There are several types of eating disorders; anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder. You might think that they are a physical problem, since they cause a sufferer to look so thin, but in reality they are a mental health issue. This is because it is the sufferer’s mind or mental state that causes the perception that their body image is ugly and they are too fat, when they are not.
They then obey the mental urge to get rid of the food they just ate, or to exercise to the point of exhaustion so the calories burn off. Or in the case of binge eating without vomiting, they go on a session of binge eating and gain even more weight. Then the vicious cycle of guilt and eating goes on and on.
They cannot stop it or control it because of the changes to their brain that occur due to the mental aspect of the disease. They become totally preoccupied with thinking about their weight and shape of their body. One of the problems with eating disorders is that they don’t have a single cause that can be identified and removed. There are many varying causes, but just because a person experiences them doesn’t mean to say they will get the disease. So it also depends on a person’s personality as to whether they get the disorder.
One thing is fairly certain; the person who becomes addicted to the disorder goes to great lengths to hide it and can often do so quite successfully. This is most unfortunate because the longer it is before they get help, the more difficult it is to experience a cure. Plus, during this time the body sustains a great deal of damage from poor nutrition, or the effects of obesity.
Some traits and behaviours that are or could be precursors to getting the disease can be changed. These are dieting habits, perfectionism and poor self-esteem. If you or anyone you know suffers from these, take steps to encourage them to get help and support them in their efforts. Otherwise they are likely to soon become anorexic or obese and it will be even more difficult to help them.
In the early stages or pre-cursor stage, counselling can be a big help, and as their self esteem improves they may be able to stop seeing themselves as not good enough or not thin enough. If they can stop even thinking about it, that’s a good sign. Eating a healthy and not dieting will help to keep their body healthy and their mind can then also become healthier.
Eating disorders can affect anyone, not just women, but it seems that young women are the most at risk demographic.