Eating disorders


“Eating Disorders refers to an illness that is characterized by unbalanced or unhealthy eating behavior and severe distress or apprehension about one’s body mass or figure.”

It simply depicts the mental state of an individual in which he/she either intake too much or too less amount of food out of several reasons such as dieting (beyond limits), stress, anxiousness, depression, body image, anger etc.

eating disorders

Eating disorders may comprise of insufficient or excessive food intake which appear disproportionate for a healthy human body and can ultimately harm an individual’s well-being. The most familiar forms of eating disorders consist of Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder which affect both males and females.

These disorders related to eating can develop during any phase or stage in life but usually become visible during the adolescence or young adulthood. Eating disorders are classified as a medical, particularly mental illness for which several appropriate treatment and techniques have been found. Even though these circumstances are treatable in nature, the symptoms and consequences can be detrimental and lethal if not addressed within time. Eating disorders generally coexist with other mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, inferiority complex etc.

Types of Eating Disorders

eating disorders

Some of the common types of eating disorders are here under:

Anorexia Nervosa

eating disorders

The person suffering from anorexia nervosa will classically have an obsessive fear of gaining weight or of being obese, denial to sustain a healthy body mass and an impracticable perception of his/her body image. Numerous individuals with anorexia nervosa will ferociously bound or limit the amount of foodstuff they consume and observe themselves as obese or overweight, even when they are evidently skinny or underweight. Anorexia can have destructive health effects like brain damage, multi-organ failure, organ malfunction, bone loss, heart difficulties, tissue rupture and infertility. The risk of bereavement is highest in persons with this disorder.

Bulimia Nervosa

eating disorders

This eating disorder is illustrated by recurring binge eating followed by behaviors that reimburse for the overeating such as enforced or unnatural vomiting, extreme workout or excessive use of laxatives or diuretics. People who suffer from bulimia may fear weight gain and feel relentlessly miserable with their body dimensions and figure. The binge-eating and purging sequence is normally done undisclosed, creating mind set of dishonor, guiltiness and lack of control over oneself. Bulimia can have damaging effects, such as gastrointestinal issues, severe dehydration, and heart problems resultant into an electrolyte disparity.

Binge Eating Disorder

eating disorders

People who suffer from Binge Eating Disorder will commonly lose control over his/her food intake. Unlike bulimia nervosa however, episodes of binge-eating are not followed by compensatory behaviors, such as fasting, purging or extreme amount of workout. Because of this, numerous people suffering from BED may be overweight and at an augmented threat of developing other circumstances such as cardiovascular diseases or illness. Individuals who struggle with this disorder may also experience severe feelings of remorse, shame, distress, and awkwardness related to their binge-eating, which could influence the further development of the eating disorder.

Rumination disorder

eating disorders

Rumination disorder is repetitively and determinedly regurgitating foodstuff after consumption, but it’s not due to a medicinal situation or any other eating disorder such as anorexia, bulimia or binge-eating disorder. Food is brought back up into the mouth without vomiting or gagging and regurgitation may not be deliberate. At times, regurgitated food is re-chewed and re-swallowed or sputter out. This disorder may result in malnutrition or undernourishment if the foodstuff is discharged or if the person eats considerably lesser amount of food to avoid this behavior. The occurrence of rumination disorder may be general in childhood or in people who have an intellectual disability.

Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder

eating disorders

This disorder is illustrated by failing to meet up one’s minimum daily nourishment supplies because the person don’t have an interest or awareness in food intake; he/she avoid foodstuff with certain sensory characteristics, such as color, texture, scent or flavor; or he/she may concerned about the consequences of eating like fear of choking. Here, food is not avoided for the reason of fear of gaining weight. This disorder can result in considerable weight loss or failure to gain weight in infancy as well as nutritional scarcity that can cause health issues.

