How to Reach Out for Help if You Have an Eating Disorder
If you struggle with an eating disorder, know that you are not alone. Eating disorders can affect anyone, regardless of age, ethnicity, background, or gender. Battling an eating disorder is nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about. The good news is there is help available and you don't have to continue to live with this type of pain. It's essential to understand the signs of an eating disorder and be able to identify the different types so you can recognize an eating disorder when it happens and know where to start to get help.
Why Eating Disorders Occur
There are many different factors that may cause an individual to develop an eating disorder. Some common factors include:
- Experiencing a high level of stress
- Being bullied about one's weight or appearance
- Struggling with an undiagnosed mental health disorder like anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Trying to follow restrictive diet plans
- Having a family history of eating disorders
The Signs of an Eating Disorder
If you're not certain whether you are struggling with an eating disorder, take a look at your daily habits and emotions associated with eating. If you commonly exhibit any of the following red flags, you may need to seek medical treatment.
- Often skipping meals
- Obsessively counting every calorie you intake
- Not wanting to eat in front of other people
- Using certain supplements or laxatives to speed up weight loss
- Feeling guilty after eating
- Eating in excess only to intentionally purge
- Looking at your reflection many times throughout the day
- Commonly thinking or expressing negative thoughts about your weight and appearance
- Eating in excess only to later feel ashamed or disgusted
- Hiding evidence of food consumption such as bags or wrappers
- Feeling a desperate need to control something in your life
- Exercising excessively
Different Types of Eating Disorders
There are different types of eating disorders and different symptoms associated with each one. Below are descriptions of the three most common types.
Anorexia nervosa is one of the most common types of eating disorders. It can lead to very serious health consequences and can even be life-threatening. Someone with this condition usually agonizes over their appearance and will go to great lengths to lose weight. In many cases, they will obsessively restrict their food intake, skip meals, and exercise excessively. They may feel the intense need to control their weight and may even take supplements or laxatives to ensure they lose weight as fast as possible or keep from gaining any weight. This can lead to their plummeting to such a low weight that they begin to experience health issues such as dehydration, osteoporosis, decreased metabolism, anemia, and muscle weakness.
Similar to anorexia, someone struggling with bulimia often heavily obsesses over their weight and body shape. They may view their body in a distorted way, believing that they are overweight when they really aren't. They often criticize themselves and feel ashamed of their weight. Someone with this condition will purge—intentionally force themselves to throw up—after eating to avoid gaining weight. This may be done after eating a normal meal or after binge eating. Binge eating is when someone eats an above-average amount of food very quickly. This is often followed by guilt or shame along with purging or excessive exercise. This can lead to similar health issues as anorexia does, with the added concern of injuring their stomach, esophagus, or throat from purging.
Binge Eating Disorder
Someone struggling with a binge eating disorder will eat an excessive amount of food. Typically they will eat more food than they originally intended very quickly. Often an individual who just had a binge eating session will feel very guilty and ashamed of themselves. They may even hide evidence of how much they ate from others. The difference between this disorder and bulimia is that someone with a binge eating disorder will not follow up a binge session with purging or excessive exercise.
Treatment for an Eating Disorder
If you are struggling with an eating disorder, your first step is to speak with your doctor. They can provide you with an assessment and determine what course of treatment best fits your needs. They will look at a variety of different factors such as whether or not you have a family history of eating disorders or an undiagnosed mental health condition. You will likely have a physical exam and will be referred to a counselor who specializes in treating eating disorders. This counselor will help you identify the root causes of your eating disorder and work through different emotions you may be struggling with in regards to your weight. You may also work with a nutritionist to help get your diet back on track.
Eating disorders are very common and can affect anybody, regardless of age, gender, background, or ethnicity. While many factors may cause an individual to experience an eating disorder, some common causes include high stress, being bullied, or suffering from a mental health condition, especially if it's undiagnosed. While eating disorders affect everyone differently there are some common signs to look out for. They include obsessively calorie counting, excessive exercising, feeling guilty after eating, skipping meals, and purging after eating. There are multiple types of eating disorders with some common ones being anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. If you struggle with an eating disorder, you are not alone and there is help available. A big part of seeking treatment is identifying the root cause of your disorder. At Achieve Medical we want to help you live a healthier, happier life. Call (619) 387-7752 today to learn more about how we can help.