Eating disorders have only been widely recognized as an illness in the last 50 years, although these disorders have existed for centuries. In the Middle Ages, starving oneself was a way of cleansing the soul, and the spiritual aspect continued through centuries. As the beauty type changed from rounded, full-figured women to lithe, thin ones, eating disorders became more prominent as a way to gain beauty. Today, the cause is unknown since many factors can lead to eating disorders. Regardless of the cause, it can then lead to other mental health issues.
Eating disorders can disrupt the body’s reward system.
When you eat sugar, it activates the opioid receptors and causes the release of dopamine, part of the body’s reward system. Binge-eating, for instance, alters the body’s food intake control and reward response. Those changes can be permanent and make recovery difficult, if not impossible. It causes biological changes that make the disorders chronic and reoccurring.
Eating disorders aren’t a lifestyle choice.
There are underlying pre-existing mental, physical, and behavioral conditions when people develop eating disorders. The person may have compulsive-obsessive behavior, a perfectionist personality, body image issues, or control issues. Some believe it’s cultural, often developing in people who have a misconception of the perfect body. In a society that often touts that you can never be too thin, it’s easy to see how it can happen. It can be a coping mechanism to deal with other issues created by the belief that if you can control yourself and your body’s need to eat, you can control anything in life. Finding the underlying cause is the top priority to successfully overcome eating disorders.
Eating disorders can make other mental issues worse.
Eating disorders may exist with another mental health issue and make it worse. It can co-exist with addiction, for instance. Many mental health professionals find that when one is treated, the other one becomes activated and more difficult to treat. Eating disorders can also cause malnutrition, which can lead to other mental health issues, such as paranoia, depression, and anxiety. Treating the eating disorder and nourishing the body can diminish the symptoms caused by the nutritional deficiency.
- Three types of eating disorders are common, anorexia, binge-eating, and bulimia. Each type of eating disorder has specific symptoms.
- The symptoms of an eating disorder vary. Some include over-exercising, a preoccupation with dieting, dramatic weight fluctuations, dental issues, and menstrual irregularities.
- Not all people with eating disorders are thin. Binge eaters, for instance, consume huge amounts of food in an almost ritualistic session, reverting to stealing food sometimes. Unlike people with anorexia, binge-eaters are usually overweight.
- One of the biggest mental health issues that can occur when people have eating disorders is a distorted view of themselves. It can cause self-hate, lead to self-destruction, and requires finding the cause of the disease before treatment can be successful.
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