Who doesn’t worry about their weight?
It’s hard not to these days with so many magazines filled with images of skinny models and celebrities. Teenagers in particular often feel under a lot of pressure to succeed and fit in. Many spend a lot of time worrying about what others think of them and try to conform to society’s ‘ideal’ body image.
The problem is when it becomes an obsession and you start cutting down drastically on food intake, eating huge amounts, skipping meals, hiding food, throwing up, taking laxatives or exercising constantly.
When people hear of someone with an eating disorder they usually assume the person just has a problem with food. However, eating disorders are not a sign that a person has a problem with food. Eating disorders are actually the symptoms of other problems in that person’s life and they may be using food to cope with the times when they are bored, anxious, angry, lonely, ashamed or sad. People with eating disorders use control of food as a way to cope with emotional difficulties and stress.
People with eating disorders go through a very difficult time. If you know someone who is heading that way or if you have a problem with your eating habits then make sure you talk to someone who can help.
What are the main eating disorders?
The main types of eating disorders are Anorexia, Bulimia and Binge Eating.
If you have anorexia you are trying to reach and then keep a body weight lower than the normal body weight for your age, sex and height. You may be preoccupied with thoughts about food and the need to lose weight and may also exercise excessively in an attempt to burn off what you may see as excess calories.
A person experiencing anorexia focuses on food in an attempt to cope with life. It is their way of demonstrating that they are in control of their body weight and shape. Eventually the disorder itself takes control and the chemical changes in the body affect the brain making it almost impossible for you to make rational decisions about food.
With Bulimia you binge eat (eating a lot of food in one go) then immediately get rid of the food by vomiting or taking laxatives (or both), by reducing food intake or working off the calories with exercise in an attempt not to gain weight.
Bulimia is more difficult for others to notice as you do not to lose weight so dramatically, or your weight may go up and down. This makes bulimia less noticeable than anorexia. Even people close to you or at home may not recognize the illness, so it can continue for many years undetected. As with anorexia, people who develop bulimia become reliant on the control of food and eating as a way of coping.
Binge Eating Disorder
Binge eating disorder shares some of the same characteristics of bulimia, but the main difference is that you binge uncontrollably but do not purge. Purging is the use of laxatives or diuretics to avoid weight gain. It is believed that many more people suffer from binge eating disorder than either anorexia or bulimia nervosa.
Some of the signs of binge eating are:
Why might a person develop an eating disorder?
There is no single cause which can explain why a person develops an eating disorder, it is usually a combination of factors that come together to create conditions in which an eating disorder is more likely to take hold. The eating disorder often develops gradually as a response to an upset in a person’s life. This could be a traumatic event, a loss, bullying, comments about weight or shape or an overload of stress.
I have a friend who I think has an eating disorder. How can I support them?
It can be very difficult to support someone who has an eating disorder as you may find it difficult to watch a person you care about experiencing such difficulties. Don’t underestimate the impact that you can have as a good friend. Here are a few things to remember about supporting someone.
What treatment is available for eating disorders?
No one form of treatment suits everybody. Some people find that they are able to recover from an eating disorder themselves with the help of family and friends. However, most people will at some point look for professional help. This could be your GP, Counselling, psychologist, social worker or a programme in a hospital or treatment centre. Each person will need to decide what works best for themselves.
If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, take it seriously and look for help. There is always someone there who can help.
Here are some useful websites for more information on eating disorders and where you can get help
Information & help on all aspects of eating disorders.