Did you know, around 30 million people in the U.S develop some type of eating disorder?

And according to the data, at least 1 person dies every hour solely because of suffering from an eating disorder.

That’s quite disturbing, right? It is!

We do not know the prevalence of this disorder and it looks like we are living in the dark. In fact, several people are unaware of the importance of a healthy diet as well.

This is why there is a need for eating disorder awareness programs to acknowledge people about its significance.

We have tried covering everything about eating disorders in detail. Let’s have a look.

Eating disorders are a family of mental and behavioral conditions. These food disorders are associated with disturbances in eating patterns and other psychological issues.

Note: Most eating disorders include either excessive eating or inadequate eating habits.

Moreover, people with eating disorders tend to have serious concerns about their body weight and physical appearance. This results in severe psychological and physical problems.

Furthermore, due to their psychiatric relation, these disorders also affect one’s ability to socialize.

Some examples of eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder, rumination disorder, etc.

We’ll discuss them all in a bit more detail. Let’s first highlight the signs and symptoms of Eating disorders.

The following symptoms are present in people suffering from eating disorders:

  • Constant monitoring of fats and other contents of food.
  • Eating large amounts of food or not eating at all for a long interval of time.
  • Purging after binge eating by excessive exercise or forced vomiting.
  • If a person vomits a lot, they can also develop problems of acid reflux.
  • An unhealthy obsession with weight.
  • Low self-esteem about physical appearance.
  • Anxiety about social activities and how people perceive them. Most of the time this results in isolation.
  • Being conscious of eating in front of people.
  • Depression and loss of confidence.
  • Weakness, fatigue, and constant weight loss.

Note: Early signs of eating disorders include obsession with body weight and chronic diet despite being underweight.

There are many types of eating disorders. However, the most common types of eating disorders include:

  1. Anorexia Nervosa: People suffering from anorexia nervosa have a perception that they need to be thinner.

In turn, they develop mostly inadequate eating habits. This results in severe malnourishment and other issues. 

  • Bulimia Nervosa: Typically, people tend to binge eat to the point of illness. And Binge eating is followed by purging laxatives, excessive exercise, or forced vomitings.
  • Binge Eating Disorder: It is fairly similar to bulimia nervosa but in this case, people do not use purging techniques to compensate for their binge eating.
  • Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder: It generally develops in infants and continues till adulthood. People tend to eat less than recommended because of disliking some taste, smell, etc.
  • Pica: It involves eating non-food items such as dirt, soil, cloth, chalk, etc.
  • Rumination disorder: In this condition, a person chews their food, swallows a little, brings it back to their mouth, and re-chew it to swallow again or spit it out.

Among the list of eating disorders, the most common eating disorders are Anorexia nervosa and Bulimia nervosa.

Note: The only difference between Binge Eating Disorder and Bulimia is, patients with Bulimia nervosa feel guilty for eating too much. Whereas, BED patients have no such guilt after binge eating.

Statistics tell us that about 1.6% of women and 0.8% of men in developed countries are affected by some type of eating disorder.

In most cases, disordered eating problems develop over time, starting in adolescence or even sometimes in infancy.

For example, avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder might originate from early childhood.

Furthermore, people with eating disorders might also have other mental illnesses. In fact, according to eating disorder therapists, there is a big correlation between OCD and eating disorders.

Besides, researches have also shown that anxiety disorders are important risk factors for eating disorders.

Eating Disorder in Men

Did you know almost 40% of the diagnosed cases of eating disorders are men of all ages?

Some researches have shown that one in three people who had positive eating disorder screening were men. 

Moreover, the social construct that revolves around body image and weight also affects men. Plus, Teenagers start idolizing ripped and toned celebrities and try to become muscular like them.

These young boys start incorporating diets and exercises into their routine. And the problem arises when it becomes an unhealthy obsession to look more lean and muscular.

Plus, such teenagers become conscious of their eating habits to the point that they suffer from borderline eating disorders.

Note: Men who suffer from eating disorders tend to have more psychological problems and suicidal thoughts as compared to women.

They also tend to focus more on losing fat but gaining muscles. And it is called muscularity-oriented disordered eating. This food disorder causes them to do vigorous exercises.

The signs and symptoms of eating disorders in men are the same as that of women. However, the diagnosis might be a bit hard because men rarely seek help.

But after diagnosis, there are good treatment options that can potentially save men from eating disorders.

Eating Disorder in Women

Why are eating disorders more common in women than men?

According to a study, approximately 20 million women in America suffer from one or more types of eating disorders. Besides, females are two times more likely to develop an eating disorder as compared to men.

The exact cause is not yet known. However, the stigma related to weight and body shape in our society can be the major cause of Eating disorders in women.

Moreover, two females with the same type of eating disorder don’t necessarily get similar symptoms. These women also tend to live in denial due to poor psychosocial functioning.

Besides, some women with anorexia nervosa think that their body type is better than those who have a fat body. Thus, these women then deny taking any type of treatment.

