"Food is the most abused anxiety drug. Exercise is the most under utilized antidepressant." - Bill Phillips
Eating disorders are serious illnesses that
can cause severe disturbances to a person's eating behaviors. Obsessions with
food, body weight and shape are the signs of an eating disorder
that can have a negative impact
on the physical and mental health.
The month of
February is observed as Eating Disorders Awareness Month.
Each week of February is observed as Eating Disorders Awareness
Week by various institutions and organizations to raise awareness about the
disorders. The goal
is to raise awareness and to fight the myths and misunderstandings that
surround different types of eating disorders. Raising awareness of eating
disorders is an important first step in addressing the problem. It helps
promote early detection and intervention, which can improve the chances of
recovery for millions.
‘A person with an eating disorder should not be forced to change at once. Offering support and encouragement with professional help can make a huge difference.’
The common eating disorders are anorexia
nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder and Other Specified Feeding and
Eating Disorders (OSFED).
Some of the causes of eating disorders are depression, low
self-esteem, concern about body shape and size, fear of weight gain, desire
to imitate role models, and overcoming disappointments. Eating disorders are
not just about food and body weight. It also involves emotional and
stress-related issues. A person with an eating disorder uses food to deal with
uncomfortable or painful emotions. Food restriction is used to feel in control.
Purging is used to combat the feelings of helplessness. Overeating may
temporarily alleviate sadness, anger, or loneliness.
People with anorexia nervosa
starve themselves out of fear of becoming
fat. Despite being underweight, they assume they are overweight. Individuals
with anorexia control their weight with exercise, diet pills, or purging. The
condition usually develops around the age of 16 or 17. One in 250 women and 1
in 2,000 men suffer from anorexia at some point in their life.
It is a destructive cycle of bingeing and
purging. Following an episode of uncontrollable binge eating, people with
bulimia take extreme steps to purge themselves of the extra calories. To avoid
they vomit, use laxatives, exercise or fast. Bulimia
is two to three times more common than
anorexia nervosa. It is often more likely to develop at the age of 18 or 19.
About 90 percent of people with bulimia are women.
People with binge eating disorder
overeat and consume thousands of calories in
a short period. Despite feelings of guilt over these secret binges, they feel
unable to control their behavior or stop eating even when uncomfortably full.
Binge eating is more commonly reported among older adults between the ages of
30 or 40. The condition is widespread, and it is estimated to affect 5% of the
Eating disorders have the highest mortality
any mental disorder.
According to statistics, one-in-five people between the ages of 15 and
24 years with an eating disorder die due to starvation or suicide. Eating
disorder is not an issue of teenagers; it can affect people throughout the
lifespan. However, the condition is more common in women than men. Claire
Mysko, CEO of the National Eating Disorders Association, said, "Eating
disorders can affect people of all body weights, age groups, races,
ethnicities, and genders."
According to a study published in the International
Journal of Eating Disorders
in 2012, about 70 percent of women aged 50 or
older are trying to lose weight. Sixty percent reported that their concerns
about body image and weight had an impact on their lives, and 13 percent showed
signs and symptoms of an eating disorder, such as extreme dieting, binge
eating, and excessive exercise.
Although eating disorders are less common in
older adults than in teenagers, the symptoms remain the same and have a
devastating impact on a person's quality of life.
Adults with an eating disorder are more
likely to suffer from complications such as osteoporosis
, tooth loss, gastrointestinal and cardiac
problems. The signs and symptoms of an eating disorder may be similar to both
teenagers and adults, but the triggers and concerns are different. The triggers
for teenagers are body size and shape, but older adults with eating disorders
are concerned about the signs of aging, such as wrinkles, body shape changes,
and loose skin.
Early Detection and
Intervention is the Key
Eating disorders often go undetected, but
knowing the signs and symptoms can help start the road to recovery. When a
person is exhibiting the signs of an eating disorder, intervening during the
early stages increases a person's chance of successful recovery. It can prevent
the years of struggle and also save lives. Eating disorders can have
life-threatening consequences if not treated properly. A person with an eating
disorder should get professional help from a doctor, or a psychologist or a
nutritionist. Only 33.8% of adults with an eating disorder are receiving
for an eating disorder
varies from one person to another. Counseling and behavioral therapy
are very effective for some, whereas others may need medications, such as
antipsychotics and antidepressants
. For some people, a combination of both
therapy and medications are necessary for recovery.
Eating Disorders in the Workplace
The UK's leading
charity organization called 'Beat' supports anyone affected by eating
disorders. This year, Beat observes Eating Disorders Awareness Week from 22nd
to 28th February. This
year, the theme of Eating Disorders Awareness Week is "Eating Disorders in the
spotlight is on the impact of eating disorders in the workplace and what
colleagues and employers can do to support a person's recovery at the
can have an impact on an individual's everyday life if it is left untreated. It
can take a toll on the work productivity and also affect the relationships with
employers and other coworkers. Most of the people may have a stressful
environment at work. Stress can be a trigger for developing an eating disorder.
Raising awareness of the signs and symptoms of eating disorders will enable
employers and coworkers to address the concerns with employees, helping them to
Helping Someone with
an Eating Disorder
An individual with an eating disorder may be
afraid to ask for help. It is important to help and support a colleague or a
friend with an eating disorder. Before reaching out to help a person with the
condition, it is important to understand the biological and psychological
causes of the disorder.
Recognizing the signs of eating disorders,
family, friends and colleagues can help an individual towards recovery. Some of
the signs that someone is struggling with an eating disorder include:
- A change in behavior and attitude towards
weight loss and dieting
- Increase in food and body talk
- Withdrawal from friends, family, social gatherings and activities
- Excessive and rigid exercise schedule
- Conscious of calories and moving
from one diet to another
After noticing the warning signs of the
disorder in a person, choose a comfortable and safe environment such as, at
home. The person may be experiencing high levels of anxiety, shame,
embarrassment, and guilt. Be prepared to deal with
the person if they respond with anger
Communicate in a non-confrontational way, encourage
them to express their feelings and listen respectfully. Do not criticize or
judge, but be sincere and direct while discussing the concerns. Do not take the
role of a therapist, encourage the person to seek professional help and offer
support for each step of the way.
Reference: 1. https://www.b-eat.co.uk/support-us/eating-disorder-awareness-week 2. https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org 3. http://activeminds.org/ 4. http://www.helpguide.org/articles/eating-disorders/helping-someone-with-an-eating-disorder.htm