If you have what is described as an eating disorder then you have a difficulty in some way with your eating pattern or behaviour. There are different types of eating disorder but the most common are
anorexia nervosa – is where a person tries to keep their weight as low as possible. This may be by eating as little as possible or nothing at all.
bulimia- this is also a mechanism used to control weight but in bulimia a person might binge eat and then make themselves sick or use a laxative to empty the bowel of food. This is more difficult to recognise because the person appears to be eating a lot.
binge eating disorder – this is a compulsion to eat a lot of food very quickly and often it is junk food or sugary foods.
There is much debate about the causes of eating disorders because the causes are complex. It is generally accepted that eating disorders are linked to emotional and mental well being issues but they may also have biological or environmental triggers too. There are risk factors which may play a part in you developing an eating disorder. These are:
A family history of eating disorders, criticism of your eating habits or of your body shape, being under pressure to be slim in particular for some types of jobs such as dancer or model, certain personality types associated with anxiety issues, low self esteem or having a tendency towards being a perfectionist.
A report in 2015 by BEAT suggests that more than 725,000people in the UK are affected by eating disorders. It is more common in women than men but occurs in both and is common in the young -13 plus. Adolescents is a particularly difficult time with a lot of pressure but on both young girls and boys to have a certain body image. Young people ( and older) are often very impressionable and they are bombarded by adverts for dieting, and looking a certain way.
You may have an eating disorder if you have begun to miss meals, complain of being fat even though you may be underweight. If you continually weigh yourself, keep looking at your image in the mirror and feel uncomfortable looking in the mirror.
Some people with an eating disorder develop an unhealthy obsession with food often cooking and baking a lot for others but eating very little themselves.
The severity of an eating disorder can vary greatly and treatment and support varies too. It can go from sessions with a psychotherapist over a number of weeks or months using psychodynamic therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy to being resident in an in patient unit where the condition becomes life threatening.