ED, in mental health terms, stands for Eating Disorders. Eating disorders are complex and potentially life-threatening psychological illnesses that involve disturbances in eating behaviors and attitudes towards food. These disorders can have a significant impact on physical, emotional, and social well-being.
Eating disorders include Anorexia Nervosa (AN), Bulimia Nervosa (BN), Binge-Eating Disorder (BED), Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) and Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorders (OSFED). ED can affect both men and women of all ages but most commonly individuals with these disorders are young adults, teenagers or adolescents; typically between 13-25 years old.
Anorexia nervosa is characterized by the persistent restriction of energy intake leading to significantly low body weight. Individuals with this disorder may experience intense fear of gaining weight or becoming “fat” even though they are underweight. They may also engage themselves in various compensatory behaviours like excessive exercise to prevent weight gain.
Bulimia nervosa is a disorder marked by recurrent episodes where people consume large quantities of food within a particular time frame while feeling out-of-control binge-eating period followed by purging through methods like self-induced vomiting, using laxatives/diuretics medication misuse etcetera so as to get rid of undigested/accumulated calories without being overweight.
Binge-Eating Disorder involves repeated episodes when an individual consumes huge amounts of food without control over what they eat during such binges thus experiencing guilt/shame afterwards which leads them to compensate maybe via extreme dieting/fasting/starvation
Both AN & BN lead to potential medical complications including electrolyte imbalance/dehydration/osteoporosis/cardiac arrest along with adverse effects on fertility/reproductive system causing menstrual irregularities in females.
Furthermore oral hygiene may be affected due to frequent vomiting resulting in enamel wear-off/tissue damage breaking down tooth structure/gums becoming painful & inflamed.
ARFID is another Eating Disorder where individuals avoid certain foods for different reasons like fear of eating unfamiliar or specific textures/considering a limited quantity per meal as Satiation. It leads to reduced intake which can impact overall nutrition, growth, and development causing malnourishment if left untreated. Although ARFID may sometimes coexist alongside other disorders Anorexia/Bulimia thus early intervention by healthcare professional concerning nutrition, lifestyle support etcetera are highly emphasized in recovery management.
Another disorder similar to the ones mentioned above is Orthorexia Nervosa that involves individuals preoccupied with clean-eating/cutting out entire food groups considering them toxic thereby reducing the variety of their diet but again leading to nutritional deficiencies affecting health over time.
The causes of eating disorders can be complicated and multifactorial involving genetic, environmental (family pressure/stressors) cultural/societal influences having diverse manifestations including peer-pressures/diet-culture/media portrayal promoting “ideal” body standards leading to low self-esteem/ body-image issues for teenagers/adults. Furthermore trauma cases/events such as abuse/bullying/rejection often trigger anxiety/fear creating compensatory behaviours associated with ED related concerns mentioned earlier.
Moreover resulting from unfavourable circumstances eg depression/anxiety there may be an attempt at finding comfort through emotional transitions that inadvertently lead to increased tendency towards disordered eating patterns hence understanding the root cause along with a comprehensive care plan becomes essential in treatment planning.
Diagnosis of ED starting with typical symptoms like weight changes/appetite loss/excessive calorie counting/purging behaviors/intense dissatisfactions pertaining appearance/sensation following binge episodes make it incumbent upon clinicians’ call on recognizing underlying comorbidities for further investigation/treatment options too.
Early diagnosis plays an important role in preventing long-term complications arising due to physical symptoms outlined earlier since they could escalate into osteoporosis/sheer muscle mass loss/failure of important organs such as kidney etcetera all having the potential for severe consequences.
Treating ED involves a combination of care plans provided through inter-disciplinary teams consisting of psychiatrists, psychologists, dietitians/nutritionists. Therapy may involve empathizing with the patient to recognize their emotional and behavioral thought patterns with interventions like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), family-based treatments addressing the anxiety/trauma affecting these eating disorders.
Medical support extends from monitoring vital signs/managing comorbidities involving medications contributing to proper rehabilitation with individuals requiring inpatient/ outpatient medical management depending on severity.
ED is a serious illness that requires prompt identification & management concerning biopsychosocial/spiritual dimensions. Early intervention helps recover faster or even prevent long-term health/economic burdens. It’s crucial not to underestimate how debilitating this illness can be, but bright outcomes are possible through collaboration amongst professionals promoting healthy living while still nurturing oneself holistically in mind, body & spirit thereby avoiding an obsession over food/calories/excessive guilt-shaming tendencies which often lead to relapse/re-occurrence if not carefully monitored by loved ones/caregivers/professionals involved in treatment implementation