Types | Anorexia Nervosa | Binge Eating | Pica | Bulimia Nervosa | Rumination Syndrome | AFRID | Night-Eating | Orthorexia | Significance of Diagnosis | How to Help? | Importance of Awareness
When Adam Mansbach quoted ‘Eating is one of the greatest pleasures of life’, he couldn’t be righter. The delight that you get while eating, waiting for eating, and after eating is satisfying to the core. And when the food is your favorite and equally tasty? It is like a cherry on the top!
But what is the difference between eating and eating healthy? Healthy eating is not always necessarily a diet full of balanced nutrition with portion control. There are two types of people, those who:
- Eat to live
- Live to eat
If you belong to the first category, you are probably on the safer side and there is nothing much to worry about. However, if you are from the second one, then there are bigger chances of having one or more eating disorders.
Eating disorders do not always have to be a condition in which a person eats too much or is obese. An eating disorder can be anything from purposely eating too little or more for being desperately health conscious or not being able to control the desire to consume food.
The fact that there is a fair share of both types of foodies makes some specific types of eating disorders way too common nowadays than they used to be before.
In this article, we will be providing relevant knowledge of what is an eating disorder, its types, causes, symptoms, and treatments.
Types of Eating disorders
There is a misconception that only people who eat too much suffer from an eating disorder, while this is certainly not the case. This is what normal eating habits look like:
- Eating proper meals three times a day with moderate snacking in the middle.
- Not eating minutes after having a full tummy just to fulfill the desire.
- Eating in a moderate quantity and stopping when the tummy feels almost full.
- Not consuming any heavy food or beverage after dinner, especially before bedtime.
If you are following all of these rules then congratulations, you probably do not have an eating disorder, unless, there is more to the story. However, if you are someone who:
- Eats too less because of the fear of gaining weight.
- Eats a lot because you love food.
- Consumes solid food after every half an hour or so to kill boredom.
- Is fond of binge eating while watching a movie or reading.
- Eats junk food very often.
- Eats food with some specific minerals and nutrients only, for health purposes.
Then chances are high that you are suffering from one or more eating disorders. You cannot say that only a person who eats too much is suffering from an eating disorder. To be honest, someone who consumes a calculated amount of food in the name of balanced eating might also be having some kind of an eating disorder.
The most common types of eating disorders include:
Eating disorders are psychological conditions in which the person does not have any control over their abnormal eating habits. As mentioned earlier, eating disorders do not necessarily relate to eating a lot and gaining weight simultaneously.
Anorexia nervosa is a psychological condition in which the person considers him/her to be overweight when in reality, their BMI (body mass index) is below average.
People with this eating disorder assume that they are fat enough to not consume food in a regular quantity. These people are otherwise too thin or underweight for their age and height. This is why they not only tend to eat less but starve at times to remain physically fit and smart.
Some of the causes of Anorexia nervosa are:
- The media:
The role of media is huge in portraying a thin person to be beautiful. They promote and encourage men and women to stay slim so that more people will follow them as role models. 99% of fashion magazines, ramp walks, television advertisements, and movies have women and men in lead characters who are way too thin to be considered normal.
- The society:
The society in this regard is everyone from family, friends, colleagues, and every other person you meet on the subway. The pressure from all of these people to remain physically smart, lose weight and inches, and release body fat via dieting or exercising is too much to bear. This is when a person makes losing weight a priority and loses focus in the process.
- Childhood emotional distress:
When a child is used to hearing things related to losing weight and being thin most of the time, it makes them conscious of their physical appearance from that very stage. Moreover, the emotional distress that a chubby/obese/slightly overweight child goes through while continuously getting pathetic remarks and suggestions from the surroundings plays a huge role in the development of this condition.
Binge eating disorder (BED) is a condition that is mostly related to another psychological condition or mental illness. Binge eating is either eating something in large quantities in short intervals, like while watching tv/reading or consuming a good amount of food time and again.
This usually happens when a person is either depressed or anxious. The confused and frustrated state of mind releases some stress when a person with BED consistently eats his/her favorite food. The urge to eat and the feeling of satisfaction of consuming good food helps people with BED to recover from stress.
