Eating Disorders – Anorexia, Bulimia, Binge Eating
Eating Disorders are condition characterised by abnormal lifestyle patterns (eating and exercise) causing huge psychosocial decline. Patients are concerned about their appearance, weight and remain preoccupied about food/calories.
Conditions include; anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder.
- It has an impact on not just mental health but physical health too.
- It causes harm to the heart, digestive system, bones, teeth, mouth and could lead to other diseases.
- It tends to develop in the teenage or young adult years and can occur in both males and females of any age. Causes could be biological, genetic, psychological, social or cultural. Generally, girls/women are at higher risk of developing an eating disorder than boys/men.
Some of the other causes could be low self-esteem, living in a western culture where being thin is considered the ideal body shape, participating in professional activities or activities that have a great deal of emphasis on body image, having a history of body /image dissatisfaction or dieting, living in an environment where obesity or weight has been a concern, experiencing depression or loneliness, being a perfectionist or struggling managing emotions, experiencing stressful life changes, having experienced abuse
Anorexia is life threatening condition characterised by an abnormally low body weight, morbid fear of fatness, disturbed perception of weight or shape. The patient excessively limits the calorie intake so as to lose weight when already abnormally low. They may indulge in excessive exercise, use purgatives or laxatives so as to achieve the desired weight. Sometimes they could starve themselves to death.
Bulimia is a life-threatening condition where the patients have episodes of bingeing followed by purging. They could eat a large amount of food in a short time and then engage in purging or use of laxatives so as to eliminate the food / calories from the body. They could also indulge in excess use of exercise to get rid of the same.
In binge eating disorder, as the name suggests there is binge eating due to a lack of control followed by excessive amount of guilt and embarrassment. There isn’t any associated purging or exercise.
Eating Disorders Symptoms and signs
Morbid fear of fatness, preoccupation with food and weight, calorie counting, purging, laxative abuse, excessive exercise, bingeing, starving. abnormal monthly cycles including stoppage of cycles, feeling dizzy.
These symptoms cause significant problems in social or work situations, social isolation, agitation, breakdown of relationships, disruption of daily activities, alcohol and drug use, depression, anxiety, suicidality and poor physical health including death.
Diagnosis is established based on a comprehensive assessment which involves taking a detailed history and is seen by a psychiatrist after a referral is made by the GP.
This involves a series of clinical reviews where comprehensive history is taken, observing patient’s behaviours and obtaining some collateral information.
With treatment, most people with an eating disorder make a good recovery. In very severe cases where a complete recovery cannot be achieved, symptoms can reduce in intensity with medications thus improving one’s level of functioning.
Compliance with medications, establishing good sleep hygiene, engaging with your psychiatrist, understanding your early warning signs/ relapse signatures, avoidance of drugs and alcohol will all go a long way in maintaining positive health and may help avoiding relapses. In some very severe cases, the above will help in reducing the intensity and frequency of symptoms.