What is an Eating Disorder?
Eating disorders are complicated. There are many different types and folks often do not fit into the perfect box of one type. They range in behaviors, health risks, emotional instability, and cause. Eating disorders are not a one-size-fits-all by any means.
So what is an eating disorder, then and how do we know the difference between them?
An eating disorder is a mental health condition that often leaves you feeling preoccupied with food and engaging in unhealthy eating behaviors. They can be quite physically serious, emotionally and physically. Here we will take a deep dive into the different types and what it may look like when someone is struggling.
Folks who are struggling with Anorexia Nervosa have an intense fear of gaining weight, leading to severe restriction of food intake and negative body image. There is a preoccupation with food, calories, and body size. This can lead to malnutrition and many dangerous health complications. Restriction leads to consuming less energy than bodies require to function properly, sometimes resulting in muscle wasting, heart problems, electrolyte imbalances, or infertility.
Those struggling with Bulimia Nervosa go through a cycle of binge and compensatory behaviors. A binge eating episode is classified as eating a larger than typical amount of food in a certain amount of time, leading one to feel often overstuffed or even ill. Binge eating often leaves folks feeling out of control around food with a sense of shame. This is followed by compensatory or purging behaviors, such as vomiting, excessive exercise, or laxative/diuretic use. Depending on the frequency of the binge/purge cycles, it can lead to severe digestive issues, dental problems, and electrolyte imbalances.
Binge Eating Disorder is classified as recurrent episodes of binge eating, without the compensatory behaviors. There are often feelings of guilt, shame, and loss of control around the binging episodes, leading folks to eat in secret, hide, or even steal food. Binge Eating Disorder often feels like a loss of control over when to stop eating, similar to an out of body experience and is the most common type of eating disorder. It can sometimes lead to diabetes, heart problems, or high blood pressure.
Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)
ARFID is characterized by very selective eating habits, often due to sensory concerns or fears of choking, vomiting, or difficulty swallowing. The limited variety and range of foods can lead to severe malnutrition and medical complications. In ARFID there is no fear of weight gain, however, sometimes discomfort in the weight lost during their time struggling. ARFID can result in nutritional deficiencies, slow growth in children, and a reliance on nutritional supplements.
So at the end of the day, what is an eating disorder? Well it is a serious mental health condition that needs compassionate and comprehensive treatment. With the right support and guidance, those struggling with an eating disorder can regain a healthy relationship with food and their body and improve their overall health. We are here at Serendipity Counseling Services to support anyone struggling with their journey to recovery. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us for support! Contact us here to start your recovery journey.