The other causes of BED include:
- Some people inherit this habit of overeating from their obese or diabetic parents.
- Hormonal changes in the body, especially for women, are one of the major causes of BED when food desire becomes the only savior from all the misery.
- Self-shame is also one of the causes of BED when a fat person eats a lot to overcome the embarrassment and disappointment from not being able to control the unhealthy eating habits.
- Single or multiple occurrences of tragedies in a person’s life often end up in binge eating in which people find solace in adopting unhealthy dietary routine as a treatment for emotional traumas.
Binge eating disorder becomes life-threatening if a person is unable to control it. It causes the risk factors of some serious obesity issues which result in other medical problems like diabetes and blood sugar etc.
The name ‘Pica’ might sound new to some but the condition is very much common to occur in young children. Pica is more of a psychological disorder that is mostly uncontrollable by anyone suffering from it. It is the type of eating disorder in which the person consumes non-edible food or food with zero nutritional values. For example, dirt, sand, paint, wool, soft metal, paper, soap, chalk, and ice.
The reason that Pica is more common in adolescents is that it begins from that small age only. Younger kids fulfill their curiosity to explore everything around them by tasting or putting it into the mouth. It is impossible to keep an eye on these kids 24/7 as they crave for this kind of harmful stuff, especially dirt and paper.
If neglected, this behavior leads to the development of other medical issues in later years. Things like lead in paint or harmful bacteria in sand crates nutritional deficiencies in both adults and kids.
Some of the possible causes of Pica include:
- Childhood eating habits that involve an unhealthy diet like junk food etc. These types of food contain ingredients that taste similar to the non-edible things mentioned earlier.
- Deficiencies like iron or malnutrition also cause kids to consume things like ice and dirt as their body tries to satisfy the absence of basic nutrients.
- Pregnant women often crave ice, sand, paper, and cloth to eat because of the same reason i.e. nutritional deficiencies and also the rapid changes in hormones.
Bulimia nervosa is a highly critical eating disorder in which the person first eats food in a large quantity, mainly binge eating, and then tries to get rid of the calories in immensely harmful ways.
It is also a mental disorder in which people shame themselves for being too fat or overweight, binge eat, and then attempt medically unapproved methods of losing body fat. For example:
- Consuming an unsafe quantity of laxatives
- Taking supplements that guarantee weight loss in minimum time
- Self-induction of vomiting to get rid of the food consumed
- Fasting for long hours
- Risky dieting
- Strict plus excess work out
This shows how bulimia nervosa is more dangerous than binge eating disorder. It is a mental condition that causes the brain to think in two directions; eat too much to cope with stress and clear away the food from the body to lose weight.
If you know a person who is fond of eating, gets happy while eating, but regrets later to the extent of opting for destructive means of purging, then make sure to help them with the diagnosis of this life-threatening eating disorder.
The causes of bulimia nervosa are:
- An unhealthy body shape that makes a person look unattractive
- Stress from work or personal life
- The demeaning attitude from friends, family, and strangers for the obese appearance
- Desire to become like models and actors with a sharp and slim body image
- Other psychological disorders like mood swings or bipolar which do not allow the person to think sensibly
Unlike other eating disorders, rumination syndrome is not the result of the patient’s psychological flaws. Although it requires strict and immediate treatment, the disorder is not very risky like the others that involve obesity and forced purging.
In this condition, the patient suffers from gastrointestinal dysfunction. People who have rumination disorder unintentionally either throw up or re-chew the food that comes into the mouth after minutes of swallowing. This means that unlike bulimia nervosa, a person with rumination syndrome does not wish to vomit or eject the food but it happens naturally to them.
- Pressure in the abdominal area that forces the food to return to the mouth
- Abnormal bowel movements that do not allow food to digest naturally
- Acid reflux
- A severe case of constipation
- Body’s natural way of expulsion due to overeating
Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) is very common in infants and young kids. However, if neglected at a small age, there is a high chance of developing the habit to be permanent in later years. ARFID is a severe form of what we commonly know as ‘picky eating’ in kids.