Signs & Symptoms of an Eating Disorder

An individual suffering from an eating disorder may possibly divulge numerous signs and symptoms, some of the major ones are here under:

Anorexia nervosa

  • Severe restrictions over food intake
  • Working out at extreme levels
  • Use of laxatives in order to lose weight
  • Forceful vomiting
  • Severe weight loss
  • Starvation
  • Intense lean and thin physique
  • Unable to maintain a normal body weight
  • Distorted body image
  • Infertility
  • Multi organ failure
  • Brain damage
  • Osteopenia (thinness of bones)
  • Fragile hair and nails
  • Pale and dry skin
  • Constipation
  • Lethargy or intense fatigue
  • Low blood pressure
  • Low pulse rate

eating disorders

Bulimia nervosa

  • Abnormally eating huge amount of food
  • Feeling lack of control over food intake and its episodes
  • Forced vomiting
  • Intense use of laxatives or diuretics
  • Frequent fasting
  • Indulging into extreme exercises
  • Electrolyte imbalance
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Intestinal distress
  • Severe dehydration
  • Enlarged salivary glands and jaw area

eating disorders

Binge-eating disorder

  • Loss of control over food intake
  • Appears to be overweight or obese
  • Uncontrolled food intake especially at a specific point of time
  • Eating until one is unreasonably full
  • Intake food stuff with even more greater speed during binge episodes
  • Secretly taking food to avoid awkwardness
  • Feeling of guilt or shame about one’s eating habit
  • Dieting but without weight loss

eating disorders

Some other symptoms are:

  • Constant weight fluctuations
  • Depression or exhausted phase
  • Suicidal tendencies
  • Highly obsessed with calories and fat contents of eatables
  • Switching between periods of overeating and fasting
  • Engaging in ritualistic intake patterns like cutting foodstuff into small pieces, eating unaccompanied, hiding food etc.
  • Chronic dieting regardless of being hazardously skinny and underweight
  • Escaping from societal functions, family, and peer groups, i.e. social anxiety
  • Isolated and withdrawn
  • Continuous fascination with foodstuff, recipes or food preparation; the person may cook complex meals for others but avoid having it.


eating disorders

Causes of Eating Disorders

Eating Disorders are complex in nature and also predisposed by a facet of factors. Although the literal origin of eating disorders is unidentified, it is commonly assumed that a combination of genetic, psychological and ecological abnormalities contribute to the development of such disorders.

Genetic or biological factors

  • unbalanced hormonal functions
  • Inheritance
  • Deficiency of nutritional food intake

Psychological factors

  • Pessimistic or negative body image
  • Poor self-confidence or self-esteem

Ecological or environmental factors

  • Stressful transitions or major life changes.
  • Dysfunctional or divided families
  • Occupation and profession that endorse being slim or skinny like Acting, modeling, air hostess, ballet etc.
  • Traumas among family or childhood such as infantile sexual harassment, major accident, death of loved ones or any other severe trauma.
  • Aesthetics oriented sports such as diving, wrestling, rowing, ballet, gymnastics etc. where more emphasis is laid on maintaining a lean and thin body for improved presentation or performance.
  • Undue pressure from peers, family members or relatives, society etc.

eating disorders

Treatment for an Eating Disorder

Treatment of eating disorder is not limited to any particular aspect such as medical or psychological or environmental etc. rather it requires a contribution of all such aspects to treat eating disorders. Knowing its rigorous and complex nature, a specialized and comprehensive treatment plan has been designed in order to establish revival and speedy recovery of the sufferer. Treatment for an eating disorder is typically comprised of medical doctors, psychologist or psychotherapists and nutritionists for absolute care:


eating disorders

1. Medical Care and Monitoring: The utmost concern in the treatment of eating disorders is addressing any health issues that may have been a result of eating disordered behavior. To tackle this issue, a detailed diagnosis is conducted so to properly identify the hidden health issues related or resulted due to eating disorders and ultimately appropriate medications is provided, if required.

