Bulimia and Anorexia; More than just food-related disorders

Do these terms sound foreign to you? The answer to that in it conveys how much we are aware of these two as a mental disorder than an eating disorder. Even though they are classified and defined as eating and food-related disorders, this takes away the focus from all the mental ailments that eventually might end up as Bulimia or Anorexia.

Eating disorders are not just food-related. They are psychological ailments that distort a person’s relationship with food and their body. This can influence many aspects of their lives and has an impact on mental, physical and social well-being. Anorexia and Bulimia are two of the most common of these disorders.

With anorexia, the patient’s relationship with food is based on complete control. They are methodical and meticulous while deciding what to eat when to eat or how much to eat. They might build routines and behavior patterns around eating a certain food at a certain time. Patient’s behavior is planned and carried out with caution.

Patients with bulimia have an intense focus on food as well but this is based on the lack of control over what they eat when they eat or how much they eat. They binge on food and feel powerless to stop eating even after a reasonable amount. But after this binging period, they feel guilty and shameful about what they did and this leads to purging. Purging is finding an extreme way to prevent weight gain from the food consumed. This cycle repeats itself over and over again.

Eating disorders often occur together with psychiatric disorders like anxiety, panic, obsessive-compulsive disorder and drug/alcohol abuse issues. People who are suffering from eating disorders tend to be perfectionists with low-esteem. They are extremely critical of themselves and their appearance. They ‘feel-fat’ and see themselves as overweighed people. But in early stages, patients often deny that they, in fact, do have a problem. They are in constant denial of their issues and don’t like seeing flaws in themselves.

Most of the causes and triggers of eating disorders are psychological as well,

  • Negative body image.
  • Poor self-esteem.
  • Dysfunctional family dynamic.
  • Professions and careers that require or propagate being thin and weight loss, such as modelling.
  • Aesthetically oriented sports where one has to maintain a lean body for enhanced performance and success; like rowing, diving or ballet.
  • Family-related traumas.
  • Childhood sexual abuse resulting in severe trauma.
  • Cultural and societal pressure.
  • Peer pressure from schoolmates, family members or colleagues.
  • Stressful transitions or life changes.

There are biological causes as well. But they are only a few and these aren’t the causes for most people suffering from eating disorders.

  • Irregular hormone functions.
  • Genetics.
  • Nutritional deficiencies.

Treating eating disorders is more emotional than it is physical. Restoring a person to normal weight or ending the binge-purge cycle does not address the underlying emotional problems that were the sole reason behind the disorder. Psychotherapy helps individuals with eating disorders to understand the thoughts, emotions and behaviours that trigger these disorders.

The treatment should concentrate on recognizing and changing unhealthy beliefs about weight, body shapes and dieting. If required, the family members of the teen or pre-teen should be involved in order to give them awareness about what the patient is actually going through. Treatments like Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and Dialectic Behavior Therapy focus on interpersonal relationship issues that may have caused the disorder. It is important for the patient to heal from the entire trauma that may have caused the eating disorder. Without proper treatment on both mental and physical fronts, these disorders can cause fatal conditions in their extremities.

Here are some measures you would want to take if you think you are suffering from an eating disorder,

Speak to someone
Let a parent, teacher, counsellor, or an adult know what you’re going through.
Pick someone you trust and seek help from them.

Get early help
Chance of recovery is better if the disorder is caught early.

Be present in all your appointments
The treatment takes time and effort. Make sure you attend every one of them and be extremely honest to your therapist about your progress and setbacks. Make queries when you have them.

Be patient with yourself
All human go through stuff. Take it easy on yourself and work towards the progress slowly.
You have all the help you need.

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