Despite their prevalence, eating disorders are poorly understood by many individuals. It is challenging to get therapy because of the stigma, myths, and misconceptions associated with anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and other types of disordered eating. Understanding is the first step in overcoming eating problems, so the following facts are essential to know.
Eating Disorders Affect Everyone
People of any age, colour, gender or sexual orientation can suffer from eating problems. Although they are frequently identified in adolescents and young adults, some individuals receive their first eating disorder diagnosis in their later years.
During adolescence, our bodies go through a lot of changes. For some young people, these adjustments can be very challenging. People unhappy with their body image may occasionally resort to disordered eating. The risk factors associated with eating disorders are widespread, although not everyone dissatisfied with their appearance will go on to develop an eating problem.
Several eating disorders affect females more than they do males, however, people of all genders are impacted by eating problems. Compared to cisgender youth, eating disorder symptoms are more common among transgender, non-binary, and gender-diverse youth (those whose gender aligns with the sex assigned to them at birth).
Eating Disorders Are Less Likely to Be Treated in Men
Men are still less likely than women to seek treatment for disordered eating, despite eating disorders affecting people of all demographics. Men tend to suffer in silence due to social stigmas resulting in shame. Others less likely to seek treatment for eating disorders and other mental illnesses include members of minority populations.
One of the reasons men may be less likely to be treated for eating disorders is that they experience more barriers to accessing support and may be less likely to be diagnosed in the first place. It may be hard for people experiencing eating disorder symptoms to talk about their behaviour due to concern about what others think. Furthermore, some individuals may worry about false stereotypes, making it harder for people to get the help they need.
Eating Disorders Have Genetic and Environmental Roots
While some studies contend that there is a genetic connection to eating problems, other factors may be more important. The development of eating disorders can be influenced by poverty, media-constructed beauty standards, and dysfunctional family circumstances.
Eating disorders are influenced by various genetic and environmental factors, most of which have a minimal to moderate impact. Neither bulimia nervosa nor anorexia nervosa have a single indicator gene. Research suggests there are more likely to be several genes that produce proteins that affect traits that indicate susceptibility to these diseases.
Eating Disorders Can’t Be Diagnosed on Appearance Alone
The physical appearance of those who suffer from eating disorders is another detrimental stigma. It’s not always the case that someone has an eating disorder just because they appear to be underweight or overweight. Most sufferers of eating disorders do not resemble the stereotypical figure frequently presented in the media.
These perceptions can worsen the situation and may make eating disorder patients anxious because they worry they’re not “ill enough” or “good enough” at their condition to warrant treatment. Furthermore, a person’s weight is not a reliable indicator of whether they are dealing with conditions such as binge eating disorder, the most common eating disorder. It’s crucial to keep in mind that a severe eating disorder can affect a person of any weight. Just because someone might be deemed average weight following treatment, it doesn’t mean they have recovered.
Eating Disorders Can Be Hard to Recognise
A preoccupation with food intake is the underlying characteristic of all eating disorders. Some people’s response to this is purging, or bingeing. Others are consumed by calorie counting, dieting all the time, or excessive exercise. It might be challenging to identify these symptoms as manifestations of disordered eating. Sometimes people think exercise and eating routines are beneficial, but obsessive thoughts or trouble managing eating patterns might have adverse effects.
Eating Disorders Can Have Life-threatening Consequences
Eating disorders are serious, possibly fatal illnesses that impact a person’s physical and mental health. They are complex conditions that can have a severely negative impact on relationships, productivity, and health.
People who develop eating disorders need professional assistance because they can impact every organ system in the body. The success of physical and mental recovery is increased the earlier an individual with an eating issue receives therapy.
Eating Disorders Can Shorten Life Expectancy
As a mental illness that has physical consequences, some of the possible side effects of eating disorders can reduce the life expectancy of individuals. According to a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry by experts from the UK, those who suffer from eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa have a far higher chance of dying prematurely than the general population.
Several minor and severe bodily repercussions can result from eating disorders. Some of the more noticeable physical symptoms include excessive thinness, brittle hair and nails, dry skin, and reduced muscle mass. However, additional health diseases, including type II diabetes and pancreatitis, can also be brought on by eating disorders. Other long-term physical impacts of eating disorders include heart and circulation system damage, slowed brain function, gastroparesis, and hypothermia.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), depression, and anxiety are also common adverse effects of anorexia nervosa, which can lead to an increased risk of suicide.
Eating Disorders Are More Than Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa
There are four recognised categories of eating disorders: anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and restrictive food intake disorder. Other eating disorders are unspecified, which include conditions such as pica (eating non-food items), rumination disorder, and diabulimia. These conditions often exist without symptoms which means they are categorised as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa.
Eating Disorders Tend To Be Co-occurring Disorders
Disordered eating is frequently a sign of underlying problems. Unresolved emotional trauma or co-occurring mental health conditions might be examples of this. As a result, rehabilitation from eating disorders requires a thorough strategy that combines medical and behavioural health care.
In many cases, individuals will be solely treated for their specific eating disorder, and their depression or anxiety will be disregarded. This is problematic because these mental health struggles may drive the eating disorder. The likelihood of people with eating disorders relapsing and returning to bingeing and purging behaviour increases if their depression or anxiety is left untreated. The following mental health issues frequently occur with eating disorders and are known as co-occurring disorders:
- Substance abuse
- Borderline-personality disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
Recovery Is Possible
The process of recovering from an eating problem is unique for every person who develops one. For some people, recovery might mean never experiencing negative eating thoughts again. In contrast, for others, it might be that these ideas are still present, but they occur less frequently and are less disruptive to their everyday lives because they can manage them using the coping processes and techniques they have acquired.
At The Wave, we are aware of the challenges associated with having an eating disorder. It is possible that what may have started as an emphasis on healthy nutrition or attaining the idealistic teenage body image got out of hand. A specific disorder may have also developed due to early trauma or abuse, contextual variables like culture and stigma, or peer pressure.
No matter what, we recognise that your overall health comes first. If you’re prepared to seek help, The Wave will work with you to address the underlying causes of your disorder, develop coping mechanisms and appropriate eating habits, and get rid of what may otherwise be a fatal condition.