Almost everyone knows someone who has struggled with an eating disorder or has struggled with one themselves. This is not surprising, considering an estimated 30 million people in the United States suffer from an eating disorder. Unfortunately, far fewer come forward to seek help because it is a taboo subject. This is mostly due to the fact that how eating disorders develop isn’t well understood and is commonly seen as a condition that those suffering from can control. However, this is far from the truth. Eating disorders are just as much an illness as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, etc. and should be treated as such. Let’s take a look at the most common eating disorders, how they develop, and what you can do if you or a loved one is struggling.
The Most Common Eating Disorders
- Anorexia Nervosa – Individuals who suffer from anorexia nervosa see themselves as overweight, no matter how skinny they might actually be. For this reason, they severely restrict their caloric intake to the point that it is dangerous.
- Bulimia Nervosa – Those who struggle with bulimia are often of normal weight, so it can be harder to identify these individuals. They binge eat large quantities of food and then purge by vomiting, laxatives, diuretics, or even exercise.
- Binge Eating – This eating disorder involves eating excessively large quantities of food at one time. Due to such a large caloric intake, these individuals are typically overweight and obese to the point where they are experiencing health issues as a result.
- Pica – Individuals who struggle with pica have an addiction to eating items that aren’t actually food. This can lead to very serious medical problems.
- Rumination Disorder – This involves individuals regurgitating the food they have already swallowed. They either chew it again and swallow it, or spit it out. This can lead to malnourishment.
- Purging – Individuals who purge typically consume a normal diet, however, in an effort to maintain their weight, they purge using laxatives, diuretics, or even vomiting.
Eating disorders are dangerous if left untreated. They can lead to serious health issues and even death. It is important to understand the factors that play a role in the development of eating disorders.
How Do Individuals Develop Eating Disorders?
Unfortunately, it is not one size fits all when it comes to how eating disorders develop and there isn’t a surefire way to prevent eating disorders. However, there are known triggers that can cause an eating disorder to develop.
Genetics Increase the Risk of Developing an Eating Disorder
It comes as no surprise that genetics play a part in someone’s likelihood of developing an eating disorder. Those who have a family member who has struggled with an eating disorder is 7-12 times more likely to develop one themselves.
An individual’s personality can play a role in developing an eating disorder. Those who have a tendency towards perfectionism, obsessive thinking, trouble dealing with emotions, distrust of others, and lack of confidence tend to be at a higher risk for developing an eating disorder at some point in their lives.
Traumatic Life Event
A traumatic life event can most certainly be a trigger for an individual to develop an eating disorder. This could be anything from physical abuse and sexual abuse to the loss of a loved or the ending of a marriage. Individuals who develop an eating disorder are typically using it as a way to self-punish, attempt to regain control of their lives, or cope with emotions. Most likely these individuals feel a great amount of shame and dissatisfaction with themselves. Those who fall into this category often have inadequate coping skills.
Addiction to Dieting
Dieting is a very common way for individuals to develop eating disorders. The reason is that there are so many diets out there that encourage restrictive eating, and some of them are not healthy or sustainable long-term. However, individuals see the weight falling off, become addicted to the weight loss and will do anything to keep seeing the weight come off. This results in an eating disorder.
It is important to understand that most people who struggle with an eating disorder fall into one or more of these categories. Understanding how you or a loved one developed an eating disorder is the first step on the road to recovery.
What Can You Do?
Even though eating disorders are very serious and not to be taken lightly, they are very treatable. If you or a loved one is battling an eating disorder, seeking treatment is the best thing you can do for yourself and your family. Fairwinds is the leading treatment center in Florida for eating disorders. Our compassionate team treats each patient like family in a warm and welcoming atmosphere to help you get to the root of the problem and heal the body as a whole; physically, emotionally, and mentally. Contact us today for more information on our treatment programs for eating disorders.