Eating Disorders in Athletes

Be it a woman or a man, young or old, belonging to any race and culture, eating disorders are highly prevalent in all people around the world.

Similarly, Athletes are at higher risk of developing an eating disorder, mainly due to the ‘perfectionism’ their career demands.

According to a study published by the American College of Sports Medicine, around 62% of athletes suffered from a food disorder in 1992. And most of them were female athletes.

Athletes with eating disorders live in constant stress as they have to perform vigorous exercises and on top of that, they now have to think about eating less.

This then results in poor performance and demands immediate treatment and rehab from an eating disorder.

Disordered Eating Issue in Children

The cause of eating disorders in children under 12 years of age is still unclear. However, researchers came up with several risk factors that can result in disordered eating patterns in children.

Inheritance has a big role to play!

If a child has a family member with an eating disorder, he/she is 7 to 12 times at higher risk of developing some type of eating disorder.

Other than that, anxiety, depression in children, chronic illnesses are predominant risk factors seen in children.

Moreover, the signs and symptoms of the disordered eating issue in children vary from adults and may include:

  • Weight loss
  • Refraining from tasting or eating food mainly due to the fear of stomach pain
  • Delayed puberty
  • Thin hair growth
  • Psychological and behavioral changes
  • Digestive system issues

Note: Young children are more likely to suffer from Anorexia nervosa, whereas bulimia and BED are less common in children.

Several causes of disordered eating exist. But the exact cause of eating disorders is still unclear.

However, researchers have concluded that it is mostly caused by a combination of factors. Some of which are as stated below:

  • Genetic predisposition is one of the leading causes. Research shows that eating disorders run in the family. Perhaps, the presence of specific chromosomes is also linked to some eating disorders.
  • Some other biological factors include nutritional deficiencies and hormonal problems.
  • Societal pressures to look thin or to be muscular.
  • Getting bullied as an adolescent can also cause Eating disorders and other mental illnesses.
  • Psychological problems like anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and trauma.
  • Careers that promote certain types of body image for example modeling, TV actors/actresses, athletics are also an important cause. 
  • History of past physical abuse or sexual abuse.

There are tons of risk factors as claimed by the researchers, mainly due to familial, physiological, psychological, and societal issues.

Moreover, depending on the type of eating disorder you have, your risk factors vary, just like the symptoms.

Following is the list of risk factors for eating disorders:

  • Age
  • Having a close relative, family member, or friend with an eating disorder.
  • Excessive dieting
  • Being concerned about the body image and overall appearance.
  • Psychological problems like; anxiety disorders, perfectionism, depression, and impulsive behavior in childhood, etc.
  • Social problems like; bullying, stereotypes related to weight, history of trauma, acculturative stress, etc.

Note: The risk of eating disorders is more common in the female gender than male counterparts.

According to research, 1 out of 4 women with Type 1 diabetes develop eating disorders, especially, diabulimia.

Fortunately, there is an eating disorder screening test that helps you in assessing whether you have a food disorder.

This type of eating disorder test consists of multiple-choice questions and you have to answer them honestly.

Note that these are just an eating disorder assessment test based on which you cannot make a  diagnosis. And the different range of scores can only rule out the possibility of various eating disorders.

However, you have to see an eating disorder therapist later to confirm the diagnosis.

Note: While taking the online eating disorder test, make sure to mark the option that applies to you.

The treatment for eating disorders is teamwork!

Remember that the best way to treat any eating disorder is to maintain a healthy eating habit. However, to help you with a better, fast, and full recovery, you are not only going to see an eating disorder specialist.

But a team of the physiologist, psychologist, dietician, therapist, and you will together make a treatment plan. This team will help you through eating disorder rehab and prevent relapse.

Let’s determine how to overcome an eating disorder with the help of different types of therapies:

Psychological Therapy For Eating Disorder

Psychological therapy is known for treating depression and other mental illnesses. However, studies have shown improvement in people with eating disorders as well.

A psychologist will read your mind, get in your shoes, and help you with the eating disorder rehab.

Let’s have a look at different types of psychological therapies for eating disorders.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy by Therapist

Note: How you think influences your behavior that brings a change in your daily life.

CBT was originally developed for depression but now it has proven its effectiveness for anxiety, phobias, OCD, and eating disorders as well.

However, this did not happen overnight. CBT became acceptable for bulimia and BED after conducting several trials.

Moreover, therapists noticed that body shape and weight is the most common cause of disordered eating among the patients. Hence, they work on changing this particular psychology of patients.

CBT treatment includes 20 sessions, in which your therapist will monitor daily improvement. You will be provided with tips and tricks to change your behavior towards this disorder. 

Furthermore, you and your therapist will work on making the perfect meal plan. Meanwhile, your eating disorder specialist will also use different behavioral experiments and will focus on preventing relapse.

Group Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

CBT-E for group therapy is now a successful way to treat eating disorders. It includes 18 sessions in total focusing on the patient’s thoughts and behavior towards his/her body.

According to NCBI, around 70% of patients had effective results in a trial conducted for CBT-E.

