National Surveys estimate that 20 million women and 10 million men in America will have an eating disorder at some point in their lives. The Eating Disorder Center states that there is almost a 120% increase in hospitalization for eating disorders in the last decade for children under the age of 12.
What does that tell us as a society? Our focus is way off, our lives have become about how we can appear to others. We have told ourselves that our bodies define us. We have told ourselves and others that our jean size gives us worth. We have believed the lie that when we are thin everything else will be perfect.We have picked up fad diets and tortured ourselves for what? Is our body really going to be the thing that saves us, gives us joy and maintains relationships? It appears that individuals who start developing eating disorders believe this as their truth and eventually come to the conclusion that their eating disorder begins to control their life, steal their happiness, and imprison their minds.
Eating disorders affect all genders, race, socioeconomic class, and age. When most people think of eating disorders, they picture women who starve themselves and have an inaccurate body image, but that does not even scratch the surface or encompass all that eating disorders are, who they effect and what they involve.
Below you will find some eating disorder facts including types of eating disorders, risk factors, and treatment options.
Types of Eating Disorders
There are six types of eating disorders discussed in the DSM-5, which is also known as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders. The six types of eating disorders listed include Pica, Rumination disorder, Avoidant/Restrictive Food intake Disorder, Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Binge Eating Disorder.
First, Pica is a compulsive eating disorder in which a person eats things that are not thought of as food and do not normally have any nutritional value such as dirt, hair, and clay. Some items as odd as mattresses, bricks, chalk, cigarette butts, and feces.Most people diagnosed are children although adults are diagnosed with Pica as well. It is common to see people diagnosed with Pica who have intellectual and developmental disabilities, such as autism. Women also can develop Pica when they are pregnant due to the lack of nutrients.
Since a person with Pica repeatedly eats things that are nonfood items even if it makes them sick, treatments for Pica involve behavioral modifications, education about what is and is not nutritional, as well as strategies from a mental health professional to decrease the negative behavior. If you know someone who is struggling with Pica it is important to see a medical doctor to be assessed for how the nonfood items have affected their digestive system and body.
Second, Rumination Disorder is one of the lesser known and discussed eating disorders in which a person regurgitates his or her food re-chewing and re-swallowing it or spitting it out once it has been regurgitated. There is no relation to nausea or a gastrointestinal issue with Rumination Disorder.
This is an involuntary spasm and is not an intentional action. Eatingdisorderhope.com states that Rumination normally occurs every day every time the individual ingests food and typically within 30 minutes of eating. Biofeedback is something that can be learned and implemented to help the individual struggling with Rumination Disorder to learn diaphragmatic breathing skills to counteract regurgitation.
Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder
Third, Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) is an eating disorder in which the individual has some of the following symptoms: an eating or feeding disturbance, significant weight loss, significant nutritional deficiency, dependence upon feeding tube or oral nutritional supplements, and interference with social and work/academic settings. ARFID is not related to body image, therefore, people who are diagnosed with ARFID do not see themselves as larger or smaller than they truly are.
Fourth, Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by very low body weight, a fear of gaining weight and a distorted view of one’s body. People often view themselves as severely overweight when they are actually severely underweight.
There are two types of Anorexia: Restrictive type, where the person limits the foods they eat in order to binge/purge type, where people binge large amounts of food in one setting and then purge the food through vomiting or with pills such as laxatives.People who struggle with Anorexia participate in many weight checks, may develop certain food rituals, refuse to eat in front of others, or have a desire to cook an elaborate meal for others but not partake in eating the meal themselves.
The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders states that 33 to 50 percent of anorexia patients have a comorbid mood disorder like depression but are more common in the binge/purge type than the restrictive type.
On the other hand, about half of the anorexic population have comorbid anxiety disorders such as obsessive compulsive disorder and social phobia. Individuals with anorexia nervosa require multidisciplinary treatment, including nutritional help, psychological counseling, and behavioral modification.
Fifth, Bulimia Nervosa sounds similar to the Binge purge type of anorexia but the difference is weight. People with Anorexia are underweight while people with Bulimia are normally normal to overweight.
NEDA states Bulimia is characterized by a cycle of bingeing and self induced vomiting behaviors, such as purging. During the bingeing behavior, the individual often feels a lack of control during the bingeing episode that they cannot stop eating.
An individual with Bulimia eats large quantities of food in one sitting often times creating physical pain. Because of this bingeing episode, the fear of weight gain and preventative behaviors to avoid weight gain occur which include: induced vomiting, fasting, laxatives or other medications or excessive exercise.
The treatment for Bulimia is quite similar to the treatment of Anorexia in which it combines a multidisciplinary treatment of nutritional help, mental and behavioral. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is often used among clients with eating disorders.
