When you go to a restaurant or have a meal at home, what’s your first response? For most people, their mouth waters and their stomach grumbles. This response is usually considered normal. However there is a part of the population that does not see food as everyone else does. This is where eating disorders could come into play. Individuals with eating disorders are the same as you and I. They go to school or work, interact with the community, and even have successful relationships. These individuals run into problems with food, however, in a way that is not considered normal to the average human. In the United Stated today about 20 million females and 10 million males suffer from some type of eating disorder at some point in their life.
Eating disorders are classified as “Serious conditions that involve extreme emotions, behaviors, and attitudes surrounding food”. There are three main types of eating disorders, although some can be classified as Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorders (OSFED) which do not fall within the three main categories. Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Binge Eating are the three most prevalent types of eating disorders in America today. These disorders have the highest mortality rate among all mental illnesses because most individuals tend to hide there habits from family and friends.
Anorexia Nervosa is classified in the DSM-5, a manual for the diagnosis of mental disorders, as the restriction of food leading to low body weight, an intense fear of becoming fat or gaining weight even though the individual is under weight, and the distorted perception of body image in regards to weight and shape. People with this ED have a distorted image of themselves where they view their body as fat and overweight when in reality they are severally underweight. This perceived image often leads to food restriction and purging behaviors. Of all the people with anorexia 90 to 95% are young females.
The next is bulimia nervosa. With bulimia, as according to the DSM-5, there are episodes of binge eating in which a large amount of food is consumed in a short amount of time coupled with a sense of no control of behaviors during the episode. The next key piece of bulimia is the recurrent behaviors of purging to prevent weight gain. These behaviors must be present at lease once a week for three months. Individuals with bulimia also have a negative self image in regards to weight similar to anorexia. Today bulimia affects one to two percent of adolescent and young adult females. This illness is also often associated with symptoms of depression.
The last of the three main EDs is Binge Eating. Although binge eating can be associated with bulimia, on it’s own binge eating is something different. The big difference between binge eating and bulimia is that binge eating is not associated with a negative purging behaviors. These binge eating episodes can include eating faster than normal, feeling uncomfortable full, eating a lot when you do not feel hungry, isolated eating due to shame, and a feeling of disgust at oneself. An individual with BED, or binge eating disorder, will tend to eat large amounts of food in isolation but will not follow up with purging activities such as throwing up or excessive use of laxatives.
Treatments for eating disorders include what is know to be a team approach. Each treatment plan is tailored to the individual and their needs. A team of a psychologist or psychiatrist, a social worker, and the individual’s primary care doctor work to provide psychotherapy and most times medication to assist the patient. The treatment will take time and patience in order to work successfully. Individuals with eating disorders can get better with the help of their team and the support of family and friends.
So let me ask, what’s your take on food? The answer to this question is up to you and you alone. If you suspect that you or someone close to you may have an eating disorder it is best to talk to someone that can provide access to help. Eating disorders, like any other mental illness, do not define people. This is only a part of what they go through and who they are. Individuals with EDs are no more different that one person to another and should be treated with respect along with the everyone else.