What is an eating disorder?
You’ve likely heard about eating disorders in your daily life. Eating disorders are physical and mental illnesses that cause people to severely alter their eating behaviors and related thoughts and emotions (Source). They are complex mental health conditions that may require support and eating disorder treatment.
If you’re living with disordered eating and struggling with your body image, you’re not alone. What you’re going through is painful. Support is here for you.
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Types of Eating Disorders
There are many different eating disorders that all have their own host of symptoms and treatments. While it may be overwhelming to learn about the breadth of different kinds of eating disorders if you’re unfamiliar with the variety of symptoms and experiences, knowledge is power. Read on to familiarize yourself with some of the eating disorders people live with every day:
- Anorexia Nervosa: Anorexia nervosa usually involves intense fear of gaining weight and distorted body image. Often (though not always!), people with anorexia have very low body weight. (Source)
- Bulimia Nervosa: Bulimia nervosa is most commonly characterized by a cycle of binge eating and purging (self-induced vomiting). (Source)
- Binge eating disorder (BED): Binge eating disorder (BED) often includes consistent episodes of eating large amounts of food—usually to the point of discomfort. This behavior is usually the result of a cycle of emotions that includes shame, loss of control, and an intense desire to regain control. BED is one of the most common eating disorders in the United States. (Source)
- Orthorexia: Orthorexia involves intense obsessions with healthy eating. Often, people who have orthorexia are hyper-aware of the nutritional content of their food and they become fixated on “healthy eating.” (Source)
What are some symptoms of eating disorders?
Eating disorder symptoms vary greatly depending on the type of eating disorder. No matter the eating disorder, people often experience both emotional and physical manifestations of their illness.
Some emotional symptoms may include:
- Preoccupation with weight, food, and calories
- Obsession with body size and shape
- Mood swings
- Skipping meals
- Specific food rituals
- Acting withdrawn from personal relationships
Some physical symptoms may include:
- Changes in weight
- Difficulties concentrating
- Hair loss
- Dizziness and/or fainting
- Missing or irregular periods
- People with anorexia may experience extreme weightloss
- People with bulimia experience a repeated cycle of binge eating and purging
National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) is a Crisis Text Line partner. Read more about eating disorder symptoms on their website here and consider using NEDA’s free screening tool here if you are concerned.
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms or just need to get something off your chest, support is here for you. Text HOME to 741741 to reach a volunteer Crisis Counselor. Free, 24/7. We’re here for you.
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Eating Disorder Treatment:
Before reading on, if you or someone you know is struggling, know that recovery is possible. Though it may feel overwhelming, frustrating, confusing, and everything in between right now, there are clinically proven treatment options.
Treatment for eating disorders often involves ongoing support and therapy from medical and mental health professionals. Mental health treatment can include everything from in-patient intensive care to occasional therapy sessions with someone trained to help people with eating disorders recover.
If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, it’s important to reach out to a professional. While it can be overwhelming to make the first step, it’s so brave to reach out for support. Taking care of your mind and body is the best gift you can give yourself. You are strong and you can do this.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, it may feel overwhelming and isolating to process. You are not alone. Crisis Counselors are here to listen whenever you feel like you need someone to talk to. Text HOME to 741741 for free, 24/7 crisis counseling.