The term ‘eating disorder’ refers to a complex, potentially life-threatening condition, characterised by severe disturbances in eating behaviors.
Eating disorders can be seen as a way of coping with emotional distress, or as a symptom of underlying issues.
- Eating disorders are not primarily about food
- People can and do recover
- Eating disorders can affect anyone
Eating disorders are characterised by a variety of disordered eating behaviors such as:
- Self-starvation – by fasting and/or food restriction
- Purging – by self-induced vomiting, over-exercising, or laxative abuse
- Bingeing – by consuming quantities of food beyond what the body needs to satisfy hunger
An eating disorder can be very destructive, both physically and emotionally, and people can get trapped into the destructive cycle of the eating disorder without knowing how to cope with it.
An eating disorder is not just about food and weight, but also about a person’s sense of who they are.
Treatment of an eating disorder will require attention to both the physical and the psychological/emotional aspects of the person. Treatment must always include respect for and sensitivity for the overall well-being of the person.
The distress of a person experiencing an eating disorder, whether or not it is acknowledged, may have a considerable impact on family and friends.
A person male or female who suffers from anorexic behaviour, is frequently a perfectionist at heart, and highly sensitive to the criticism of others. In addition, they may be highly able, even gifted and talented, but has a tendency to expect too much of themselves and so drives him/herself very hard. Even if they appear very well organised, they are very anxious about achieving.
People with this condition have a pre-occupation with their weight and size and a real terror of gaining weight and eating in case they get ‘fat’ even when they are very underweight. Someone with anorexia does not ‘see’ themselves as others see them, instead seeing themselves as being ‘fat’ even when they are very small and emaciated. Most sufferers of anorexia have a distorted body image, a very low level of confidence and self esteem which has an affect on their eating condition.
Most anorexics have ‘rules’ that they have put in place, like the amount of calories they are ‘allowed’ in a day, what foods to avoid and how much to have. Some anorexics purge to remove food that they have eaten or take laxatives to speed up the digestion processor take up excessive exercise to be slimmer. All of these methods are dangerous as they can cause electrolyte imbalance and heart arrhythmia.
Anorexia often becomes a way of coping with life and demonstrating control of body weight and shape. However, ultimately the disorder itself becomes overwhelming, taking control, causing chemical changes in the body and affecting the brain. This causes distorted thinking and makes it almost impossible for the sufferer to make rational decisions.