The disliking towards food or liking towards only a specific type of food or snack is what a person faces in ARFID. It is neither the fault of parents nor the child. It is quite natural to happen to human beings who have their separate taste buds for everything.
For example, a mother struggles with introducing different types of food to an infant but the child does not necessarily like all of them. He/she may prefer one food over another and that is when the parent/guardian finds it convenient to feed them their favorite food.
While this might work as a favorable option in some cases, most of the time it results in people developing ARFID from a young age only.
- A lazy attitude of the person feeding the child who finds it easy to cook and make the child food that he/she likes
- The child may adopt this disorder from his/her genes when either or both of the parents are picky eaters
- Disliking for a particular food category like vegan or non-vegan, which does not leave the person with many options for food intake
The main difference between night eating syndrome and binge eating disorder is that people who have night-eating syndrome do not usually binge eat. The symptoms of this eating disorder do not necessarily involve overeating or consuming in larger quantities.
Night-eating syndrome involves not having control over consuming a major part of daily calorie intake after dinner. The patient becomes habitual of eating meals late at night without feeling hungry. The condition is mostly associated with depression or insomnia when the patient is unable to sleep due to a disturbed mental state. Lack of mental peace, frustration, regrets, and anxiety are some of the common causes of the night-eating disorder.
- Depression that causes brain dysfunction
- Unhealthy eating habits
- The embarrassment of eating same food daily in front of others on the dinner table
- Satisfying a stressful state of mind by having comfort food after dinner
Orthorexia is becoming more common nowadays in this era when people have become more conscious of what they are consuming. From standing for hours in the supermarket while checking labels and ingredients of each food item to eating only specific types of food, orthorexia may be considered normal but it is not.
People who suffer from orthorexia show clear symptoms of over consciousness when it comes to their food intake. The condition results in abnormal dietary restrictions in which the person strictly believes in ‘You are what you eat’.
This behavior might sound and seem healthy to some, whereas orthorexia is real and often causes some serious issues like malnutrition and nutritional deficiencies.
- Knowledge beyond necessity that scares already conscious people
- History of medical issues related to food like abnormal bowel movements, acid reflux, or constipation, etc.
- Attention-seeking attitude
The medical significance of the diagnosis of eating disorders
Not only the diagnosis but the treatment of all types of eating disorders are equally important. All of these conditions have become so common nowadays that most people tend to neglect the idea of getting the symptoms diagnosed by a specialist. This causes some serious problems when people later suffer from issues like diabetes, blood sugar, obesity, severe nutritional deficiencies, acid reflux, and other psychological disorders.
Whether it is eating without any reason/at a wrong time/in an abnormal quantity or not eating proper meals with moderate nutritional values, both types of people need help, support, and counseling. Otherwise, eating disorders will continue to be considered normal and as a result, there will be more medical issues related to food in the future than anything else.
How to help a person with an eating disorder?
- Support them when they try to control their habit of overeating
- Do not make fun of their condition
- Know that their condition is not in their control
- Assist them in the hospital visits
- Encourage them to eat healthy food
- Discourage eating habits after dinner by not participating
- Make them familiar and used to healthy food without criticizing
- Help them understand and see the severity of their condition
Importance of awareness for eating disorders
Eating disorders have become more common nowadays than they were ever before. The need to inform people about the harmful ingredients of all the junk food and the importance of consuming food with good nutritional values is what makes it highly important to create awareness for eating disorders.
If you see a person with any of the eating disorders mentioned in the article, please make it a point to reach out to them and help them understand the severity of the situation. This is the only way to prevent it as it is one of the diseases/conditions that have a rapid percentage growth each year, especially in youngsters.
Prevention of eating disorders
- Avoid regular intake of junk food
- Discourage eating after dinner and during meals
- Introduce every type of food to infants and make them like it via different methods
- Do not make fun of or demean obese people
- Play your part in discouraging thin-body culture
- Treatment of depression, anxiety, and emotional traumas via medicines, counseling, or therapy