What are eating disorders?
Eating disorders refer to complex conditions characterised by potentially life-threatening disturbances in a person’s eating habits and behaviours.
Common behavioural patterns include:
- Self-starvation by fasting and/or food restriction
- Purging by self-induced vomiting, over-exercising, or laxative abuse
- Binging by consuming quantities of food far beyond hunger levels
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More about eating disorders
Eating disorders can be understood as a coping mechanism for emotional distress, or perhaps as indicative or symptomatic of other underlying issues. Consequently as the destructive cycle of the eating disorder wreaks physical and emotional harm, individuals commonly surrender their sense of themselves.
Furthermore people may constantly monitor their weight, size and shape, viewing weight gain as catastrophic and weight loss as imperative. They will invariably hold distorted and negative self-views about their body image and their personalities. Low self-esteem generally overshadows suppression of their true needs whilst extreme mood swings intersperse and complicate everyday interactions with others.
The following points about eating disorders are also worthy of attention:
- Eating disorders can affect anyone and they are often perceived as high achievers
- Individuals with an eating disorder use food as a control mechanism in their lives
- People can and do recover from these conditions
The main eating disorders fall into 3 categories:
- Anorexia Nervosa
- Bulimia Nervosa
- Binge Eating Disorder
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http://tjez.gob.mx/perdakosis/9964 Anorexia Nervosa
Continuous and concerted actions to reach and maintain a weight lower than average for weight, age, sex, and height by restricting food or calories, over-exercising, or inducing vomiting are behaviours symptomatic of anorexia nervosa (HSE 2012). Approximately 1 in 250 women and 1 in 2000 men will develop anorexia typically around the age of 16 to 17 (HSE, 2015).
Bulimia nervosa constitutes repeated episodes of binge eating but then purging through one or a combination of induced vomiting, excessive exercise, or misuse of laxatives, with detection difficult due to body weight often remaining within normal ranges. Bulimia is five times more common than anorexia with 90% of those with this condition being females from the ages of 18 to 19 (HSE, 2015).
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Binge eating disorders mean a person also engages in repeated binge eating episodes but without intentions or actions of ridding their body of food through unnatural or assisted means. Solitude can surround vicious diet-binge-shame cycles for 4% of the population many of whom will have a body mass index (BMI) in excess of 30. Males and females experience binge eating disorders in equal measure and it is thought to develop most often between the ages of 30 and 40 (HSE, 2015).
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Individuals may perceive that they are exercising control over food, their bodies and even their lives within the confines of an eating disorder, affording access to an otherwise unattainable sense of safety.
Generally a combination of complex factors (biological, psychological, familial and socio-cultural) enable the development of an eating disorder. Common risk factors promoting their manifestation include:
- Familial patterns of eating disorders, depression or substance misuse
- Receiving regular criticism regarding body weight, size or shape and eating habits
- Professional and external expectations to maintain slim or small body frames (dancers, models or athletes)
- Specific personality characteristics, conditions and predispositions such as anxiety disorders, poor self-esteem, perfectionism and obsessive personality disorder
- Episodes of sexual or emotional abuse or the death of a loved one
- Conflict within the family home or within social circles
- Consistent exposure to pressure or stress at school, university or in the workplace
- Poor sense of own self-identity particularly in adolescence
- Over investing emotionally in the opinions of peers or colleagues
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