Finally, Binge Eating Disorder, which is the most common eating disorder in the United States involves episodes of eating large amounts of food in one setting usually quickly and to the level of feeling extreme discomfort, feeling a loss of control during the binge and then feeling guilt and shame because of the behavior.
For Binge Eating Disorder to be diagnosed, the individual must have the above symptoms once a week for at least three months. The binge behavior does not and is not associated with purging or compensatory behaviors after the binge.
What Causes Eating Disorders?
You may wonder, “What causes eating disorders?” Eating disorders are multifaceted illnesses with a genetic element that can be affected by a wide variety of biological and environmental factors. It is not just a simple cause or explanation but instead something that can have many levels and risk factors contributing to the onset of an eating disorder.
Eating Disorder Risk Factors
The Center for Eating Disorders states the following risk factors to developing an eating disorder:
Research has shown that eating disorders are heritable and there are certain genotypes that predispose an individual to develop an eating disorder.
There are certain personality traits that are susceptible to developing an eating disorder such as perfectionism, obsessive thinking, sensitivity to reward and punishment, emotional instability and hypersensitivity, impulsivity and rigidity and excessive persistence.
The genetic makeup of the individual.
TraumaEvents such as sexual or physical abuse can increase the chances of developing an eating disorder due to the feelings of guilt, shame, dissatisfaction with one’s body, and feeling like they do not have any control. Often times due to the trauma the individual wants to take back control and feels they are doing so by controlling their food intake and body.
Coping Skill Deficits
Often times individuals with an eating disorder lack the ability to handle and cope with negative experiences and development of an eating disorder is a way they that they negatively cope with their life issues.
The ability to constantly check social media pages, photoshop, and a global media fixated on body image has contributed to the increase of eating disorders and skewed ideas of our own bodies. It has trained us to be preoccupied with attaining a certain image that we have been taught is attainable when in fact most models have eating disorders themselves or have been airbrushed to project a specific image.
The Center for Eating Disorders states, “Dieting is the most common precipitating factor in the development of an eating disorder. In the U.S. more than $60 billion is spent every year on diets and weight-loss products. Despite dieting’s 95-98% failure rate, people continue to buy dangerous products and take extreme measures to lose weight.”
Family can be a factor in what causes eating disorders but is not the sole reason why one would develop one. The Center for Eating Disorders states “ While parents and families are not to blame for eating disorders, they can play a role in helping kids establish a positive body image, healthy coping skills and eating competence which are all important protective factors against eating disorders.”
Eating disorders involve an obsessive mindset that interferes with an individual’s health socially, relationally, occupationally, and cognitively. The question of how one develops an eating disorder is not a simple one to answer. Instead, it involves many factors and pieces.
In the beginning, eating disorders develop as a way to control something. Normally the individual’s life feels out of control or dysfunctional and eating disorders create a space for the individual to feel they are powerful and in control of something in their life.
In some dysfunctional families, the parents notice the behavior and work together to help their child change it. The child may feel that the attention they are receiving is helping bring the family together and making the family more functional, thinking, “Look, Mom and Dad are clinging together! I am doing great things for the family. My illness is helping them!”
It is easy for someone with an eating disorder to interpret their experience this way, seeing their eating disorder as doing good. As time passes by the individual no longer has control over their choices but the eating disorder controls them. What used to be done out of choice is now because of the disease.
It becomes a repetitive and dangerous pattern that has to be stuck to in order to alleviate the pain and obsession and to elevate the individual’s mood. If you see someone struggling with body image, restricting foods, bingeing, or purging, please talk to them about this. Guide them to someone before it gets to the point they are buried so deep in their negative thinking and behavior.
The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD) states that eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses. Mostly this is due to organ failure but also about half of the deaths that occur are secondary suicide.
Eating disorders destroy your body, your organs and purging over time damages enamel on teeth cracking and breaking them into pieces. The Eating Recovery Center states that 70% of people who have admitted to having or had an eating disorder did not seek treatment.
If you or someone you know suspects the individual may have an eating disorder please seek out professional medical and mental treatment. Your worth is not defined by your silhouette, the number on the scale, or the addiction you experience, but instead who God has made and designed you to be.
If you are struggling with body image or an eating disorder please reach out for help. There is someone who is waiting to encourage you to see yourself differently – worthy, strong and capable of something much more than you see in yourself.
If you do not know where to start, reach out to a friend, a pastor, or even the internet. Whether it is through Seattle Christian Counseling, another counselor elsewhere, or inpatient treatment, you have options – know your life matters. Choose to live like it does.