Mental, emotional and physical distress presents in a host of different ways. People who suffer from any of these conditions often show distinct outward signs that they’re in pain and turmoil and need help. Such is the case when a person suffers from an eating disorder. You can help yourself or someone in your own family or circle of friends by understanding the definition of an eating disorder and how a person can best recover from it.
What Leads to An Eating Disorder?
Before you can understand what an eating disorder is, it can help you to learn what causes this condition. In fact, a number of different factors often come into play when a person is first diagnosed with one of the more common eating disorders. In many cases, emotional or mental distress from the past manifests in such a way that the person feels he must starve or purge food in order to gain control over his life. Having total control over food intake and whether or not it stays in the body to be digested can give a person a sense of control at a time when other circumstances, such as physical, emotional or sexual abuse at home, beyond this person’s control may be inflicting a great deal of mental and emotional pain.
In other cases of eating disorders, people on a path to recovery often reveal to their therapists, family and friends that they were taunted by classmates or even other relatives about being overweight. A single taunt, perhaps said more in jest than earnest, can be all it takes to put an emotionally fragile person on a path to self-harm. These people’s eating disorders at first are an attempt to shed a few pounds in order to show others that they’re not overweight and can look just like everyone else. However, given these individuals’ emotional states and need for control, they’re often unable to stop themselves from avoiding or purging their food each day. They often cannot fully overcome their disorders until they’re checked into a fully licensed and highly qualified recovery program.
A Look at Common Eating Disorders
Once you know which factors contribute to an eating disorder, you would benefit from understanding the kinds of disorders that exist before you encourage someone to go into a recovery program. Perhaps one of the most well-known conditions, anorexia nervosa affects millions of people each year. Anorexia nervosa involves a near or total avoidance of food and beverages. People afflicted with this disorder will go days eating only the smallest amounts of food that contain the least amount of calories. In some cases, people with anorexia will even abstain from eating at all for days at a time.
They meticulously count their caloric intake each day and often will scatter the food on their plates to make it look like they’ve eaten more than they actually have. Many anorexics also use diuretics to help them lose weight faster. People with this condition frequently reach a point where they look skeletal; their hair may fall out, the skin may become ashen or pale, and they may lose teeth because of poor dietary intake. Anorexia nervosa can lead to premature death not only from starvation, but also cardiac arrest because of the heart muscles being starved of proper protein and other nutrients.
Another common eating disorder, bulimia, involves eating and then purging one’s food. Like anorexics, bulimics tend to be obsessed with food. However, they care less about the caloric intake and more about their ability to regurgitate the food after it has been eaten. They often purge themselves at mealtimes, seemingly starved for the flavor and sensory experience of eating, only to make themselves vomit shortly afterward. People with bulimia typically feel like they must be in control of their food intake, using this control to mask an emotional or mental pain stemming from a circumstance they cannot control in their own lives. Bulimics too will reach a point where they’re noticeably very thin and have sunken skin, hair loss, and stained and eroded teeth from frequent vomiting. They also may suffer from damage to their esophageal lining because of their daily purging. Bulimia can likewise be deadly if not treated properly through a qualified recovery program.
Recovery for Eating Disorders
People who suffer from an eating disorder must, in many cases, be encouraged to enter a rehabilitation program that’ll guide them through the process of overcoming their conditions. Upon entering one of these programs, individuals will be given one-on-one therapeutic attention to help unravel the emotional and mental distress that prompted the onset of the disorder in the first place. Patients in these facilities can expect to attend group therapy sessions, where they’ll hear the stories of other people who suffer from the same conditions. These sessions, combined with individual therapy, can help those who’ve felt for a long time as though they’ve been alone in the battle to gain control in their lives.
These individuals will also be taught how to eat healthy again and come to terms with food being something needed for sustenance. They can also expect to be weighed often to monitor their progress. When therapists see that patients are eating well and gaining weight, they’re more inclined to release them from the program sooner. However, skilled therapists are trained to identify attempts to cheat or put on a facade to get out of the program before fully recovered. If patients adhere to the guidelines of the program fully, they can enjoy a more successful outcome.
An eating disorder can be deadly if you or someone you love doesn’t get help promptly.
You can get that help by calling the free hotline at 800-447-9081 FREE.
Staff at this helpline can guide you to beginning your recovery today.