The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Eating Disorders estimates that 24 million people in the United States suffer from an eating disorder. Plus, more than half of teenage women and almost one-third of teenage men regularly use unhealthy and dangerous behaviors to control their weight.
Moreover, many more people suffer from unhealthy eating habits and self-image concerns that put them at risk for disordered eating habits and developing an eating disorder.
The Roots of Eating Disorders
Eating disorders not only stem from a preoccupation with one’s size, body or body image, they’re often connected to experiences—such as isolation from friends, overwhelming stress, loss of a loved one, or sexual assault.
Eating disorders provide a sense of control. Many people with eating disorders feel that, since they can’t control stressful or random events in life, they can at least control what they eat or how they look. Students with eating disorders spend a lot of time planning, preparing and thinking about food. They may have strict categories of “good” and “bad” food and become very anxious around “off-limit” foods.
Eating Disorders: Types and Symptoms
There are three commonly defined eating disorders, although others, such as Muscle Dysmorphia, are beginning to get attention. The three common categories are…
- Bulimia Nervosa
- Anorexia Nervosa
- Binge Eating Disorder
Bulimia nervosa is a very common eating disorder. It is less visible to others because the individual is usually average weight or a little bit above average weight for his or her height. How people suffering from Bulimia Nervosa view themselves is usually greatly influenced by body shape and size.
Someone with Bulimia Nervosa will often…
- Eat more rapidly than normal
- Eat until feeling uncomfortably full
- Eat large amounts of food when not physically hungry
- Eat alone
- Feel disgusted, depressed or guilty after overeating
- Engage in compensatory behavior to try to “undo” the overeating behavior, such as self-induced vomiting, the mis-use of medications such as laxatives or diet pills, fasting, excessive exercise or dramatically restricting food intake
Anorexia Nervosa is another common eating disorder. Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa include…
- Difficulty keeping at or above a minimal normal weight for age and height
- An intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat, even though underweight
- A distorted view of weight and shape
- Placing major importance on weight or the way the body looks
- Possible binging and/or compensatory behavior such as excessive exercising, purging or using laxatives
Binge Eating Disorder
Binge-Eating Disorder occurs when a person engages in overeating or binging without compensatory behaviour. It’s common for individuals to binge-eat in response to uncomfortable feelings such as sadness.
Do you recognize any of these signs in yourself or someone you know?
Remember that eating disorders can be treated, often with Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. In this form of therapy, the individual learns how to change negative thoughts and behaviours and examine his or her emotions. In treatment, a person will be educated about food and explore why the eating disorder started and what purpose it may serve—and then learn ways to break the negative cycle of disordered eating and build self-esteem.
If you think you or someone you know has an eating disorder, talk with someone at the Counseling Center right away.