Do I have An Eating Disorder?
Guest Post by Brian Tran
(Note from Z: Hi Friends. Unless you have an eating disorder, there can be a lot of confusion about them. The guest post below is a simple guide for friends, family, and even you if you’re slipping into the disorder and aren’t sure it’s an actual problem yet. Share it with someone in your life that can help. Check out the extra resources at the end of the post.)
The ubiquitous nature of social media exposes many young teens and adults alike to look to unrealistic standards when it comes to the perception of an “ideal” body type. These standards are imposed everywhere around us- and can have detrimental effects to how we perceive health.
Early childhood to adolescence is a period of time where one can be especially vulnerable to developing an eating disorder.
While there is an unfortunate variety of eating disorders, I will talk about some of the main eating disorders that are consistently seen in diagnoses.
First and foremost, it is important to recognize that if you feel like you truly struggle with any matters regarding your body image, you communicate with your closest peers/loved ones with your thoughts. Do not feel embarrassed or ashamed to call for help, if you develop any of the habits that are associated with an eating disorder.
Statistically speaking, adolescents with eating disorders face significant impairment- especially through instances of comorbidity with other eating disorders. This means that there are times when an individual with an Eating Disorder can be preoccupied with more than just one.
Preventing further Onset
Prevention Programs can be the best option if you or your friend notice the onset of an eating disorder. Early prevention is most effective when treating individuals that may be suffering from eating disorder- it can increase the chances of preventing the complete development of an eating disorder.
Main Types of Eating Disorders
Below are some types of eating disorders that one should have a comprehensive understanding of. While these aren’t the only types, do not come to quick conclusions concerning your (or your friend’s) potential status of having an eating disorder. Consult a professional for further information. Below are some of the most prevalent disorders:
- i) Anorexia Nervosa (AN) is described as a disorder that leads to an inadequate consumption of food for an irrational fear of not having the “perfect body.” These fears stem from the desire to have absolute control over their body image and weight. This disorder is characterized also by a significant impairment in the daily functions of other parts of their lives. In short, if you or a friend are experiencing a significant amount thoughts of preserving your image- to the point where it interferes with other parts of your life, please call for help. There is no shame in it. Everyone needs a support system in the most difficult part of their lives.
1. i) Immense fear of gaining weight – to the point where the individual obsessively carries out consistent behaviors to prevent weight gain.
2. ii) Self-esteem is strongly associated with body image.
3. iii) Binge Eating and purging behaviors within the last 3 months.
4. Lack of food intake.
1. i) Muscle Loss
2. ii) Dry Skin
3. iii) Hair Loss
4. iv) Overall Feeling of Weakness
Binge Eating Disorder
- i) Binge Eating Disorder, commonly abbreviated as BED, describes a consistent series of episodes surrounding the mass consumption of food, which is followed by feelings of guilt/distress post-binge. Often times, the individual can not help but continue to eat in large quantities, even to the point of discomfort.
- i) The diagnostic criteria for Binge Eating Disorder includes:
- Recurrent Episodes of Binge Eating: Eating an abnormally large amount of food within a given interval (usually no more than 2 hours at a time). Also accompanied by a lack of control over the eating.
- Associated with three or more of the following: Eating quicker than normal standards, eating even if uncomfortably full, eating copious amounts of food when not naturally hungry, eating alone, as well as experiencing feelings of guilt and/or shame due to the amount eaten.
- Binge eating occurs at least once a week for three months.
- Purging the food can happen as well.
- i) High Blood Pressure
- ii) High Cholesterol Levels
- iii) Fatigue
- iv) Joint Pain
- v) Sleep Apnea
- i) The diagnostic criteria for Binge Eating Disorder includes:
- i) Bulimia Nervosa, or BN, is characterized by elements of BED, however, the cycle also involves instances of purging to undo the effects of binge eating.
- i) The symptoms include feelings of loss of control when consuming large amounts of food. Much like AN, BN also seems to a link between self-esteem and body image.
- i) Consequences of BN can be significant. The cycle of binging and purging can do damage to the digestive system. Electrolyte imbalance (made by the cycle of purging) can cause the body to have a lack of Potassium and Sodium in the body. Consequently, it can lead to heart failure and ultimately death.
- ii) Tooth Decay can occur via the stomach acid that passes through when the individual is in the process of purging.
- iii) Inflammation of the esophagus from frequent cycles of purging.
Dispelling the Myths.
For those who believe that a person afflicted with an Eating Disorder can simply start eating more to recover is wrongly mistaken. Eating Disorders are extremely serious and need to be treated as an illness. Sometimes, some may perceive an eating disorder as a lifestyle choice. It is not.
These illnesses cause an immense amount of suffering. To those who think about having an Eating Disorder be “a choice,” it is not. Who would choose to constantly obsess over their body image to the point where it causes distress in other parts of their lives? Any individual with an Eating Disorder must be referred to a specialist in order to properly address their illness.
Many also seem to perceive that one can tell if they have an eating disorder just by simply looking at their physical appearance. That is also false. People come in different shapes and sizes. Regardless of these differences, all of them are prone to it.
The myth that men do not suffer from Eating Disorders is also false. 1 in 10 men are also prone to developing a disorder. It is also regarded that up to 40% of people with BED are men.
Nutrition is one of the biggest components in order to lead back on the road to recovery. While it is obvious that the person with an Eating Disorder needs to eat better, a large element of treatment also involves psychotherapy. Counseling and monitoring these illnesses on a daily level can aid in the recovery of that individual.
An example includes Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which is designed to correct any misguided thinking patterns, and to dispel any type of negative (and incorrect) belief that can trigger these recurrent episodes.
- Occurrences of these Eating Disorders can be attributed to previous family history associated with eating disorders. Deficiencies in nutrition, as well as hormonal factors, can also lead to these issues.
- As stated previously, levels of low self-esteem and therefore negative body image can be a risk factor for developing an Eating Disorder.
- The influence of media, standards of what “real” beauty are, as well as the physical presence of your peers can influence anyone’s standards into perceiving what having an “ideal body” is. Family and/or cultural values can serve to be an enormous influence in this process.
For those who have such intrusive thoughts about their body image, and see that you or a friend may suffer from these behaviors, do not hesitate to talk to someone who you trust. Revealing that you have this potential problem may be tough. However, the sooner that this issue is addressed, the quicker the intervention can be. While recovering from an Eating Disorder may be challenging, it is possible. Such recovery can take months or years. While it may seem long, those who used to be afflicted now are free from these obsessive thoughts and continue their lives on a much better path.
Brian Tran is a soon-to-be graduate of the University of California San Diego with a Bachelor’s in Social Psychology and History. He’s an avid Lacrosse fan and enjoys promoting a healthy lifestyle that encompasses a sound mind and body. You can find him blogging at TherapyCable.com.
Further Recovery Resources:
- How to Find a Therapist You Love
- Z’s Recommendations for Recovery Books
- Surviving ED, an ongoing blog at Healthy Place that I write for, all about eating disorder recovery. You can find helpful articles from myself, and other bloggers, to assist you on your recovery road.
- Men, Eating Disorders, and Chasing Impossible Perfection
- Some great resources can be found in the left sidebar of this article: Why It Took Me So Long to Recover from My Eating Disorder
- Is My Massage Therapist Judging My Body?
- Stop Weighing Yourself: How to End a Love Affair with your Scale
- Stop Freaking Out About Cellulite: The Simple Question You Didn’t Think to Ask