purging the food. The fear of gaining weight, stomach pain, or guilt of binging are common reasons for purging. Purging can be accomplished with forced vomiting, laxatives, enemas, and diuretics. This cycle can be repeated several times a day or several times a week. This condition is often noticed by friends or family as those with bulimia nervosa do not become drastically thin.
Common symptoms of bulimia nervosa include:
- Eating rapidly in short periods
- Eating until uncomfortably full or when not hungry
- Fear of gaining weight
- Feeling out of control during binges
- Low self-esteem influenced by body shape and weight
Physical symptoms of bulimia nervosa include:
- Chronically inflamed sore throat
- Constant vomiting
- Frequent reflux
- Intestinal problems
- Severe dehydration
- Tooth decay or loss due to weakened enamel from frequent exposure to stomach acids
Binge Eating Disorder (BED)
Those diagnosed with binge eating disorder have frequent episodes of consuming large quantities of food in a discreet period and feel out of control during the binge. However, unlike bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa, patients with BED do not attempt to get rid of the food by purging.
Common symptoms of BED include:
- Eating alone
- Eating more rapidly than normal
- Eating until comfortably full or when not hungry
- Feeling disgusted, depressed, or guilty after eating
Patients who struggle with BED may be of normal weight for their height, overweight, or obese.
If you or a loved one struggles with an eating disorder, please seek help. After a physical examination, several lab tests, and an interview of symptoms a doctor will refer you to a mental health professional for further evaluation. This typically includes a psychological evaluation and review. Afterward, your team works together to determine the best course of treatment for your condition, needs, and lifestyle.
Eating disorders illustrate the close connection between a person’s emotional, mental, and physical health. At Spectrum Behavioral Health, we will strive to find the right treatment for you. Our treatment will seek to address medical symptoms while addressing the negative cycles of their condition and relationship with food and eating.
Treatment will vary depending on the patient’s condition but may include psychotherapy, medication, and nutritional counseling, and weight restoration.
For more information on eating disorders and our treatment options or to schedule an appointment, please contact our office.