2. Nutrition: Nutrition part involves restoring the weight, stabilizing the body mass, guidance for proper and nutritive food intake and integrating the tailor made meal plan to benefit the individual.

3. Therapeutic treatment: Psychological therapy is a fundamental part of treatment since it affords a person to recover or heal from a traumatic event of life, it provides an individual with improved coping skills and techniques to express one’s emotions, give healthy way to communicate and maintain healthy relationships.

As far as eating disorders are concerned, it’s better to go for an early treatment since it owns higher risk of suicide and other medical complications. Eating disorders also gets combined with other mental disorders such as anxiety, stress, depression, substance abuse etc. but complete recovery is possible if timely treatment is adopted.

There are numerous forms of psychotherapies available to address and treat the underlying causes of eating disorders. Some of the commonly used therapies in case of eating disorder are as follows:

1. Cognitive behavioral therapy: CBT is used to replace the irrational thoughts into rational ones. Here, this therapy is used by replacing one’s false thought process regarding his/her body image or food intake or self esteem into rational reflection.

eating disorders

2. Family therapy: Family plays a vital role in treatment of eating disorders since family members are the ones who generally stay closest to the person and can monitor and motivate him/her properly to recover from disordered state.

eating disorders

3. Dialectical behavioral therapy: DBT usually focuses on those people who react to emotional circumstances with extreme behaviors. The motive is to make an individual to act wisely towards a situation rather than going bizarre over it. This therapy helps those individuals who eat very less or very much during stress or anxiety.

eating disorders

4. Acceptance and commitment therapy: ACT helps a person to become aware of his/her own emotions, experiences and understand the impulses in order to control them. This therapy can be used by asking the patient to make a note of his/her impulses for food and to check whether they are real or not and acting upon them accordingly. This will nullify the pseudo urges to have food and will help the client to recover his/her eating disorder.

eating disorders

5. Art therapy: Art therapy gives a person an appropriate medium or a creative outlet to express his/her emotions and healing. Person suffering from eating disorder when gets indulged into any artistic work like painting, drawing, sculpting, clay making etc. will redirect all his/her emotions into a productive way.

eating disorders

6. Dance therapy: The guided movements and expressions in dance therapy is an alternative way of coping and expressing emotions. Person will performing dance movements channelizes his/her energy and also diverts him/her from unreasonable food intake.

eating disorders

7. Equine therapy: Equine therapy usually includes horse as a tool of emotional growth. The idea is create a good bond between humans and horses in order to have emotional healing. It also helps individual to get a more real body image when taking care of horses which ultimately enhance one’s self-confidence.

eating disorders

8. Exposure and response prevention therapy: The motive of this therapy is to let the person get exposed to feared or disturbing stimuli with a goal to desensitize the fear as well as to control the response. As far as eating disorder is concerned, person is asked to get exposed to food but control himself/herself to avoid eating it. This will provide them with the sense of motivation and control.

eating disorders

9. Interpersonal therapy: IPT focuses on managing interpersonal problems role disputes, interpersonal deficits, unresolved grief or conflicts etc. It addresses underlying personal issues and learns to cope up with stress and anxiety. This therapy helps enhancing one’s body image, self-confidence and self-esteem and reduces issues related to false body image, low self esteem and low self-worth.

eating disorders

10. The Maudsley method: The Maudsley model encourages to incorporate parents to play an important role in their child’s recovery process from eating disorder by providing them healthy meals, balanced diet, prevent over exercising, purging etc.

eating disorders

Conclusively, this was a brief understanding, meaning, concept,  signs and symptoms, causes and psychological treatment regarding eating disorders.

Hope you find the above information beneficial.

If in case, you or your loved one is suffering from any such issue, you can contact us or visit our website.

eating disorders

For more details, you can visit MayoClinic

Strive for good physical and mental health!

Seek professional help!

Stay good, stay happy!

Thank you!

Categories: Therapies

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