The goal of Enhanced Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is similar to CBT. The only difference is that CBT is done in an inpatient environment, whereas, CBT-E includes group or outpatient treatment.

Eating Disorder Dietitian

In the above discussion, we mentioned the significance of upgrading your eating disorder diet.

But who is going to provide you with a healthy diet? An eating disorder dietitian!

In fact, a dietician will become your ultimate best friend during the treatment. This is because an eating disorder nutritionist is a core member of your rehab team.

A nutritionist will educate you about the importance of adding nutrition to your diet. On top of that, your dietician will also help you come up with the best diet plan that is both healthy and good for taste.

Note: If you face difficulty in eating and drinking the recommended products, you can opt for Nasogastric feeding that will deliver all the essential nutrients to your body without you having to eat/drink it.

Did you know that the FDA hasn’t approved most of the medications for Eating disorders as yet?

In fact, unlike other mental illnesses, no medications have seemed to work ‘good enough’ for Eating disorders.

Thus, it brings us down to the same thoughts again, that is, “Eating disorders are best treated by altering the unhealthy diet”.

However, your eating disorder specialist might prescribe you some medicines that are specific for your disordered eating patterns.

Following are some of the medications for Anorexia treatment:

  • Cyproheptadine
  • Marinol
  • Megestrol
  • Olanzapine (for off-label use)

There are a few drugs to treat Bulimia nervosa as well, we have listed them down:

Note: Prozac is the only medicine that has been approved by the FDA to treat bulimia nervosa.

  • Prozac
  • Topiramate
  • Topamax
  • Fluoxetine
  • Venlafaxine

Lastly, here is a list of medications for people with Binge Eating Disorder:

  • Vyvanse
  • Fluoxetine
  • Lisdexamfetamine

Note: These medicines belong to different drug classes. Most important of which are SSRIs (Prozac) and antidepressants.

In addition to psychotherapy and eating disorder medications, some of the best eating disorder treatment centers and programs provide mental and physical support to the patients.

Your eating disorder therapist will tell you the best treatment program for you after analyzing the severity of your condition.

Residential Treatment for Disordered Eating

Residential eating disorder treatment involves psychiatric care and helps in improving the disordered eating habits.

In these types of treatment centers, patients live in a home-like environment under the constant supervision of experts.

Patients identify their triggers and find out different ways to deal with them. This will then help them to apply the techniques they learned during residential treatment to the outside world.

Moreover, Residential treatment commonly takes four to 12 weeks and helps in better recovery from eating disorders afterward.

Inpatient Eating Disorder Treatment

Out of all the treatment options, eating disorder inpatient therapy is probably the most difficult to spend.

This is because inpatient treatment comes with a lot of boundaries, rules, and regulations. Hence, with this much rigidity, the patients often tend to quit inpatient therapy.

However, this highly personalized treatment is only for the patient’s betterment as it focuses on the patient’s mental well-being on an individual level. 

The eating disorder inpatient therapy includes nutritional counseling, mental and physical check-ups, proper diet, and most importantly, outside world visits.

Outpatient Treatment

In contrast to inpatient therapy, Outpatient treatment involves no hospitalization, which is one reason why most patients with eating disorders prefer outpatient treatment.

Moreover, Outpatient therapy has proven very effective in patients who do not need intensive care and constant monitoring.

This type of therapy typically demands weekly, biweekly, or monthly visits depending on the severity of your condition.

However, people who are at the critical end of the disorder might need intensive care for eating disorders.

Intensive Outpatient Treatment for Food Disorder

The IOP programs for eating disorders are specifically for adults who need a higher level of care for either of the eating disorders.

Such programs have specialized therapists who work on;

  • Improving patient’s diet
  • Train them with new coping mechanisms
  • Provide supportive care to their clients

IOP treatment centers also arrange weekly meetings with eating disorder nutritionists. And typically, IOP involves three to four hours sessions, thrice or five times a week.

We all know that anxiety disorders, OCD, and eating disorders are very common around the globe.

If you think you are the only one suffering from it, know that there are several people with an eating disorder with similar concerns as you.

Moreover, many celebrities opened up about their disorder to spread awareness regarding different types of eating disorders.

Here is a list of celebrities with eating disorders:

  • Demi Lovato
  • Lady Gaga
  • Russel Brand
  • Elton John
  • Princess Diana
  • Jane Fonda
  • Alanis Morisette
  • Camila Mendes
  • Taylor Swift
  • Zayn Malik

And the list goes on!

All these celebrities encourage everyone to seek eating disorder help from professionals and to not take it lightly!

Note: If you are a book hunter and want to read further, you may check out these books about eating disorders.

So that was all about eating disorders and how to treat them. You can now easily tell how seriously disordered eating can get.

In short, if you think you have an eating disorder, consult a therapist specializing in eating disorders.

Moreover, you may also visit an eating disorder nutritionist or dietician to help you make a proper plan for a healthy diet and avoid relapse.

Take your appetite seriously and consume as many healthy meals as you can!

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