Common Eating Disorders
Eating disorders can be defined by a series of dysfunctional eating behaviors and habits that serve the person in other ways than just nutrition. Though eating disorders can affect an individual’s physical health, they are actually classified as mental health disorders. Eating disorders can be utilized by individuals as a coping strategy, much in the same way that an alcoholic uses alcohol as a way of masking or coping with their problems. Eating disorders like anorexia nervosa, compulsive overeating or bulimia nervosa can be the manifestation of something that an individual has found no other way to express. Issues that may trigger eating disorders can range from low self-esteem, trouble communicating with family members, identity crises, experiencing a loss of control, or an inability to cope with and process emotions.
The main characteristic of the eating disorder anorexia nervosa is the refusal to maintain a healthy body weight. This is often accomplished through restrictive eating, over-exercise, as well as the abuse of laxatives and diuretics. Anorexic individuals experience intense fear from any actual or perceived weight-gain. Anorexics also experience a distorted body image – the image they see in the mirror rarely reflecting their actual appearance. Individuals with anorexia tend to pay special attention to areas of the body that can indicate sexual maturity such as the breasts, thighs, hips or buttocks, specifically visualizing those areas as being fat. Several serious complications can result from anorexics’ obsessive weight loss including a loss of menses (inability to menstruate.) Anorexia is currently classified as the deadliest mental health condition. Without treatment it can easily be fatal. Read More››
Bulimia nervosa is characterized by an addictive and dangerous binge-purge cycle in which a bulimic compulsively overeats before purging. Binge eating, which often occurs in secret, usually involves eating large quantities of food during a short period of time. For most Bulimics, binges are followed by purging behavior. There are several ways that bulimics purge themselves including self-induced vomiting, laxative abuse, diuretic abuse, ipecac, chew-spitting, vigorous exercise, restrictive diets, and a variety of other compensatory behaviors designed to restrict weight-gain. Much like anorexics, bulimics have the tendency to become obsessed with their weight and body shape. Bulimia nervosa, like anorexia, can result in severe complications and death. Read More››
Compulsive overeating – sometimes referred to as Binge Eating Disorder – is characterized by obsessive-compulsive eating behavior and binge eating. For compulsive overeaters, food is often used as a mechanism to cope with uncomfortable feelings. Though binges might alleviate these feelings, relief is only temporary. Binges are usually followed by feelings of disgust, shame, sadness and guilt. As with bulimia, compulsive overeaters usually keep their binges a secret. Though many compulsive overeaters eat in binges, there are others who graze on food all throughout the day. As with individuals with other eating disorders, compulsive eaters often struggle with a negative body image and define themselves by numbers on the scale. Compulsive overeating often results in obesity and other life-threatening medical complications. Read More››
Night eating syndrome is an eating disorder in which an individual wakes up during the night and is unable to go back to sleep without eating food. This often occurs multiple times throughout the night. Affected individuals often view their night eating behavior as beyond their control. The food that is consumed during night binges is usually unhealthy and high in calories. In fact, individuals with night eating syndrome consume 35% or more of their daily calories post-dinner. Because of their night binges, affected individuals often eat less during the day. Night eating syndrome behavior has many health complications and requires treatment. Read More››
Individuals with purging disorder attempt to lose weight or prevent weight-gain by recurrently purging themselves. Most commonly, affected individuals purge themselves by self-induced vomiting following meals. While purging might serve to relieve feelings of fullness or a fear of gaining weight, this relief is only temporary, as the desire to purge again manifests following the next meal. For individuals with this eating disorder, their purging behavior can be an experience they enjoy or even look forward to. Read More››
Orthorexia is an eating disorder characterized by a dysfunctional obsession with healthy eating. Orthorexics experience dysfunction in their daily lives caused by their desire to attain purity in their eating habits. Orthorexia is usually develops out of an individual’s sincere desire to establish a healthy lifestyle. Orthorexics often describe a desire to feel pure, natural and healthy. This desire can sometimes spiral out of control, and an individual’s desire to be healthy can transform into an unhealthy obsession which leads to disordered eating behavior. Though orthorexia isn’t formally recognized as a mental health condition, many clinicians believe that orthorexia represents a subcategory of eating disorders that is a growing cause for concern. Read More››