What is an eating disorder

Aug 28, 2018

Eating disorders are mental illnesses that cause severe problems in a person’s everyday diet and can trigger extreme thoughts, emotions, feelings, beliefs, and behaviors about weight and food. There are several different types of eating disorders including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge-eating disorder, and eating disorder not otherwise specified. Eating disorder not otherwise specified includes individuals that do not meet criteria for the other eating disorders, but still have extreme issues with weight and food. In addition to unusual eating behaviors, individuals with eating disorders typically experience distress and concern about body image.

It is a common misconception that individuals with eating disorders are thin or underweight. Many overweight and obese individuals suffer from eating disorders. An eating disorders can begin by eating extremely small amounts of food or dangerously large amounts. Sometimes eating disorders begin in childhood, but can also manifest later in life. Eating disorders can affect men and women causing severe problems in health, mental health, wellbeing, and fertility.  An eating disorders is not the same as overeating. These individuals experience an obsession with food that takes over a person’s life and causes extreme behavior changes. Many people feel they have little control in other aspects of their life and their focus on weight and food become a way to gain control over one part of their life.

Some eating patterns that could signal an eating disorder include: 

  • Skipping meals with a chaotic eating schedule
  • Heavy snacking/grazing between meals
  • Repeatedly eating large amounts of calorie dense foods
  • Losing control while eating
  • Excessive exercise
  • Following an overly restrictive diet
  • Withdrawing from normal social gatherings
  • Sneaking food and/or eating in secret
  • Eating until you feel sick
  • Purging after you eat
  • Frequently looking at yourself in the mirror for flaws in your physical appearance
  • Depression, guilt, shame, and disgust about eating habits and behaviors
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