Eating disorders

An eating disorder is an obsessive and compulsive condition..

whereby food, or its avoidance, has become an unhealthy part of the individual’s daily thought processes, as has the uncontrollable compulsion to act on these thoughts – repeating and re-repeating the behaviour at the expense of health and relationships. All those with eating disorders use food to escape painful feelings and situations, to manage stress and to overcome feelings of low self worth. However, a combination of individual differences and social factors leads the illness to manifest in one of three forms:

Anorexia Nervosa –

The individual tries to control their body shape and weight through restricting their intake of food. The resulting chemical changes within the brain prevent the individual from being able to rationalise their behaviour around food. The condition leads to extreme weight loss and can lead to both short-term and long-term health problems including amongst others loss of bone mass, skin problems, osteoporosis, poor circulation and dizzy spells. 

Bulimia Nervosa –

People with bulimia come to depend on the control of food to cope with their emotional difficulties and binge eat large amounts of food to fill an emotional gap. This bingeing is followed by guilt, shame and an urge to purge one-self through vomiting and/or taking laxatives, excessive exercise and use of slimming pills. Many of those with bulimia are obsessed with maintaining their weight. Health problems can include skin conditions, sore throats,tooth decay, lethargy and increased risk of problems with internal organs including heart conditions.

Binge Eating Disorder –

Unlike people suffering from bulimia, those with binge eating disorder do not seek to rid themselves of their food. This leads to obesityand an increased risk of developing illness such as high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. Typically binge eaters will experience a range of negative emotions including shame, guilt and depression.

Consider seeking help regarding your overeating or undereating if any of the following apply:

  • I use food as a source of comfort even when I am not hungry
  • I have at some point gained weight even when dieting
  • I prefer to eat alone
  • I find it difficult to moderate certain foods once I have started eating them
  • I rigidly restrict my choice of food
  • I have used the excuse that I have already eaten to avoid mealtimes
  • I have had at some point a habit of weighing myself at least three times a week
  • I have used diet pills or laxatives to control my weight
  • I exercise with the motivation to burn calories rather than to keep healthy/fit
  • I overeat or undereat despite the concerns of others

For further information see:

http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Eating-disorders/Pages/Introduction.aspx

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