Eating disorders are a group of mental illnesses that affect the way you feel about food, the way you feel about your body, and yourself. They lead to dangerous eating behaviours. The most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder. Eating disorders can harm the heart, digestive system, bones, teeth, and mouth, and lead to other diseases, too. They often develop in the teen and young adult years, although they can develop at other ages too.
An eating disorder is dangerous, but treatable. With help, you can return to healthier eating habits and even reverse the complications caused by the eating disorder.
What is normal?
Today’s culture has become image-obsessed, so many of us worry about putting on weight or wish we looked different. And, many of us turn to food when we’re feeling lonely, bored, or stressed. These are all pretty normal behaviours. But if your eating habits have been overtaken by a preoccupation with your body, body image, or weight, you may have an eating disorder.
What are common signs and symptoms?
Symptoms vary, depending on the type of eating disorder.
- Feeling fat even if you’re underweight
- Fixation on body image
- Harshly critical of appearance
- Denial that you’re too thin
- Dieting despite being thin
- Dramatic weight loss
- Using diet pills, laxatives, or diuretics
- Throwing up after eating
- Compulsive exercising
- Obsession with calories, fat, and nutrition
- Pretending to eat or lying about eating
- Preoccupation with food
- Strange or secretive food rituals
- Lack of control over eating
- Secrecy around eating
- Eating unusually large amounts of food
- Disappearance of food
- Alternating between overeating and fasting
- Going to the bathroom after meals
- Using laxatives, diuretics, or enemas
- Smell of vomit
- Excessive exercising
- Calluses or scars on knuckles or hands from inducing vomiting
- Discoloured teeth from exposure to stomach acid when throwing up
- Frequent fluctuations in weight
- Inability to stop eating or control what you eat
- Rapidly eating large amounts of food
- Eating even when you’re full
- Hiding or stockpiling food to eat later in secret
- Eating normally around others, but gorging when you’re alone
- Eating continuously throughout the day, with no planned mealtimes
- Feeling stress or tension that is only relieved by eating
- Embarrassment over how much you’re eating
- Never feeling satisfied, no matter how much you eat
- Feeling guilty, disgusted, or depressed after overeating
- Desperation to control weight and eating habits
Should I seek help?
An eating disorder can be difficult to manage or overcome by yourself. Eating disorders can virtually take over your life. If you're experiencing any of these problems, or if you think you may have an eating disorder, seek medical help.
Many people with eating disorders may not think they need treatment. If you're worried about a loved one, urge him or her to talk to a doctor. Even if your loved one isn't ready to acknowledge having an issue with food, you can open the door by expressing concern and a desire to listen.
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