Week commencing 8th March was Eating Disorder awareness week. Just like anything, there are many different forms of eating disorders. The Seven different eating disorders are; Anorexia Nervosa, Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID), Binge Eating Disorder, Bulimia Nervosa, Other specified feeding or eating disorder (OSFED), Pica and Rumination.
Eating disorders affect 725,000 people in the UK each year. It is also highlighted that women are more than twice likely to be affected by eating disorders than men. Source [Eatingdisorders] (1)
This blog covers; What an eating disorder is? Defining each of the different eating disorders mentioned above. How eating disorders can affect you mentally and physically. As well as further help you can receive and offer. Moving onto the end of the blog we will look at eating disorders in teenagers/young adults. Unfortunately, these numbers are quickly rising.
What is an eating disorder?
An eating disorder is when someone has an unhealthy relationship with food. This unhealthy relationship is so apparent it can overtake their life and become controlling over their choices. Be that by overeating or under eating. Someone with an eating disorder may find their behaviour towards eating changes. For example, they may worry a lot about their weight and shape, make sudden major changes to their diet, avoid social situations that involve food and/or make themselves vomit after meals.
Factors that may indicate suffering from an eating disorder?
Eating disorders can vary how they are presented in everyone. However, when being diagnosed with an eating disorder factors that will be looked out for are;
Restriction of energy intake relative to requirements leads to significantly low body weight in the context of age, sex, developmental trajectory, and physical health.
A negative perception of food where it begins to feel as if it is taking control of your life.
Different kinds of eating disordered
All eating disorders will have symptoms and factors in common. However, each one will be different in its aspect. Many people when thinking of eating disorders often think of being underweight (Anorexia) being one of the most common eating disorders there is. Although, someone can have experiences with eating disorders meaning they become overweight.
Here we can look at what each different disorder may display:
Anorexia is a well-known eating disorder. It generally develops during adolescence or young adulthood often affecting women more than men. People with anorexia tend to view themselves as overweight, even though they are more often than not, severely underweight.
Your weight is higher or lower than expected
Having an unusually low BMI
Missing meals, eating very little or even avoiding eating at all
Believing you’re fat when you're a healthy weight or even underweight
Taking supplements to reduce your appetite
Your periods stopping due to poor diet and weight
Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID)
ARFID is an eating disorder where someone becomes avoidant/restrictive with their food intake. All ages can suffer from eating disorders and children may suffer from ARFID. Children with AFRID may be extremely picky eaters and have little interest in foods. This disorder leads to a lack of nutrition and development.
Binge Eating Disorder
Suffering from a binge eating disorder means that someone eats a large amount of food in a short period until they feel uncomfortably full.
People will often:
Plan to binge in advance
Binge on snacks rather than eating meals
Choose to binge alone
Often lie about how much they have eaten
Eating even when not hungry
Bulimia Nervosa can leave an everlasting and have many effects on your body. Bulimia is where someone will eat then shortly following make themselves sick or even take some laxatives in fear that they will gain weight or the feeling of being full can make them feel uncomfortable.
Bulimia can create:
Swelling of the face - After excessive throwing up your cheeks and eyes may begin to swell.
Severe mood changes
Often being dehydrated.
Lack of energy.
Loss of hair.
Physical effects are:
Swollen salivary glands (sialadenosis)
Unfortunately, Bulimia is more common in ages 13-17.
Other specified feeding or eating disorder (OSFED)
OSFED itself is not an eating disorder in particular. This is a category doctors use when someone is displaying all the traits and symptoms as well as experiencing what someone with an eating experience would experience. However, their weight is not creating a concern to the professionals.
Pica is an eating disorder that involves eating items that are not typically thought of as food and that do not contain significant nutritional value, such as hair, dirt, and paint chips.
Pica can often take place alongside other Mental Health disorders such as:
Typical substances ingested tend to vary with age and availability. They may include; paper, soap, cloth, hair, string, wool, soil, chalk, talcum powder, paint, gum, metal, pebbles, charcoal, ash, clay, starch, or ice.
Rumination is often looked at as a similarity to Bulimia. Rumination is where someone may chew their food and spit it out or after swallowing regurgitate it. Always with the aim in mind to make their food avoid reaching their stomach. Because the food hasn't yet been digested, it tastes normal and isn't acidic, as vomit is. Someone suffering rumination will repeatedly and unintentionally, spit up undigested or partially digested food from the stomach, rechew it, and then either swallow it or spit it out
How it can affect you mentally and physically
Eating disorders can have many effects varying from minor to severe. During a physical exam, your doctor will check your height, weight, and vital signs. Your doctor will also listen to your lungs and heart since eating disorders can cause:
high or low blood pressure
slow pulse rates
Your doctor may examine your abdomen. They may also check your skin and hair for dryness, or look for brittle nails. And they may ask about any other possible problems, like a sore throat or intestinal issues. These can be complications of bulimia.
Eating disorders can damage the body and cause problems with vital organs. So, doctors may run lab tests, including:
a complete blood count
liver, kidney, and thyroid function tests
Your doctor may also order an X-ray to look for broken bones, which can be a sign of bone loss from anorexia or bulimia. And an electrocardiogram can check your heart irregularities. Your doctor may also examine your teeth for signs of decay. This is another symptom of an eating disorder.
Eating disorders can leave everlasting effects on our bodies as well as upon our mental health leading to further mental health problems.
Eating disorder's mental effects can be:
BPD (borderline personality disorder)
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
Eating disorder's physical effects can be:
Dehydration and Malnutrition
Slowed Brain Function
Gastroparesis, or slowed digestion
Decreased Hormone Levels
Deterioration of Esophagus and Teeth
Help that can be offered to people with eating disorders
As with anything, there are various options available. Multiple ways always have to be offered as what works for one person may not for another. The levels of support and severity of someone’s condition may vary too, leading to the support they need differing.
Professional support offered can be:
Inpatient treatment - being where someone may get admitted into a hospital and receive daily professional care
Seeing a registered dietitian - Knowledge about the nutrition some foods offers may encourage you to eat
Support you could offer a friend:
Not leaving them out from social events that involve food, while still bearing in mind their struggles
Try to build their self-esteem
Give your time to listen and try not to criticise
Don’t be critical about their appearance
Eating disorders in children and teenagers
Unfortunately, eating disorders in children and teenagers are always rising. This will be further explained in a later blog as there is so much to cover. Such as; why teens feel pressured about their body image. How helping a teen may differ from an adult. Statistics on teens and eating disorders and the long-lasting lifetime effects eating disorders can leave for teens.
There is a big difference between fussy eating in children and a child having an eating disorder. However, it is not unheard of for a child to have an eating disorder. The results from recent medical reports suggest that among children aged eight to 17 years old, there are 13.7 new cases of anorexia per 100,000 people per year. Among girls, the estimate was higher, at 25.7 per 100,000, with the age of diagnosis peaking at 15 years old.
It is also important to notice the signs of eating disorders and that someone may be struggling. Things to look out for are things such as:
Withdrawal from activities with friends
Extreme mood swings
Noticeable fluctuations in weight both up and down
Feeling cold all the time
Fainting and dizzy spells
Stomach cramps, other non-specific gastrointestinal complaints
People may try to hide that they are struggling as they may not even beware themselve, so above are some things to look out for.
It is always beneficial to have a clear understanding of mental health problems yourself or others around you could face. If you would like to further your understanding and how to support those with mental health issues, we provide Mental Health First Aid courses and menopause in work placement. For more information