Eating disorders are often talked about separately to mental health, or rather, as their own category. But an eating disorder is a mental illness, and they are some of the most complex mental health issues to treat.
We’ve all heard of going on a diet, cutting certain foods, or counting calories. However, an eating disorder is much more extreme than this and, unlike a diet, is uncontrollable.
An eating disorder can develop within anyone and is a term which describes using food as a means of managing emotions, thoughts, and feelings.
This may include either eating too much foor too littler eating a lot of food in a single sitting. Becoming obsessed with your food intake and eating patterns is a crucial warning sign of an eating disorder.
We are always here to offer impartial and confidential support.
54% of those with eating disorders are also addicted. (The Psychiatric Times)
Addiction is a condition that can develop prior to, or as a result of your existing disorder. More
If you are struggling with addiction and eating disorders, call us today on 0808 1150 446.
Those suffering from addiction can develop an eating disorder to feel like they’re in control of an element of their life.
And for those with eating disorders, addiction can be a temporary escape from their feelings of depression, isolation and anxiety. Read more about the impacts of addiction on mental health.
How and why does an eating disorder begin?
The truth is that any combination of factors can contribute to an eating disorder.
To think generally, however, they are mostly caused by stress.
The more common causes of eating disorders can be grouped into three major categories:
1. Psychological factors
- Low self-confidence or self-esteem
- Feeling a lack of control over your life
- Other mental health illnesses such as anxiety or depression
2. Interpersonal and relationship factors
- Trouble with familial and romantic relationships
Difficulty expressing various emotions and feelings
- A history of weight insecurity
- Past experiences of physical and/or sexual abuse
3. Social and External causes
- Cultural and social pressures on body image
- Narrow definitions and perspectives of beauty
- Peer pressure
There are three main types of eating disorder
1. Anorexia nervosa
If you suffer from anorexia, you will try to keep your weight as low as possible, even if you are dangerously thin.
Psychological and behavioural symptoms include:
- Stringent dieting – excessively counting calories, avoiding food, or eating minimally at mealtimes.
- Secretive about food intake – you may hide food or lie about what you have eaten.
- You may take diet pills to suppress your appetite.
- They are relying on overexercising to ensure weight loss.
- You were socially isolating yourself from friends and family.
- Making yourself sick, is commonly known as ‘purging’.
- Weakness due to muscle and strength loss
- Distracted and loss of concentration
- Stomach cramps, nausea, bloating
- Hair loss
- Feeling cold, shivering
- Fine hairs growing on your arms and legs
- Loss of libido
2. Bulimia nervosa
With bulimia, you will be in an unhealthy cycle of eating too much and then preventing weight gain – through making yourself vomit, taking laxatives or over-eating.
Tell-tale signs of bulimia:
- Bingeing and eating large amounts of eating
- Guilty feelings for bingeing
- Spending a lot of time thinking about food or planning to eat
- Mood swings and irritability
- Depression, self-harm, or anxiety
- Calluses on the back of your hand
- Stomach cramps
- Fatigue and lack of energy
- Weight changes
- Swollen hands and feet
3. Binge eating disorder (BED)
BED is characterised by eating a lot of food over a short period of time, or in a single sitting. Eating will cause you distress and you won’t feel like you are in control of your eating habits and patterns.
- Eating quicker than normal
- Eating until you are uncomfortably full
- Eating secretly or lying about what you’re eating
- Feeling ashamed or guilty after a binge
- Other mental disorders such as depression and anxiety
- Overweight for your age and height
- Stomach cramps and constipation
What is drunkorexia?
This social term is often associated with the dual diagnosis of eating disorders and addiction. This is not a clinical diagnosis and is a term often used among young adults.
It relates to the way an individual will alter eating behaviours to account for the caloric intake of alcohol.
This can become serious and lead to a full-blown eating disorder and an addiction too.
There is a way out: eating disorders are treatable
It is difficult to overcome body dysmorphic disorders and addiction on your own, but there is help available and professional support can help you to overcome your illness.
As mental health issues and addiction, eating disorders are better when they’re treated early. Recovery is possible. Read our real-life stories here.
Treatment options are available if you are struggling with a dual diagnosis.
There is no need to be ashamed.
You may be feeling isolated, ashamed or guilty for your illnesses, but you must remember that is it not your fault.
Our team offers impartial advice and points you to the proper treatment and support.
Call us today on 0808 1150 446.