In today’s society there are so many social media outlets that can cause an individual to really start to doubt themselves especially their physical appearance. Society pressures, relationships, depression and anxiety, history of abuse/trauma, and just insecurities can lead to unhealthy coping skills. A primary example of these unhealthy coping skills could be disordered eating patterns. Disordered eating patterns can be a broad concept; it can start with emotional eating to help push away emotions that you are not ready to face or are having difficulty expressing. It could also be a way to try to control yourself when you feel out of control of the things going on in your life at that time. Disordered eating patterns can lead to an eating disorder when the individual loses control.
A person with an eating disorder may have started out just eating smaller or larger amounts of food than usual, but at some point, the urge to eat less or more can spiral out of control and the maladaptive patterns of eating take on a life of their own. These eating disorders typically include Bulimia Nervosa and Anorexia Nervosa.
Anorexia Nervosa is a condition that is diagnosed to an individual who are unable to maintain a normal weight because of refusing to eat enough, may engage in exercise excessively, and may engage in forcing themselves to participate in an activity that can cause them to lose weight quicker (i.e vomiting and/or laxatives). Individuals who are diagnosed with Anorexia tend to have difficulty sorting through negative thoughts which can include the fear of being “fat” due to eating, an unrealistic and unhealthy view of what they look like in regards to body image, and will typically resort to limiting food intake.
Signs of Anorexia
Although everyone is different there are a few warning signs to be aware of. An individual who is presently struggling with a diagnosis of Anorexia may show the following signs/symptoms:
- A stop within their monthly menstrual periods
- Hair/nails become brittle
- Skin dries and can take on a yellowish cast
- Severe constipation
- Drop in blood pressure, slowed breathing and pulse rates
- Internal body temperature falls, causing person to feel cold all the time
- Depression and lethargy
Bulimia is a serious eating disorder that involves both bingeing and purging. Bingeing is when you eat a large amount of food in a short period of time. Puring is an unhealthy way to rid your body of those extra calories. A typical way this is completed is by forcing yourself to vomit after consuming food. However this is not the only way to purge. The individual can also participate in a strict diet, fasting, overly exercise, or use laxatives.
Signs of Bulimia Nervosa
As previously mentioned in regards to Anorexia Nervosa, everyone is different therefore the signs and symptoms can vary depending on the person. However here are a few red flags to be aware of:
- Eating large amounts of food in isolation
- Being unable to control how much they eat
- Vomiting after meals
- Using laxatives, diuretics, enemas, or other pills after eating when they’re not needed
- Exercising or dieting excessively
- Experiencing frequent weight changes
- Suffering from fainting or dizziness spells
- Displaying physical changes caused by vomiting, such as bad breath, damaged teeth, swelling around the cheeks, broken blood vessels in the eyes, or calluses on the knuckles (from gagging)
- Feeling constipated or bloated
- Feeling tired
- Experiencing menstrual period changes
- Engaging in repetitive, secretive, or antisocial behaviors related to food
- Being intensely concerned with body weight
- Using dietary supplements incorrectly
Consequences of Eating Disorders
Disordered eating patterns, especially anorexia and bulimia, can create a variety of emotional and physical pain. This includes the risk for increased anxiety and depression. Eating disorders can create a very isolated lifestyle due to the need to be separated from those they love and interact with so the signs of the eating disorder is not observed. It can also increase the insecurities and doubt the individual has which contributes even more to the anxiety and depression that is involved. Physical consequences can differ from person to person however some common consequences include low blood pressure, the risk for heart concerns, muscle loss and weakness, dehydration, fatigue and weakness, and dry hair and nails.
Another consequence of eating disorders can include the cross addiction that can form in regards to substance use. Because certain substances can help self medicate those insecurities the individual has and the anxiety and depression that is present;which can include marijuana, alcohol, and other substances. This can create a dual diagnosis. However some substances can also contribute to the loss of weight (methamphetamines, cocaine, and heroin). This can be a harmful combination because for the individual struggling with an eating disorder may have the outcome and results they are aiming for by engaging in drugs and alcohol use they are now creating a more dangerous situation that can lead to death if they consume too much.
Treatment for Eating Disorders
It is important to note there are other components to eating disorders other than Anorexia and Bulimia including; Binge eating disorder, Eating disorder not other specified, and Pica (the condition related to eating things that are not food). Due to this treatment approaches are not cookie cutter and vary depending on the person and the diagnosis they presently have.
Treatment for eating disorders can include inpatient and outpatient treatment. The treatment team should include a registered dietician, mental health professional, and your family/support. There are a variety of treatment approaches that have been identified as successful components for treating eating disorders which include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy. When engaged within cognitive behavioral therapy the individual will focus on their behaviors as well as their thoughts and feelings related to the eating disorder. This approach enables the opportunity to begin to identify the need to change and action steps to help with that change process.
- Family-based therapy. At this time, family members will be provided with the opportunity to learn different ways they can engage and help you restore healthy eating patterns.
- Group cognitive behavioral therapy. Group therapy can be challenging because it forces you to be in a vulnerable state where you are in an environment where you are expressing your concerns and feelings with others around you. It can help you address thoughts, feelings and behaviors related to your eating disorder, learn skills to manage symptoms, and regain healthy eating patterns with other individuals who are also in a similar situation as you. It’s a great way to feel accepted and not alone.