The basic depiction of different eating disorder illnesses can be found in irregular eating habits as well as severe distress or obsessions about ones body weight and actual overall shape.

Disturbances in eating patterns may include excessive binging on food to not eating at which can ultimately damage an individual’s well-being, physically as well as psychologically. The most well known forms of eating disorders include Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Binge Eating Disorder and affects both females and males.

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These disorders can develop at any stage in life but are more prevalent during the teen years or young adulthood. Although these conditions are treatable, the symptoms and consequences can be detrimental and deadly if not addressed as soon as possible.

Eating disorders commonly exist hand in hand with other conditions, such as anxiety disorders, substance abuse, or depression.

Types of Eating Disorders

The three most common types of Eating Disorders are:

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Anorexia Nervosa

Sufferers (both male and female) will typically have an obsessive fear of gaining weight, refusal to maintain a healthy body weight, and an unrealistic perception of body image. Many people with anorexia nervosa will fiercely limit the quantity of food they consume and view themselves as overweight, even when they are clearly underweight.

Anorexia can have damaging health effects, such as brain damage, multi-organ failure, bone loss, heart difficulties, and infertility. The risk of death is highest in individuals with this disease.

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Binge Eating Disorder

Individuals who suffer from Binge Eating Disorder will frequently lose control over his or her eating. Different from bulimia nervosa however, episodes of binge-eating are not followed by compensatory behaviours, such as purging, fasting, or excessive exercise. Because of this, many people suffering with binge-eating disorder may be obese and at an increased risk of developing other conditions, such as cardiovascular disease. Men and women who struggle with this disorder may also experience intense feelings of guilt, distress, and embarrassment related to their binge-eating, which could influence further progression of the eating disorder.

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Bulimia Nervosa

This eating disorder is characterized by constantly binge eating followed by behaviours that compensate for the overeating, such as forced vomiting, excessive exercise, or extreme use of laxatives or diuretics.

Men and women who suffer with Bulimia may fear weight gain and feel severely unhappy with their body size and shape. The binge-eating and purging cycle is typically done in secret, creating feelings of shame, guilt, and lack of control. Bulimia can have injuring effects, such as gastrointestinal problems, severe hydration, and heart difficulties resulting from an electrolyte imbalance.

Causes of Eating Disorders

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Eating Disorders are complex disorders. Though the exact cause of eating disorders is unknown, it is generally believed that a combination of biological, psychological,and/or environmental abnormalities contributing  to the development of these illnesses.

Biological factors include irregular hormone functions; Genetics (the tie between eating disorders and one’s genes is still being heavily researched) and nutritional deficiencies

Examples of psychological factors include a negative body image and poor self-esteem

Environmental factors that would contribute to the occurrence of eating disorders are:

-Dysfunctional family dynamic

-Professions and careers that promote being thin and weight loss, such as ballet and modeling

-Aesthetically oriented sports, where an emphasis is placed on maintaining a lean body for enhanced performance. Examples include: rowing, diving, ballet, gymnastics, wrestling, long distance running.

-Family and childhood traumas: childhood sexual abuse, severe trauma

-Cultural and/or peer pressure among friends and co-workers

-Stressful transitions or life changes

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Signs & Symptoms of an Eating Disorder

A man or woman suffering from an eating disorder may reveal several signs and symptoms, some which are:

-Chronic dieting despite being hazardously underweight

-Constant weight fluctuations

-Obsession with calories and fat contents of food

-Engaging in ritualistic eating patterns, such as cutting food into tiny pieces, eating alone, and/or hiding food

-Continued fixation with food, recipes, or cooking; the individual may cook intricate meals for others but refrain from partaking

-Depression or lethargic stage

-Avoidance of social functions, family and friends. May become isolated and withdrawn

-Switching between periods of overeating and fasting

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Treatment for an Eating Disorder

Because of the severity and complexities of these conditions, a comprehensive and professional treatment team specializing in eating disorders is often fundamental in establishing healing and recovery. Treatment plans are utilized in addressing the many concerns a man or woman may be facing in the restoration of their health and well-being and are often tailored to meet individual needs.

If you need any help yourself, or want to help out a friend or family member and don’t know where to start, contact us at Lifeline SA on:

call us on 0861 322 322
Website: http://www.lifeline.org.za
Email: safetalking@lifeline.org.za