For someone who has never battled an eating disorder, it might be tempting to believe that eating disorders are self-inflicted. However, it can’t be stated any simpler than this – eating disorders are not a choice. In fact, after hearing this misconception, the founder of UNC Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders stated, “Those of us who have been in the field working with these people realize no one would ever choose to develop this illness.”
According to the National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH), eating disorders are “serious medical illnesses marked by severe disturbances to a person’s eating behaviors.” It is a disease of both the body and the mind, where a person’s perception of food changes from healthy to unhealthy and consequently unhealthy, and lifestyle changes are made to adapt to that new conception of food and weight. Eating disorders affect not only the physical body but the mental and emotional aspects as well, thereby contributing to a very unhealthy, highly fatal lifestyle.
What causes an eating disorder
Frustratingly, there is no one cause of an eating disorder and even though they are more common in teens and young adults, anyone, regardless of race, gender or age, can develop an eating disorder. They typically develop over time as an individual’s perception of food and body imagery changes. They might manifest out of periods of intense stress or trauma, as a warped means of exercising control. Also, dieting can lead to the development of an eating disorder if they are not practiced with care.
As with other mental health disorders, certain genetics or biological factors can predispose a person to develop an eating disorder as well. However, there’s no one gene or biological trait that contributes to eating disorders; there are likely many potentially contributing to an eating disorder, making treatment in this regard rather challenging.
Types of eating disorders
According to the DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition), eating disorders are divided into four categories: anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and other eating disorders.
- Anorexia nervosa – defined by Mayo Clinic as “a potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by an abnormally low body weight, intense fear of gaining weight, and a distorted perception of weight or shape.” People with anorexia tend to severely limit food/calorie intake, exercise excessively, misuse diet pills and continue to try to lose weight even when dangerously underweight
- Bulimia nervosa – Unlike anorexia, those suffering from bulimia tend to be either at a normal weight or even overweight. Bulimia is characterized by uncontrolled bouts of overeating followed by a sense of guilt or disgust leading to purging. Induced vomiting, fasting, over-exercising or misuse of laxatives or diuretics are common symptoms of bulimia.
- Binge eating disorder – Binge-eating disorder is titled after the tendency of individuals to undergo periods of extreme overeating whether or not they are hungry. Binge eating disorder differs from bulimia in that individuals do not purge after binging episodes; therefore, those suffering from binge eating tend to be overweight or obese.
- Other eating disorders – Though not as common, there are other eating disorders such as Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorders (OSFED) and Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID), both of which have significant negative impacts on the health and wellness of the individual in regards to food and the emotional and mental perspectives surrounding it.
Treatment for eating disorders
To some extent or others, eating disorders are characterized by struggles with body image, weight, food and even ideologies like self-worth and perfectionism. They prey on the mind which in turn negatively affects the health of the body by creating a whole host of negative health conditions. Eating disorders are a disease that not only makes the individual incredibly sick physically but causes additional mental conditions as well.
Thankfully, eating disorders are treatable. Each person is affected by eating disorders in different ways, and so the best treatment is necessarily personalized to the needs and ultimate recovery goals of each individual. Additionally, there are certain levels of care within eating disorder treatment that takes into consideration the severity of the disorder.
Eating disorder treatment programs include:
- Inpatient treatment
- Residential treatment
- Partial hospitalization program (PHP)
- Intensive outpatient program (IOP)
- Outpatient therapy
No matter what level of care is selected, the best in holistic therapy offers not just physical healing from the disorder, but emotional and mental healing as well.
Reach out today
For more information on eating disorders, or if you or someone you know is seeking admittance to an eating disorder treatment program, contact Seeds of Hope today at 610-644-6464.