Eating disorders are detrimental to the person’s physical and mental health. In severe cases, it may become life-threatening. There are many contributing causes to eating disorders. In most cases, they are triggered by a combination of complex emotional and social issues.
Eating disorders affect both men and women. They occur more frequently during adolescence or early adulthood. The person may also suffer from depression, substance abuse and anxiety disorders
Common types of eating disorders include:
Persons with anorexia nervosa often consider themselves fat or overweight. This causes them to restrict their diet to the point of self-starvation.
But in reality, many of them are evidently underweight and malnourished. The fear of gaining weight leads them to try and maintain an abnormally low weight. Wrecked with emotional turmoil, they struggle with a distorted body image and self-esteem.
For persons with anorexia nervosa, a thin body is a representation of their self-worth.
Persons with anorexia nervosa often exhibit these characteristics:
Other physical symptoms may include:
Persons with bulimia nervosa feel an overwhelming compulsion to binge on food. This is followed by purging to avoid gaining the extra weight or calories.
It becomes a repetitive cycle of binge-eating and purging. Common purging attempts include self-induced vomiting, consuming laxatives, fasting and excessive exercising.
These frantic, self-harming efforts are often accompanied by feelings of shame and distress. The person may also judge himself harshly based on self-perceived body flaws.
Unlike anorexia nervosa, persons with bulimia usually have healthy or normal body weight. They can thus keeping their condition a secret for a longer period of time.
Persons with bulimia may exhibit these outward symptoms:
Binge-eating refers to recurrent episodes of overeating large amounts of food. Persons who binge often feel compelled to eat a lot even when they are not hungry. Bingeing on food has become their way of coping with emotions or stress.
Deep down, the person may feel embarrassed about not being able to resist the urge to binge. This leads him to often binge in secret. Due to the sense of disgust or guilt involved, bingeing may lead to depression. Other health risks include obesity, diabetes and heart conditions.
Persons with binge-eating disorder may not show obvious physical symptoms or weight issues. They may, however, display outward symptoms such as:
Eating disorders are treatable. Treatment should address both the eating disorder itself, and the underlying psychological issues.
Professional help should be sought as early as possible. Early diagnosis and treatment are the key to a successful recovery.
Encourage the person to join a self-help or support group, such as Support for Eating Disorders Singapore (SEDS).
SEDS is a support group for survivors of eating disorders and their supporters. The group meets once a month to share problems, experiences and support for one another. Persons recovering from eating disorders benefit greatly from being in a supportive environment.
Contact the SAMH Insight Centre at 1800–283 7019 for more information on the support group.
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