When food is in control
Trapped in denial and secrecy, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa / and binge eating disorders are psychological disorders related to low-self esteem, distorted self-image and social pressures.
All three eating disorders can be characterized by an obsession with food, secrecy to hide what the person is eating or not eating and feelings of disgust and disgrace.
People suffering anorexia nervosa may become dangerously thin, yet through their grossly distorted self-image, they see themselves as being overweight. They may exercise excessively, be very sensitive to cold, and refuse to eat for fear of gaining weight. People with anorexia are literally starving themselves thin.
The characteristics of anorexia
- Abnormal weight loss – 15% below normal
- Obsessive fear of gaining weight and refusal to maintain a normal weight
- Eating small amounts, playing with food – eating very slowly
- Furry skin and hair loss from inadequate protein
- Compulsive exercise
- Sensitivity to cold
- Absent or irregular menstruation
Anorexia-related death is higher than any other psychiatric illness.
People with bulimia nervosa may look normal, but their secret lives may include eating large amounts of food and feelings of disgust or shame because they cannot control the eating.
Like people with anorexia, they have a fear of gaining weight, so they purge through vomiting, laxatives, fasting or excessive exercise. Unhappy with their body size and shape, they may repeat the cycle several times a week.
Recently, Binge Eating Disorder (BED) has been added to the list of eating disorders. It is not just extreme overeating; it is a psychological disorder.
BED occurs in 1 in 35 adults and affects men as well as women. Poor body image, the use of food to deal with stress or low-self esteem and dysfunctional thoughts may cause insatiable cravings for food, which lead to binge eating characterized by the person feeling like they lose control after the first bite.
Binge eating creates a vicious cycle because the person feels bad, binges to feel better, feels disgust, despair and a loss of control, which creates more psychological distress, which leads to more binge eating.
Eating disorders are serious psychological issues. If you or a loved one has an eating disorder, contact your primary health provider for help. Visit here for confidential information.