Eating Disorders

What Is Eating Disorders?

  • Eating disorders are a group of conditions associated with an abnormal relation to food in respect to a person’s body.
  • Eating disorders can have severe psychological and physical implications.
  • Eating disorders include Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia, and Binge Eating Disorder.
  • It most commonly affects females, but males are also affected (more than thought in general society). The most common age group is usually adolescence and young adulthood.    

What Is Eating Disorders?

  • Eating disorders are a group of conditions associated with an abnormal relation to food in respect to a person’s body.
  • Eating disorders can have severe psychological and physical implications.
  • Eating disorders include Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia, and Binge Eating Disorder.
  • It most commonly affects females, but males are also affected (more than thought in general society). The most common age group is usually adolescence and young adulthood.    

What Are The Symptoms Of Eating Disorders?

  • In general, eating disorders are characterised by an obsession with food and calorie intake, as well as an obsession with body image.
  • Each eating disorder has its set of diagnostic criteria based on typical symptoms. These are part of the DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition) classification of psychiatric conditions.
  • Anorexia nervosa typically presents with severe restriction of caloric intake, far below the requirements needed for their specific gender and age, as well as an altered sense of self-image, patients often unable to perceive that their weight is far below normal. The severity of anorexia is based on the body mass index- a normal range of healthy body weight in relation to a person's height. Different ranges are considered normal depending on age and gender. 
  • Bulimia nervosa is characterised by binge eating episodes, followed by abnormal measures to get rid of the excess food that has been ingested. These measures include vomiting, abnormal use of laxatives and diuretics or excessive exercise. Patients with bulimia often feel out of control during a binge episode. For a diagnosis of bulimia to be made, binge and purging episodes should have occurred at least once a week during a three-month period.
  • Patients with bulimia are typical of average weight, and not as emaciated or underweight as patients with anorexia. The severity of their condition is based on the amount of binge eating episodes and number of abnormal compensatory mechanisms following the binge episodes.
  • Binge eating disorder occurs when patients exhibit abnormal and frequent binge eating episodes, often associated with severe anxiety, emotional distress and lack of control during binge episodes. In contrast to bulimia, binge eating disorder does not have inappropriate compensatory actions taken by the patient after the binge episode.
  • Reference: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth edition    

What Are The Causes Of Eating Disorders?

  • Psychosocial causes play the biggest role. These include low self-esteem, perfectionistic personality, poor body image, lack of supportive or intimate relationships, difficult social or home circumstances. Abuse such as emotional, physical or sexual may also play a role. Patients often find it difficult to express their feelings or emotions. 
  • There has been much criticism about how media and films portray and idealise unhealthy body weights and represent false ideas of true beauty, with airbrushed and photoshopped images. This idealisation plays an important role in the development of eating disorders, especially during puberty, in both young girls and boys.
  • Genetics or neurological causes remain unclear.    

What Are The Things One Should Do To Manage Eating Disorders?

  • If you have a family member or a friend that might be struggling with an eating disorder, it is important to seek help for them. Often they cannot see or are not able to assess how severely ill they may be. Psychiatric and psychological help is of utmost importance.
  • It's ok to admit that you are struggling with an eating disorder. Often there are significant social stigmas attached to any form of mental illness. But an illness is an illness, be it physical or psychological. Seek help as soon as possible.
  • It is important to realise that recovering from an eating disorder may be a long-term process, be kind and patient with yourself
  • Find a support system, be it friends, family or an eating disorder recovery forum.    

What Are The Things One Should Avoid To Manage Eating Disorders?

  • Criticise yourself or see it as a failure that you are asking for help. Often people with eating disorders are very perfectionistic and incredibly hard on themselves.    

What Are The Best Foods For Eating Disorders?

  • Consultation with a dietician is important in the facilitation of the recovery process. Dietetics play an important role in the process of recovery and weight gain. Diets should be adjusted to patient’s specific needs, and gradual changes should be made.
  • Close dietary monitoring is important in severe cases of eating disorders during the recovery period.  

What Are The Worst Foods For Eating Disorders?

  • Often patients have been in a state of starvation for too long. If a patient starts eating too quickly and too large amounts, a condition called refeeding syndrome may occur. This occurs specifically when carbohydrates are taken in in large quantities following periods of malnutrition or starvation. This may lead to a shift in electrolytes and can lead to low levels of phosphate, magnesium, and potassium, and eventual heart failure if severe.

What Are The Medicines For Eating Disorders?

  • Medical treatments may include hospitalisation if very severe. Patients may then need parenteral feeding (feeding through a drip or nasogastric tube), or admission for correction of electrolyte abnormalities and dehydration.
  • Patients with eating disorders often have underlying micronutrient deficiencies and electrolyte abnormalities that need to be corrected with medications or supplements.
  • Psychotropic medications that can be used include antidepressants, low dose antipsychotics or mood stabilisers.    

