Eating disorders: How to deal with them
Written by Emma Burbidge Posted in Health
An eating disorder is both a physical and psychological illness which results in an obsessive relationship with food, either through over-eating or under-eating. How do you know if you have an eating disorder and how do you deal with it if you have one?
Eating disorders take many forms, including:
Anorexia is a compulsive mental illness where the sufferer has a distorted perception of their own body shape. This leads them to deliberately starve themselves. You could be anorexic if you are constantly skipping meals, are cutting out certain foods, or exercising excessively.
Symptoms of anorexia include:
- Lying about what and how much you eat
- Cooking food for everyone else
- Exercising obsessively
- Having to do things in a certain way
- Losing lots of weight
- Feeling cold most of the time
- Hair loss or fine hair growing all over you body
- Constipation and stomach pains
- Girls will often find their periods stop
- Irritability and moodiness resulting in a loss of concentration
- Dizziness and sleeping problems
- Thinking about food and calories constantly
- Believing that you have to be a certain weight in order to be ‘happy’.
Anorexia is a very serious illness, and can even result in death, so if you feel it is taking over your life don’t wait until it reaches a critical point in order to make a decision.
Bulimia is when a sufferer falls into a cycle of abuse where they binge on food and then force themselves to be sick as a way of purging. Bulimia is often used to mask psychological trauma or hide low self-esteem.
Although their weight appears to be normal, their behaviour is in fact unhealthy. Food is used as a way of feeling more in control, while impulsive tendencies drive the sufferer to overeat.
Symptoms of bulimia can include:
- Eating too much food and then feeling uncomfortable
- Lying and being secretive about your diet and eating habits
- Stomach pains and constipation
- Having puffy cheeks and dry or rough skin
- Sore throat
- Fatigue and feeling unable to sleep properly
- Irregular periods for girls
- Feeling depressed, emotional or guilty after binges
- Feeling that life is out of control
- Having rapid mood swings
You could have binge eating disorder if you eat too much and eat obsessively to mask pain or as a way of dealing with problems in your life. Like bulimia, binge eaters eat compulsively, but what differentiates them is that they subsequently do not purge. This disorder can often result in high blood pressure and heart disease.
Signs of binge eating include:
- Eating much more rapidly than usual
- Eating until uncomfortably full
- Eating large amounts of food when not physically hungry
- Eating alone because of embarrassment at the amount of food being consumed
- Feeling out of control around food
- Feeling very self-conscious eating around others
- Feeling depressed, ashamed or guilty after over-eating
- Being unable to purge yourself or compensate for the food eaten
Sometimes compulsive eating can go in cycles, for example you might binge and then stop eating and start starving yourself. Sometimes binge eaters might also graze or nibble on food throughout the day.
You may feel the need to overeat because of low self-esteem or you could use food as a comforter rather than dealing with the underlying problem.
Overeating will usually lead you to put on weight, which can lower your self-esteem even more. This can also increase the risk of high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes.
Although this type of eating is dangerous, suddenly dieting can be even more dangerous. You need to cut out fatty, sugary and salty foods as much as possible, and adjust your diet radically, but this may only be possible once you have dealt with the psychological issues that have caused you to overeat in the first place.
Dealing with your eating disorder
If you, or someone you know, has one of these disorders then you need to seek help from your GP as soon as possible. Doctors should be able to help you get the treatment you need and find out what is causing you to over-eat or under-eat.
Ways of dealing with this problem could involve counselling in order to establish the reason why the disorder began and is affecting you.
You can also look at ways to build your self-esteem and self-confidence through remembering that you don't have to have the 'perfect body' (whatever that means) in order to be happy!