Eating disorders are a series of illnesses that cause a dramatic disruption to a person’s diet. These illnesses can lead to serious health problems. They involve extremes of eating too much or too little. It may start out small but quickly spirals out of control. People with eating disorders are obsessed about their weight and shape. The three most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder.
Eating disorders have been studied by scientists for years. Now, they are using technology to better understand the genetic and biological factors they believe are at play behind this illness. It is also thought that behavioral, psychological and social factors contribute to the severity of this genre of illness.
Scientists theorize that certain genetic combinations create people who are more prone to having eating disorders. Studies addressing this theory continue to take place to try and pinpoint DNA variations linked to the risk. Researchers are also studying brain patterns using neuroimaging to better understand the disorder and to better treat it as well.
In general, the root causes of eating disorders are still being closely examined to determine the best course of action for people suffering from these illnesses. Scientists are working around the clock to gain a better understanding of the risk factors and to identify biological markers in order to develop more specific psychotherapies and medications.
Signs & Symptoms
People suffering from anorexia nervosa see themselves as overweight even if they are not. As a result, they are often obsessed with eating and food. Often, a person suffering from Anorexia weighs themselves repeatedly, portions their food carefully, and will at very small portions of only certain types of food. Others suffering from Anorexia may binge eat and then launch into a phase of extreme dieting, excessive exercise, self-induced vomiting and misuse of laxatives, diuretics or enemas.
Other generalized symptoms include:
- Feeling cold all the time
- Constantly fatigued or extremely tired
Bulimia Nervosa can be hard to catch at first because clients usually maintain a normal weight. But, they have a hidden fear of gaining weight. They secretly binge eat and then force themselves to throw up. This binge/ purge cycle is done anywhere from several times a day to several times a week. Just like anorexia, people with bulimia exercise excessively and use laxatives or diuretics. They also have a tendency to fast.
Other physical symptoms include:
- Chronically inflamed sore throat
- Swollen salivary glands
- Worn tooth enamel
- Acid reflux disorder and other stomach issues
- Severe dehydration from purging
- Electrolyte imbalance which can lead to a heart attack
Binge Eating Disorder
A person who simply binge eats on a regular basis likely has an eating disorder as well. These people are often overweight or obese, putting themselves at higher risk for cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure. As with the other two eating disorders, binge eating is cyclical. The guilt and shame from binge eating can lead to another round of binging.
Who is at Risk?
These disorders frequently appear first during a person’s teen years or young adulthood. Contrary to popular belief men can suffer from eating disorders as well. Men are just less likely to be diagnosed.
The foundation for good treatment is adequate nutrition, reducing excessive exercise and stopping any purging behavior. For all three types of eating disorder, the basic treatment is the same. All people suffering from one of these illnesses should take part in therapy (individual and group are both recommended). In addition, this type of illness can cause severe physical issues so medical care and monitoring is essential. Nutritional counseling will help to encourage and teach healthy habits for maintaining a good weight. And, many times, medication (antidepressants, antipsychotics and mood stabilizers) can help alleviate some of the mental health symptoms involved with certain disorders.
If you suspect that you or someone you love is suffering from an eating disorder call Horizon today at (434) 477-5000.