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Eating Disorder — The Untold Story

The pressure to be slim by any means possible is real. With the increasing promotion of the ideal body image, the race to a thinner body is on. From surgery to slimming pills and fad diets, and an unspoken secret: eating disorders.

Despite being under-discussed, eating disorders are far more prevalent than many people realize, affecting millions worldwide. They're severe conditions related to persistent eating behaviors that negatively impact physical health, mental health, and the ability to function in critical areas of life. 

Having an eating disorder is an isolating thing to live with. It is not always noticeable to the people around you. Unable to seek support and, in the same fashion, unable to cope with the stresses. The strong desire to be free may go on for weeks, months, or even years without freedom as a viable choice.

1. Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are severe psychological conditions that cause individuals to become overly fixated on food, body weight, and shape, leading to harmful eating behaviors. Various symptoms characterize these disorders and can affect anyone, regardless of age, sex, or race. The most commonly known eating disorders include Anorexia, Bulimia, and Binge Eating Disorder.

Anorexia

Anorexia is highly underweight, caused by food restriction. Some people with anorexia can vomit after eating. It is characterized by an intense fear of gaining weight, a distorted body image, and self-imposed starvation or excessive exercise to prevent weight gain.

Bulimia

Bulimia is episodes of binge eating with compensatory steps to prevent weight gain. Vomiting is the most common symptom. It may also be an abuse of laxatives, extended fasting, or excessive physical activity. Cycles of binge eating (consuming large amounts of food quickly) followed by compensatory behaviors, such as forced vomiting, fasting, over-exercising, or misuse of laxatives to prevent weight gain.

Binge Eating

Binge eating episodes are a lack of control over food intake, unlike bulimia with no compensatory behaviors. Episodes are often associated with shame, hatred, and suicidal ideation. In certain people, eating disorders is the cause of obesity. Recurrent episodes of eating large quantities of food rapidly and to the point of discomfort are often accompanied by feelings of loss of control, shame, and guilt.

2. Signs and Symptoms

There are a variety of causes of eating disorders, depending on the type. Anorexia and bulimia develop during puberty, while binge eating is more common in adults. The route cause is likely one or more of these:

  • Preoccupation with food, dieting, body size, and weight.
  • Weight changes, both up and down.
  • Frequent comments about feeling "fat."
  • Avoidance of meals or situations where food may be present.
  • Evidence of binge eating or purging behaviors.
  • Excessive exercise routines.
  • Withdrawal from friends, family, and usual activities.
  • Dissatisfaction with body image.
  • Derogatory and hurtful comments.
  • Need for control when life becomes uncontrollable.
  • Emotional trauma.

It's crucial to remember that these symptoms may not be visible in everyone with an eating disorder. Some individuals may appear healthy or maintain a normal weight despite suffering silently.

3. Getting Help

Eating disorders can be challenging to handle. Fear of humiliation or being misunderstood brings isolation. Yet, unable to cope with the pressures, finding help becomes a long shot. Getting help is the first step to healing. You cannot do this alone. Be courageous to express your pain to someone who listens, understands, and supports you. Believe that sharing what you are going through with a loved one will help you in the long run, even if it means confronting the reality of your situation.

Once you’ve let the cat out of the bag, it’s time to seek professional help. Eating disorders are treatable. If you believe you are suffering from an eating disorder, the best thing you can do is seek therapy. Your doctor can recommend a therapist who specializes in treating eating disorders. You should not have to give up your livelihood because of an eating disorder.

Treatment Options

Eating disorders are serious but treatable conditions. The most effective treatments usually involve a combination of psychological therapy, nutritional education, and medical monitoring. Here's a brief overview:

  • Psychotherapy: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is often used in treating eating disorders. It helps individuals understand and change the thoughts that lead to harmful behaviors.

  • Nutritional Counseling: A registered dietitian can provide education about nutritional needs and help develop a personalized eating plan to restore health.

  • Medication: While no specific drug can cure eating disorders, medications like antidepressants can help manage co-occurring issues such as anxiety and depression.

  • Support Groups: Connecting with others facing similar struggles can provide emotional support and shared coping strategies.

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Final Thoughts

The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. Find the confidence to speak to someone who cares for you and wants to help you. Then seek professional help from a licensed therapist who specializes in eating disorders therapy. Accept change and accept that it is a process. It won't be instantaneous healing, but it will be a step in the right direction.

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