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Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses that can have deadly consequences if left untreated. Therefore, it is important to know how to recognize the signs and symptoms of eating disorders to get help for yourself or a loved one. In this blog post, we will discuss the signs and symptoms of several eating disorders and what you can do to get help.

How Do Eating Disorders Start?

Most people with eating disorders don’t suddenly wake up one day with an illness. Rather, there is usually a triggering event or series of events that lead to the development of an eating disorder. Some common causes of eating disorders include:

  • Wanting to be thin or fit a certain stereotype
  • Dieting or being on a weight-loss plan
  • Having a history of being teased or bullied about your weight
  • Having parents or other family members who are preoccupied with their own appearance or dieting
  • Being a perfectionist or having high standards for yourself
  • Experiencing a major life change or stressor (such as starting a new school, going through a divorce, or losing a loved one)

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is a mental illness characterized by an intense fear of gaining weight. People with anorexia often restrict their food intake and may exercise excessively. Anorexia can lead to severe weight loss, malnutrition, and even death.

Signs of anorexia include:

  • Severe weight loss
  • Severely restricting food intake
  • Excessive exercise
  • Preoccupation with weight, food, and appearance
  • Denial of hunger
  • Intense fear of gaining weight
  • Unhealthy thinness
  • Amenorrhea (loss of menstrual period)
  • Avoidance of social activities that involve food

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia nervosa is a mental illness characterized by episodes of binge eating followed by purging. To purge is to force yourself to vomit, excessively exercise, or use laxatives or diuretics to get rid of the calories consumed. Bulimia can lead to dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, and other health problems.

Signs of bulimia are:

  • Recurrent episodes of binge eating
  • Purging after a binge (by vomiting, using laxatives, etc.)
  • Preoccupation with weight, food, and appearance
  • Unhealthy thinness
  • Cycles of overeating followed by fasting or purging
  • Feelings of shame or guilt after eating
  • Using diet pills
  • Teeth erosion from vomiting
  • Calluses on the knuckles from induced vomiting
  • Swelling in the cheeks or jaw from repeated vomiting

Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating disorder (BED) is a mental illness characterized by recurring episodes of excessive food intake. During a binge episode, a person eats more than they intended to and feels out of control. Binge eating disorder can lead to weight gain, obesity, and other health problems.

Signs of binge eating disorder include:

  • Eating large amounts of food in a short period of time
  • Feeling out of control during a binge episode
  • Eating even when you’re not hungry
  • Feeling ashamed or guilty after eating
  • Disordered eating behaviors, such as purging, fasting, or excessive exercise

Other Eating Disorders

Although Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Binge Eating Disorder are the most common eating disorders, they are not the only ones. Some other examples of eating disorders include:

  • Pica: characterized by the persistent eating of non-food items, such as dirt, paint chips, hair, or paper.
  • Rumination Disorder: characterized by the chronic regurgitation and rechewing of food.
  • Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder: characterized by a persistent avoidance of certain foods or food groups due to an intense fear of negative consequences, such as choking.
  • Anorexia Athletica: similar to Anorexia Nervosa, but with a focus on excessive exercise rather than restricting food intake.
  • Bigorexia: characterized by the persistent belief that one is too small or not muscular enough, despite being of average or above-average size.
  • Orthorexia: characterized by an obsession with healthy or “clean” eating.

Eating Disorder Therapy

If you or someone you know is exhibiting any of the above signs and symptoms, you are not alone. It is important to seek professional help. Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses that can have lasting effects on a person’s physical and mental health.

Eating disorder therapy can help a person recover from an eating disorder and develop healthy coping mechanisms for dealing with stressors in their life. Eating disorders are treatable illnesses and recovery is possible. For more information on eating disorders and treatment, please visit Integrated Counseling and Wellness to learn about the resources and caring team available to help you! You can also visit the Rexburg Eating Disorder Center for more information and help. Seeking help is just the first step, and your happiness and wellness will be underway!

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