Let me begin by saying that I’m not a psychologist or a medical professional. I gathered the information in this article by researching the DSM-5 as well as peer reviewed articles on the subjects of eating disorders. I strongly advise you to seek professional help if you or a loved one displays symptoms of the psychological disorders listed below.
Not long ago I created a post about controlling eating habits and it turned into a hot issue. This led me to believe that I should provide more information, higher quality information, about this explosive subject. I mean, let’s face it, there are numerous eating disorders representing a very wide spectrum. But no matter what, proper nutrition and regular exercise is important for a healthy lifestyle. PROPER nutrition and regular exercise is important to a healthy lifestyle. It would be wrong to eat everything or to starve yourself. Finding the balance may take consultation with one or more professionals. Finding the proper balance of nutrition and exercise is critical. These disorders are very serious and can be life threatening. Seeking proper psychological and medical attention is instrumental in succeeding on your long-term fitness quest. The causes of these disorders are not fully understood, but professionals know a few things. For instance, the greatest risk factors appear in adolescents or during very young adulthood. Professionals are also conducting research to investigate the genetic components of these disorders (Ciccarelli & White 2015).
Consider the most commonly known eating disorder, Anorexia or Anorexia Nervosa. This condition is most often, but not always, found in young females where the person reduces eating to a point where the body weight becomes dangerously low (Weinberg & Gould 2015).
Common characteristics are:
- Refusing to eat to maintain a minimal body weight for age and height.
- Extreme fear of gaining weight or becoming fat despite being under weight
- Disturbance in how one sees their own body, i.e., saying they are fat when obviously underweight.
- In females, missing at least 3 consecutive expected menstrual cycles.
We will cover more signs of disorders later. Anorexia can be potentially fatal, leading to starvation, heart disease, loss of muscle tissue, low blood pressure and diarrhea (Ciccarelli & White 2015). Anorexia is a disorder with multiple dimensions, psychological, cognitive, perpetual, and biological (Weinberg & Gould 2015). If you or a family member exhibit these symptoms then speaking with a medical professional is vital.
Another commonly discussed disorder is Bulimia or Bulimia Nervosa. This condition is recognizable for its cycle of binging and purging. A bulimic person may eat large amounts of food in one sitting (binge) then deliberately vomit (purge), use laxatives, or incorporate other methods to avoid weight gain. These purging methods can also include fasting for a day or two after eating or even excessive exercise. Similar to Anorexia, this is most commonly found in young females obsessed with appearance (Ciccarelli & White 2015).
Common characteristics are:
- Recurring episodes of binging.
- Feeling no control overeating behaviors while binging
- Regularly engaging in self-induced vomiting, using laxatives or diuretics, strict dieting or fasting, or vigorous exercise to prevent weight gain.
- Persistent over-concern with body shape and size.
The binge process can be prompted by anxiety or depression, social stress or feelings about body image, or possibly extreme hunger due to diet attempts (Ciccarelli & White 2015). This disorder can be just as damaging to the person’s health as anorexia. It can lead to extreme tooth decay and erosion of the esophagus due to vomiting, enlarged salivary glands, damage to the intestinal track due to overuse of laxatives, heart problems, fatigue and seizures (Ciccarelli & White 2015). These signs are a strong indication that a person should speak with a medical caregiver like a doctor or nurse, or a professional counselor who is highly qualified.
Here are other signs that you or a loved one should contact a physician.
Physical and Psychological Signs of Eating Disorders (Journal of Applied Sports Science Research).
- Weight is too low
- Considerable Weight loss
- Extreme fluctuations in weight
- Swollen Salivary Glands
- Sores or calluses on knuckles or back of the hands from self-induced vomiting
- Muscle cramps
- Stomach complaints
- Headaches, dizziness or weakness
- Excessive dieting
- Excessive eating without weight gain
- Excessive exercise that’s not part of a regular training program
- Guilt about eating
- Claims of being fat at normal weight despite reassurance from others
- Preoccupation with food
- Avoidance of eating in public or denial of hunger
- Hoarding food
- Disappearing after meals
- Frequent weighing
- Binge eating
- Use of drugs such as diet pills, laxatives or diuretics
What a few people don’t realize is there is an opposite side of the eating disorder spectrum, and that is Binge Eating Disorder. This disorder is similar to Bulimia’s binge eating, but no purging after (Ciccarelli & White 2015). This disorder was added to the DSM-5 in 2013, making it an official disorder. Characteristics of Binge Eating Disorder are recurring episodes of eating large quantities of food (to the point discomfort), feeling of loss of control during the binge, and expressing shame, guilt or distress after (National Eating Disorder Association 2018).
Some signs of Binge Eating Disorder include:
- Noticeable fluctuations in weight
- Stomach cramps, or other gastrointestinal complaints
- Difficulties concentrating
- Disappearance of large quantities of food in short periods
- Discomfort eating around others
- Constantly trying new fad diets
- Fear of eating in public or with others
- Hoards food
- Frequent diets
- Shows extreme concern for appearance
- Has secret recurring episodes of binge eating
- Feelings of disgust, depression or guilt after overeating
- Low self-esteem
There are heath concerns related to Binge Eating Disorder other than obesity, although up to two-thirds of people with this disorder are labeled clinically obese. Other concerns are eating to the point of gastrointestinal pain, stomach ruptures, type 2 diabetes, and sleep apnea (National Eating Disorder Association 2018). This disorder should be taken seriously as the others since it too can be life threatening.
Don’t forget, it’s ok to talk to a health professional if you feel you or a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder. It’s better to have reliable information from a health professional than to let a life threatening issue go.
Written by, Ray Shonk
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National Eating Disorder Association (2018). https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/health-consequences
Weinberg, R. & Gould, D. (2015). Foundations of Sports and Exercise Psychology
Ciccarelli, S. & White, J. (2015). Psychology. Pearson Publishing