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All You Need To Know About Eating Disorders

All You Need To Know About Eating Disorders

What causes eating disorders?
A combination of genetic, physical, social, and psychological factors may contribute to the development of an eating disorder; however, the exact cause of it is still unknown. Serotonin which is a naturally-occurring brain chemical that regulates sleep, mood and learning can also influence eating behaviors. Social pressure, the desire to feel accepted, distorted self image and misunderstanding of self worth may all cause behaviors linked with eating disorders.

What are the most common types of eating disorders?
Eating disorders include:
•Anorexia Nervosa – Undereating
•Binge Eating Disorder – Overeating
•Bulimia Nervosa – Purging

Anorexia Nervosa:
It is recognized by intense desire not to eat too much (sometimes not to eat at all) with the purpose of not gaining weight. It is also identified by unusually low weight, often to the point of malnourishment. People with Anorexia Nervosa may also see themselves as overweight, even if their body weight is far below normal. This eating disorder is most common among young women & less common among men.

Binge Eating Disorder (or BED):
It occurs when you eat abnormally high quantities of foods on a regular basis. People who suffer from this disorder feel like their bingeing is out of control. As a result they will have feelings of guilt. People with BED continue eating even after they feel full, sometimes to the point of discomfort or nausea. People of all sizes and weights can suffer from BED and this disorder affects more people than any other eating disorder, including women, men and adolescents.

Bulimia Nervosa:
It occurs when you experience episodes of binge eating followed by purging. Bulimic people may feel guilty or helpless after eating large amounts of food so they try to vomit the food back up. They may use laxatives to quickly get the food through their digestive system. They may also exercise excessively to prevent the food from causing weight gain. They may believe that they are overweight even if their weight is normal, slightly above normal, or even below a healthy weight. This disorder is most common during the late teen years and early adulthood. More women than men suffer from Bulimia Nervosa.

What are the signs and symptoms of an eating disorder?
The most common symptoms include:
•abnormally low or high body weight
•an irregular diet
•the desire to eat alone or secretly
•frequent usage of the bathroom after a meal
•obsession with losing or gaining weight quickly
•obsession with physical appearance and perception of body by others
•feelings of guilt and shame around eating habits
•abnormally stressing about eating habits

What risk factors are associated with eating disorders?
The most common risk factors include:
•Age: The most common ages of developing eating disorders are teenagehood and early twenties because of hormonal changes during puberty and social pressure to look attractive or thin.
•Family History: Genes may increase a person’s susceptibility to developing an eating disorder. People with first-degree relatives who have an eating disorder are more likely to have one, too.
•Excessive Dieting: Long term dieting and excessive preoccupation with weight loss/weight gain can lead to eating disorders.
•Psychological Health: Underlying psychological or mental health problems (such as anxiety, depression, OCD…) may contribute to eating disorders.
•Life Transitions: These times can include moving, changing jobs, the end of a relationship, or the death of a loved one,sexual assault, abuse … can also trigger an eating disorder.
•Extracurricular Activities: Being a part of sports teams (athletes) or artistic groups (actors, dancers, models, television personalities…) increases the risk of developing eating disorders.

How to Help someone with an eating disorder?
Discussing about Eating Disorders with people suffering from it can be quite difficult because they can trigger negative emotions or make someone feel defensive about their eating habits. But showing that you care and listening to their concerns can help encourage someone to seek help or treatment.

How is an eating disorder treated?
•Evaluation of nutritional intake to avoid nutritional deficiencies.
•Consulting a mental health professional & hospitalization during life-threatening cases.
•Psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or family therapy which can help address the social or emotional issues.
•Medical treatment that include anti-anxiety medicines or antidepressants that can help control symptoms of the anxiety or depressive disorder that may be causing or aggravating the eating disorder (though there are no medications that can fully treat an eating disorder).
•Reduction of stress through yoga, meditation or other relaxation techniques.

Christelle Bedrossian
Dietitian-Nutritionist
Beirut, Lebanon

 

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Christelle Bedrossian