More than 70 million people suffer from eating disorders. They affect more women than men and have a particularly significant impact during adolescence.
Despite the visible progress that’s recently been made in eliminating the stigma of mental illness, many people who suffer from disorders of this type continue to face extremely harsh judgments from society. In fact, false myths and misconceptions abound. For example, the belief that binge eating in bulimia is caused by a lack of willpower.
In this article, as well as some little-known facts about eating disorders, there’s also some helpful information. This will help you to become more empathetic in your dealings with those who suffer from these difficult conditions.
Eating disorders are serious psychological conditions that lead to abnormal eating behaviors. For instance, binge eating, induced vomiting, or not eating for days.
These disorders are capable of triggering serious physical illness and, ultimately, death.
1. No one develops an eating disorder out of the blue.
Eating disorders don’t suddenly appear. They’re conditions that originate from various factors. These might be genetic, social, psychological, family, or personal. In general, the sufferer experiences discomfort with their own body image. This triggers abnormal eating behaviors.
2. There are more disorders than just anorexia and bulimia
Although these two are the most well-known disorders, there are many more that deserve the same attention. Here are some examples:
- Binge eating disorder.
- Eating behavior disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS).
- Rumination syndrome.
- Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID).
- Food addiction.
3. They’re appearing earlier
Until a few years ago, the range of appearance of these disorders had been established as between 13 and 19 years. However, there are now increased cases of patients between nine and ten years old.
As a matter of fact, the figures regarding their prevalence are inaccurate. That’s because many sufferers never go to therapy.
4. They can be overcome
The widespread idea is that people who suffer from these disorders have them for life. Nevertheless, with proper intervention and support from those close to the patients, about 50-60 percent of cases recover. On the other hand, 20-30 percent do so partially, while in ten-20 percent the disease becomes chronic.
5. They don’t only appear in adolescence
Although the figure of the extremely thin adolescent girl is the most representative image of this group of diseases (none out of ten cases are young women), they can occur at any age. Men, children, adults… everyone is susceptible to these disorders.
6. They’re linked to other disorders
For many people, eating disorders are synonymous with a significant reduction in their body mass index. However, there are many other consequences that an affectation of this type can have:
- Psychological. Disorders that contribute to the eating disorder. For instance, depression, addiction problems, and generalized anxiety. Naturally, these interfere with daily life and aggravate the overall picture.
- Physical. Diseases derived from the eating disorder. For example, hiatal hernia, dental problems, malnutrition, diabetes, fraction of the esophagus, or hypertension.
7. They’re not easy to diagnose
Since eating disorders often co-occur with other disorders, it’s often difficult to find which one is the origin of the other. As an example, depression can cause anorexia nervosa, but anorexia can also lead to depression. Therefore, it’s extremely important for a proper diagnosis to be made. This will ensure that the root of the patient’s discomfort is thoroughly dealt with.
We often think only of binge eating and restricted eating patterns when it comes to eating disorders. However, there are many other symptoms that aren’t so clear. One example involves limiting certain types of food until health problems occur, or the eating of really small amounts.
The decisive role of society and technologies
To talk about eating disorders only from a genetic, medical, or even clinical psychological perspective, is too reductive.
In fact, the social context which, nowadays, is also shared digitally, plays an important role in the incidence of eating disorders. Issues such as fat-phobia, the promotion of restrictive diets, or the sexualization of bodies act as weakeners of our mental systems against eating disorders.
Empathy, in addition to putting ourselves in the place of others, must become the action we take against all the injustices committed in our society. In addition, food should always be detached from any context that may favor pain and guilt.
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