What Are The Tips To Manage Eating Disorders?

  • Psychological treatment is the foundation on which management of eating disorders should be built. Psychotherapy is essential to address underlying factors such as low self-esteem and body image.
  • Social workers may also be involved if there are difficult home circumstances, especially in adolescents still staying at home. Setting up of a support structure is also important.

What Are The Symptoms Of Eating Disorders?

  • In general, eating disorders are characterised by an obsession with food and calorie intake, as well as an obsession with body image.
  • Each eating disorder has its set of diagnostic criteria based on typical symptoms. These are part of the DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition) classification of psychiatric conditions.
  • Anorexia nervosa typically presents with severe restriction of caloric intake, far below the requirements needed for their specific gender and age, as well as an altered sense of self-image, patients often unable to perceive that their weight is far below normal. The severity of anorexia is based on the body mass index- a normal range of healthy body weight in relation to a person's height. Different ranges are considered normal depending on age and gender. 
  • Bulimia nervosa is characterised by binge eating episodes, followed by abnormal measures to get rid of the excess food that has been ingested. These measures include vomiting, abnormal use of laxatives and diuretics or excessive exercise. Patients with bulimia often feel out of control during a binge episode. For a diagnosis of bulimia to be made, binge and purging episodes should have occurred at least once a week during a three-month period.
  • Patients with bulimia are typical of average weight, and not as emaciated or underweight as patients with anorexia. The severity of their condition is based on the amount of binge eating episodes and number of abnormal compensatory mechanisms following the binge episodes.
  • Binge eating disorder occurs when patients exhibit abnormal and frequent binge eating episodes, often associated with severe anxiety, emotional distress and lack of control during binge episodes. In contrast to bulimia, binge eating disorder does not have inappropriate compensatory actions taken by the patient after the binge episode.
  • Reference: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth edition    

What Are The Causes Of Eating Disorders?

  • Psychosocial causes play the biggest role. These include low self-esteem, perfectionistic personality, poor body image, lack of supportive or intimate relationships, difficult social or home circumstances. Abuse such as emotional, physical or sexual may also play a role. Patients often find it difficult to express their feelings or emotions. 
  • There has been much criticism about how media and films portray and idealise unhealthy body weights and represent false ideas of true beauty, with airbrushed and photoshopped images. This idealisation plays an important role in the development of eating disorders, especially during puberty, in both young girls and boys.
  • Genetics or neurological causes remain unclear.    

What Are The Things One Should Do To Manage Eating Disorders?

  • If you have a family member or a friend that might be struggling with an eating disorder, it is important to seek help for them. Often they cannot see or are not able to assess how severely ill they may be. Psychiatric and psychological help is of utmost importance.
  • It's ok to admit that you are struggling with an eating disorder. Often there are significant social stigmas attached to any form of mental illness. But an illness is an illness, be it physical or psychological. Seek help as soon as possible.
  • It is important to realise that recovering from an eating disorder may be a long-term process, be kind and patient with yourself
  • Find a support system, be it friends, family or an eating disorder recovery forum.    

What Are The Things One Should Avoid To Manage Eating Disorders?

  • Criticise yourself or see it as a failure that you are asking for help. Often people with eating disorders are very perfectionistic and incredibly hard on themselves.    

What Are The Best Foods For Eating Disorders?

  • Consultation with a dietician is important in the facilitation of the recovery process. Dietetics play an important role in the process of recovery and weight gain. Diets should be adjusted to patient’s specific needs, and gradual changes should be made.
  • Close dietary monitoring is important in severe cases of eating disorders during the recovery period.  

What Are The Worst Foods For Eating Disorders?

  • Often patients have been in a state of starvation for too long. If a patient starts eating too quickly and too large amounts, a condition called refeeding syndrome may occur. This occurs specifically when carbohydrates are taken in in large quantities following periods of malnutrition or starvation. This may lead to a shift in electrolytes and can lead to low levels of phosphate, magnesium, and potassium, and eventual heart failure if severe.

What Are The Medicines For Eating Disorders?

  • Medical treatments may include hospitalisation if very severe. Patients may then need parenteral feeding (feeding through a drip or nasogastric tube), or admission for correction of electrolyte abnormalities and dehydration.
  • Patients with eating disorders often have underlying micronutrient deficiencies and electrolyte abnormalities that need to be corrected with medications or supplements.
  • Psychotropic medications that can be used include antidepressants, low dose antipsychotics or mood stabilisers.    

What Are The Tips To Manage Eating Disorders?

  • Psychological treatment is the foundation on which management of eating disorders should be built. Psychotherapy is essential to address underlying factors such as low self-esteem and body image.
  • Social workers may also be involved if there are difficult home circumstances, especially in adolescents still staying at home. Setting up of a support structure is also important.