Disordered eating means eating in a way that could or does harm you physically or psychologically. The disordered eating can be a result of a desire to lose weight, control weight, and to manage emotions.
By definition, an eating disorder is a misuse of food to resolve emotional problems and eating to manage emotions is probably the most common type of disordered eating.
When people use food to resolve underlying emotional issues, there is a problem. When the decision about what and how to eat is based on compulsive and inflexible emotional needs, they have become a slave to the food ritual.
CAUSES & RISK FACTORS
There are two main reasons why people develop disordered eating. One is because the individual is trying to achieve unrealistic body ideals portrayed in the media, including thinness. The second is using food and/or restricting to try and manage emotions and control stress. Often times both are present in the individual.
Emotional eating is very socially acceptable. Society tell us that if we are sad we should eat ice cream and chocolate and that if we are celebrating we should eat chocolate and ice cream. Most people emotionally eat at one time or another. However, when emotional eating is taking place frequently, or with large quantities, disordered eating may be taking place.
Eating disorders – such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder – include extreme emotions, attitudes, and behaviors surrounding weight and food issues. Eating disorders are serious emotional and physical problems that can have life-threatening consequences for females and males.
The most effective and long-lasting treatment for an eating disorder is some form of psychotherapy or psychological counseling, coupled with careful attention to medical and nutritional needs. Ideally, this treatment should be tailored to the individual and will vary according to both the severities of the disorder and the patient’s particular problems, needs, and strengths.
- Talk therapy, called psychotherapy, addresses both the eating-disordered symptoms and the underlying psychological, interpersonal, and cultural forces that are contributing to the eating disorder.
- Medication: Medication can’t cure an eating disorder. However, medications may help individuals control urges to binge or purge or to manage excessive preoccupations with food and diet. Medications such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications may also help with symptoms of depression or anxiety, which are frequently associated with eating disorders.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy: People suffering from disordered eating often participate in this type of psychotherapy in which the person learns to recognize and change thought patterns and behaviors that lead to troublesome feelings.
- Expressive Arts Therapy: Uses art and creativity to help people connect to their problems, give voice to their emotions, and learn techniques to heal. It uses a variety of techniques including art, drama, movement, music, poetry, puppetry, and sand play.
- Animal Assisted therapy (AAT): Uses trained animals to enhance an individual’s physical, emotional and social well-being, thus improving self-esteem, reducing anxiety and facilitating healing.
- Dietary and lifestyle changes
- Relaxation therapy
- Hospital-based care (including inpatient, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient and/or residential care in an eating disorders specialty unit or facility) is necessary when an eating disorder has led to physical problems that may be life threatening, or when it is associated with severe psychological or behavioral problems.
Binge Eating Disorder
Binge eating disorder often results in many of the same health risks associated with clinical obesity. Some of the potential health consequences of binge eating disorder include:
- High blood pressure.
- High cholesterol levels.
- Heart disease as a result of elevated triglyceride levels.
- Type II diabetes
- Gallbladder disease
In anorexia nervosa’s cycle of self-starvation, the body is denied the essential nutrients it needs to function normally. Thus, the body is forced to slow down all of its processes to conserve energy, resulting in serious medical consequences:
- Abnormally slow heart rate and low blood pressure, which mean that the heart muscle is changing. The risk for heart failure rises as the heart rate and blood pressure levels sink lower and lower.
- Reduction of bone density (osteoporosis), which results in dry, brittle bones.
- Muscle loss and weakness.
- Kidney failure as a result of severe dehydration.
- Dry hair and skin; hair loss is common.
The recurrent binge-and-purge cycles of bulimia can affect the entire digestive system and can lead to electrolyte and chemical imbalances in the body that affect the heart and other major organ functions. Some of the health consequences of bulimia nervosa include:
- Irregular heartbeats and possible heart failure due to electrolyte imbalances, which are caused by dehydration and loss of potassium, sodium and chloride from the body as a result of purging behaviors.
- Gastric rupture during periods of bingeing.
- Inflammation and possible rupture of the esophagus from frequent vomiting.
- Tooth decay and staining from stomach acids released during frequent vomiting.
- Chronic irregular bowel movements and constipation as a result of laxative abuse.
- Peptic ulcers and pancreatitis