Eating Disorders

Overview

There is a commonly held misconception that eating disorders are a lifestyle choice. Eating disorders are actually serious and often fatal illnesses that are associated with severe disturbances in people’s eating behaviors and related thoughts and emotions. Preoccupation with food, body weight, and shape may also signal an eating disorder. Common eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder.

Signs and Symptoms

Anorexia nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is a condition where people avoid food, severely restrict food, or eat very small quantities of only certain foods. They also may weigh themselves repeatedly. Even when dangerously underweight, they may see themselves as overweight.

There are two subtypes of anorexia nervosa: a restrictive subtype and a binge-purge subtype.

Restrictive: People with the restrictive subtype of anorexia nervosa severely limit the amount and type of food they consume.

Binge-Purge: People with the binge-purge subtype of anorexia nervosa also greatly restrict the amount and type of food they consume. In addition, they may have binge-eating and purging episodes—eating large amounts of food in a short time followed by vomiting or using laxatives or diuretics to get rid of what was consumed.

Anorexia nervosa can be fatal. It has an extremely high death (mortality) rate compared with other mental disorders. People with anorexia are at risk of dying from medical complications associated with starvation. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people diagnosed with anorexia nervosa.

If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs immediate help, call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL) at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Symptoms include:

  • Extremely restricted eating
  • Extreme thinness (emaciation)
  • A relentless pursuit of thinness and unwillingness to maintain a normal or healthy weight
  • Intense fear of gaining weight
  • Distorted body image, a self-esteem that is heavily influenced by perceptions of body weight and shape, or a denial of the seriousness of low body weight

Other symptoms may develop over time, including:

  • Thinning of the bones (osteopenia or osteoporosis)
  • Mild anemia and muscle wasting and weakness
  • Brittle hair and nails
  • Dry and yellowish skin
  • Growth of fine hair all over the body (lanugo)
  • Severe constipation
  • Low blood pressure
  • Slowed breathing and pulse
  • Damage to the structure and function of the heart
  • Brain damage
  • Multiorgan failure
  • Drop in internal body temperature, causing a person to feel cold all the time
  • Lethargy, sluggishness, or feeling tired all the time
  • Infertility

Bulimia nervosa

Bulimia nervosa is a condition where people have recurrent and frequent episodes of eating unusually large amounts of food and feeling a lack of control over these episodes. This binge-eating is followed by behavior that compensates for the overeating such as forced vomiting, excessive use of laxatives or diuretics, fasting, excessive exercise, or a combination of these behaviors. People with bulimia nervosa may be slightly underweight, normal weight, or over overweight.

Symptoms include:

  • Chronically inflamed and sore throat
  • Swollen salivary glands in the neck and jaw area
  • Worn tooth enamel and increasingly sensitive and decaying teeth as a result of exposure to stomach acid
  • Acid reflux disorder and other gastrointestinal problems
  • Intestinal distress and irritation from laxative abuse
  • Severe dehydration from purging of fluids
  • Electrolyte imbalance (too low or too high levels of sodium, calcium, potassium, and other minerals) which can lead to stroke or heart attack  read more

The cost of staying silent on mental health

When his self-employment worries escalated, a writer found it hard to ask for help

Earlier this year, I admitted myself to psychiatric hospital. I went in voluntarily, only to watch nurses search through my possessions to remove anything I could harm myself with: razor, pills, iPhone cable. I was put on watch, and for days I was not allowed outside unaccompanied.

I shared a ward with people in financial services, law, advertising, the drinks industry, commercial aviation, the military, and more. Men and women diagnosed with depression, anxiety, bulimia, anorexia, self-harming, personality disorders, and chronic addiction to drink, drugs and gambling.  more

People share what it was like to be admitted to a mental health hospital

There is still a huge stigma around mental health hospitals.
Many horror films are set within abandoned mental health hospitals, creating a common perception that they’re places of outdated, horrific treatments and people screaming in the corridors.
This isn’t reflective of reality.

30-year-old Rebecca has been admitted to a psychiatric hospital three times. The first was in June 2008, the second October 2009, and the third June 2010. All of these admissions were for anorexia.

People share what it was like to be admitted to a mental health hospital

There is still a huge stigma around mental health hospitals.

Many horror films are set within abandoned mental health hospitals, creating a common perception that they’re places of outdated, horrific treatments and people screaming in the corridors.
This isn’t reflective of reality. 30-year-old Rebecca has been admitted to a psychiatric hospital three times.
The first was in June 2008, the second October 2009, and the third June 2010.
All of these admissions were for anorexia.

