It’s America’s National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. I don’t see why this should be restricted to just America, so here’s my post for Eating Disorders Awareness Week.
Eating disorders are a growing concern in many countries, including Singapore. Unfortunately, those with eating disorders are not given the proper treatment they deserve. This results in eating disorders having the highest mortality rate amongst mental illnesses.
The terms “eating disorder”, “anorexia”, and “bulimia” are being thrown around like they mean nothing nowadays.
“You look so anorexic!”
“Ugh I got food poisoning; I’m throwing up like someone with bulimia.”
This needs to stop now. Eating disorders, like all other illnesses, are not descriptions of appearance, behaviours, emotions, and/or habits. It is due time that people know what eating disorders really are.
What is an eating disorder?
Eating disorders are serious and complex emotional and physical addictions.
Eating disorders are characterized by severe disturbances in eating behavior. The practice of an eating disorder can be viewed as a survival mechanism. Just as an alcoholic uses alcohol to cope, a person with an eating disorder can use eating, purging or restricting to deal with their problems. Some of the underlying issues that are associated with an eating disorder include low self-esteem, depression, feelings of loss of control, feelings of worthlessness, identity concerns, family communication problems and an inability to cope with emotions. The practice of an eating disorder may be an expression of something that the eating disordered individual has found no other way of expressing.
Eating disorders are NOT:
– a lifestyle choice
– a diet
– wanting to lose weight
– signs of weakness
Types of eating disorders
Unknown to some, eating disorders are more than just anorexia and bulimia. Here are some, but not all, of the more common eating disorders, and a very brief description:
- Anorexia nervosa – self-imposed starvation
- Bulimia nervosa – constantly purging after consuming food
- Binge eating disorder – going through periods of time whereby you consume large amounts of foods even though you are well past the point of being full
- Eating disorder not otherwise specified – eating disorders that do not qualify for the strict criteria of any specific eating disorder under the DSM
Myths about eating disorders
- Eating disorders only affect girls.
10-15% of those diagnosed with eating disorders are male. While majority of the people who suffer from eating disorders are female, there are many males who suffer from eating disorders as well, and this does NOT make them weak.
- Eating disorders are a choice.
If those with eating disorders could choose to love their body and eat healthily, why wouldn’t they? They don’t just wake up one day and think, “I want to be anorexic.”
- Eating disorders result in beauty.
Many end up having eating disorders as they quest for beauty. But this beauty never comes. Instead, what comes are a profound sense of self-hatred, rotten teeth, fainting spells, infertility, brittle nails and bones… The list goes on.
- You have to be skinny to have an eating disorder.
This is absolute nonsense. No explanation necessary.
Symptoms of eating disorders
The causes of eating disorders vary. A few prominent causes I’d like to highlight are psychological, interpersonal, and social.
Psychological factors include low self-esteem, body dysmorphic disorder, depression, anxiety…
Interpersonal factors involve a person’s own history and characteristics, such as an inability to express emotions properly, or having experienced bullying.
Social factors are something that we can all do something about. Social factors are things like the glorification of eating disorders, and the emphasis on thin = beautiful = happy. Thin does not make you beautiful. And being thin won’t make you happy. In fact, when saddled with eating disorders or body dysmorphic disorder, you will forever think that you are not thin enough.Effects of eating disorders
Effects of eating disorders
Eating disorders not only affect your mind. It causes a lot of damage to your body, that works so hard to stay alive. Some of the many effects of eating disorders are:
– low blood pressure
– heart rate increase/decrease
– fainting spells
– esophageal damage
– corroded teeth
– vitamin or mineral deficiencies
Caring for someone with eating disorders
Sources / extra reads: