Eating disorder is a serious problem. People either starve themselves excessively to maintain the body shape and weight or overeat, causing irreparable damage to the intestines. While the entire focus is on food, eating disorder sprouts from physical, social and mental trauma. People with such psychological issues go to great lengths to conceal their problem or remain in denial. Eating disorders are reported in both men and women; women outnumber men due to excessive social and family pressure. While the problem might occur at any age, adolescence is the peak phase.
Anorexia Nervosa: When a person constantly complains of being fat and wants to become too thin. Anorexic people indulge in overly exercising and starve themselves or eat minimal.
Binge Eating Disorder (BED): People with BED have a compulsive obsession to eat very large portions of food in short time, without any control on diet or the urge to stop despite full stomach.
Bulimia: An individual develops problem of overeating for a certain period followed by purging, deliberately vomiting or defecate the consumed food using laxatives.
Common causes of eating disorders are:
- Family history
- Social pressure to stay slim and attractive
- Career demand: – athletes, modelling and acting jobs
- Personality problem like overly perfectionist, low self-esteem or depression
- Life experiences or trauma of abuse or death that have influenced a person’s behaviour
- Excessive stress of work or studies
Often, people with eating disorders are diagnosed with co-morbid psychiatric problems of anxiety, depression, substance abuse and personality disorders; dual diagnosis is a common condition.
Common symptoms of eating disorders are:
- Constant skipping of meals on pretext of work or lack of hunger
- Regular browsing of pro-anorexia websites
- Obsessive about checking weight and counting calories
- Prefer to eat very low calorie food in tiny portion
- People with binge eating problem tend to find reasons to devour food, all the time complain of hunger or eat in the name of tasting dishes or social obligation
- Feel depressed if having eaten less or forced to eat healthy food
Diet counselling, psychotherapy, family support and self-help manuals are some of the effective methods to correct the mental problem. Anti-depressants for those with bulimia and BED are helpful to overcome the psychological craving for food. Early stage clinical intervention has favourable outcome before the complication has severely compromised on the health and mental plight.