Rebecca tells Metro.co.uk: ‘For the first admission, I had no idea that psych hospitals really existed and had no ideas of what it would be like. ‘I was very annoyed to be admitted to hospital because I wanted to carry on losing weight. ‘For the second admission I knew what I was expecting and had a definite target set before I was admitted so I knew what I needed to do.’  more

This is what body shaming is doing to your mental health: Why you should refrain from body shaming

Body shaming, as the name suggests, is shaming someone for their body shape or body type. It is a modern term recently coined and talked about, but body shaming in practice has existed for a very long time.

People have a definite notion of “beauty” which defines standards of skin colour, body dimensions, hair length, or the kind of clothes someone should or should not wear. People are always too thin, too fat, too tall, too short, too dark, or too fair for the society, and it has repercussions that are not even realised in everyday life. Body shaming affects mental and physical health in surprising ways- both for the person who is body shaming and the one who is being body shamed.  more

These people are talking about mental health in the most empowering way across Instagram

Every day on Instagram we see people share their stories around mental health. From dedicated accounts tackling real issues, to hashtags of support and kind comments, Instagram has become a community of support to many.

This World Mental Health Day, we’re celebrating those making a positive difference to people’s lives every single day via social media.

With hashtags such as #WorldMentalHealthDay, #itsoknottobeok and #mentalhealthawareness rapidly growing, supporting positive mental health is a top priority for the Instagram community, with Instagram providing a safe space to those seeking information, help and support.   more

Eating Disorders: A Guide to Getting Treatment for A Healthy Future

Your eating behaviors will change throughout your entire life. Part of transitioning into adulthood involves learning how to be healthy without overdoing it. You also have to figure out how to love your body rather than be ashamed of it. For many people, this is no simple task.

When damaging eating behaviors and negative thoughts become persistent, they can turn into eating disorders. Up to 30 million people in the United States suffer from an eating disorder. These disorders are characterized by a lack of control over eating habits, which can include eating very small or very large amounts, and a hyper focus on your weight and body shape.  more

My anorexia didn’t come from a ‘fear of eating’ – it started because I found comfort in habit and routine

I will never forget the car journey home from the clinic after I was diagnosed with anorexia. I sat in the back seat, looked out the window and let everything sink in.

The week that followed was the first week where I didn’t dance, horseride, do PE or even walk to school. Before all of this had happened, I used to worship those occasional car rides to school, but now the regular car rides back and forth felt like rubbing salt in the wound. It was during those car rides that I realised how much I enjoyed walking to school with my mother in the early morning. I guess it’s true what they say: you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.  more

The Hunger: A True Story of Anorexia

When Maura Kelly’s mother died and her family came unglued, she found a way to cope — but it nearly killed her too.

It was in the eighth grade — four years after my mother died — that I first remember becoming unhappy with my body. Every night, after brushing my teeth and squeezing some blackheads, I’d look in the mirror and pound on my abdomen with my fists. Although I know now that it was just an early sign of puberty, I was disgusted by the way my belly had begun to protrude under the band of my underwear. So I got the idea to make it disappear by losing five pounds, then 10, and then 15. Pretty soon I was addicted to losing. more

What is an eating disorder?

Amy’s Story

Life with an eating disorder, if you can call it life, is similar to a puppet show. You are the dancing, smiling puppet, and your disorder is the puppeteer. It calls the shots and pulls the strings. It tells you when you’re going to eat and how much. It even writes the script, putting its own values where yours used to be. All of a sudden, you don’t care about your health, your friends or your dreams. All you care about is being thin, and you don’t even really know how it happened, when, or why. So there you go, smiling as your bony body bounces around onstage. Some clap at your slenderness, while most stare in horror at what you’ve become. They don’t know that you go backstage and cry because you’re tired, hungry and scared.

It’s funny because I consider myself a very educated, intelligent, beautiful and successful woman – but a few years ago I was trapped with an eating disorder.

It started out so simple; in high school with the desire to be thin, and ended up as a powerful, inner, self-loathing endless mental battle. I slowly began to lose not only my weight, but my reality, my mind, my friends as well as anything and everything that I cared and loved. Anorexia had 100% control of me and my life. I was no longer Amy. I was an eating disorder, a lying, destructive, conniving eating disorder  more