What are eating disorders?
Eating disorders are conditions characterised by an unhealthy and abnormal attitude to food. There are different types of eating disorder and they have diverse affects on the body. Eating disorders affect both the mind and the body and often physical habits are caused by psychological feelings and thoughts. Many people with eating disorders also lose interest in their social life and can become withdrawn and isolated.
Types of eating disorder
There are three main types of eating disorder. These include:
Bulimia is the most common type of eating disorder and affects five times more people than anorexia. Eating disorders are most common in young women but they can affect men; statistics show that more men are suffering from eating disorders than ever before.
Most people associate eating disorders with under-eating to lose weight, but this is not always the case. Anorexia is usually characterised by eating very little to become thinner, but bulimia often involves over-eating and binge eating disorder is also characterised by eating excessive quantities of food in one sitting. In many cases, people who have bulimia are a healthy weight for their height and do not look outwardly ill, while binge-eating disorder can cause weight gain, which is associated with health complications.
Causes of eating disorders
There is a great deal of speculation surrounding the causes of eating disorders but, in most cases, there is no exact cause. In recent years, the media and pressure from society have been blamed for an increase in eating disorders, but there are other factors that contribute to eating disorders, including psychological and environmental factors.
Treatment for eating disorders
Eating disorders are complex psychological conditions which can have devastating impact on the body and it is important that they are treated as early as possible. Treatments for eating disorders vary according to the individual, but the most common treatments include talking therapies, such as counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy, advice from dieticians and medical care, which is provided to ease symptoms and address complications. The aim of treatment is to foster a healthy attitude to food and eating, increase confidence and identify ways to address sources of anger, upset and stress.
It can take a long time to recover from an eating disorder and some people will never have a healthy relationship with food. However, treatment can be successful and people can recover with the right support around them.