Eating Disorders - Symptoms And Causes

Time for reading: ~29 minutes Last Updated: August 21, 2022
Eating disorders - Symptoms and causes

Еating disorders, such as anorexia, bulimia and binge-eating disorder, seriously impact health. Learn about symptoms and treatments.

Eating disorders

Eating disorders are a group of conditions defined by abnormal eating habits, which may include undernutrition or overeating, detrimental to an individual's mental and physiological health. There are many varieties of eating disorders, and they are all characterized by absolutizing the importance of food or body weight. We are talking about diseases that create permanent mental attitudes in the patient towards food and nutrition in general, as well as complexes about his appearance, which take on dangerous proportions, show serious physiological symptoms and have a number of complications, some of which can even lead to death. Eating disorders include: anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, systemic overeating (hyperphagia) and orthorexia.

Etiology of eating disorders

Eating disorders, as with most mental disorders, are complex phenomena that cannot be monocausally reduced to one specific cause (e.g. sexual harassment). As an important factor favoring the appearance of anorectic symptoms, the possibility of a genetic-familial disposition has long been assumed.

Pathogenesis of eating disorders

Any visible loss of normal weight is potentially dangerous for the body. Under the influence of the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, characteristic changes occur: the cortisol level rises (e.g. through the breakdown of fatty tissues and the release of sugar from the liver), which leads to the mobilization of energy reserves. The level of hormones necessary for sexual functions is also lowered. This leads to stunting of the sexual organs and interruption of the cycle (amenorrhea).

In order to reduce energy consumption, the body temperature decreases, the skin becomes dry and pale, the heart beats more slowly, the muscle tone is reduced. Vegetative functions are impaired, stomach emptying and intestinal peristalsis slow down, and this, with the limited amount of food, leads to constipation. Among other things, it leads to a decrease in the number of white blood cells (leukopenia).

The brain also suffers from cachexia and the accompanying loss of fluid (exycosis). There is an expansion of the cortical folds and brain stomachs. On radiological examination, the brain appears shrunken. Accordingly, patients with advanced anorexia have clear cognitive and emotional deviations.

After years of maintaining an underweight, osteoporosis is reached, i.e. morbid reduction of bone mass, which facilitates bone fractures ("spontaneous fractures") even after mild trauma and degenerative changes.


Anorexia neurosis

Anorexia nervosa (in Latin:  Anorexia nervosa ) is a disease in which the body mass index becomes 18.5 or lower.
The disease develops on a mental basis. It is typical mainly for young women and is very often the result of the ideal woman imposed in the media. Patients with anorexia nervosa experience reduced weight, an unrealistic view of appearance, obsessive fear of gaining weight, weight control through voluntary fasting, induced vomiting, and excessive use of laxatives and diuretics. In the media, and sometimes even in scientific literature, the disease is called only anorexia, which is technically not quite correct, because anorexia (from the Greek: an (lack of) and orexis (appetite)) is a medical symptom (reduced appetite, lack of appetite) .


Signs of anorexia

These characteristics and indications are individual and not all of them need to be observed in every case of the respective eating disorder.

  • Intentional weight reduction;

  • Body weight is maintained at a level at least 15% below expected;

  • Abuse of diuretics and laxatives;

  • Avoiding foods that fill you up and the possibility of subsequent induced targeted vomiting, induced targeted intestinal upset, excessive exercise, use of appetite suppressants and/or diuretic medications;

  • Irritability, frequent mood swings, difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness, suppressed hunger;

  • A disorder in the perception of one's own body, in which the fear of fullness is preserved as an overvalued idea;

  • A strong fear of gaining weight that does not decrease even with progressive weight loss;

  • Disturbances in the perception of the body, for example, the feeling that one is fat remains, even when one is weakly thin;

  • Feeling that you don't deserve to be happy;

  • Feelings of insecurity, feelings of inadequacy;

  • Pseudo-certainty, persistence;

  • Dependence or total rejection of the mother figure;

  • Attention and concentration may decrease significantly;

  • Sleep can become disturbed and lead to daytime fatigue;

  • A feeling of self-satisfaction, good self-esteem when the person manages to stick to a diet, and conversely guilt when the person has eaten too much or in the wrong way

  • Food, weight, diet - become the central topic of every discussion, conversation;

  • Intolerance when talking about food;

  • Acceptance of uniform food;

  • Obsessive counting of calories;

  • Failure to accept changes regarding the rules of eating; as well as not receiving attention and unexpected looks from others during meals - any such change and observation causes anxiety and tension;

  • Behavior of avoiding meetings and invitations from relatives and friends that are related to eating;

  • Increased interest in everything related to the kitchen and especially great interest in healthy eating and different types of diets;

  • Cooking for loved ones; control during the preparation of food - to be consistent with their (the patients') taste and manner, taking time to arrange the table and the dishes, but the person affected by the disease does not eat;

  • Weight control becomes obsessive, stepping on the scale happens several times a day or is avoided out of fear;

  • Due to digestive disorders, often inability to eat, pain or other symptoms during meals;

  • Often eats alone or invents various excuses to skip meals - urgent commitments, activities, etc.;

  • Tendency to social isolation, avoiding contact with relatives, friends; disrespecting holidays, birthdays, etc.;

  • Always busy and therefore very difficult and worried when they have free time;

  • Intense physical exertion - sports, dancing, cleaning, walks, etc., with the aim of burning calories, respectively, showing nervousness, irritability, if this right is taken away from him/her;

  • He wears loose clothing to hide his body and thicker clothing than necessary because of the reduced body temperature

  • Experiences anxiety, restlessness in relation to academic activities and achievements, as he is always guided by the desire to be perfect;

  • Manifestation of impulsive reactions, irritability, tension, apathy, increasing difficulty in communication;

  • Lack of awareness of being sick and needing treatment;

  • Lack of interest in sexuality in adults.

Physiological complications due to anorexia:
  • Delayed physical development (if anorexia develops at an earlier age);

  • Delay in psycho-sexual development;

  • Appearance emaciated;

  • Slowed blood circulation, cold feet, hands and low body temperature;

  • Massive endocrine disorders, which manifest in women as amenorrhea (absence of menstruation), and in men as loss of sexual desire and potency;

  • Problems with conception;

  • Changes in the levels of various other hormones may also be observed. Co-occurring depressive and obsessive-compulsive symptoms may be present, as well as features of a personality disorder;

  • Dehydration;

  • Cardiovascular disorders (hypotonia, bradycardia, cyanosis of the limbs, hypotremia);

  • Malnutrition, swelling;

  • Gastrointestinal disorders;

  • Constipation;

  • Lanugo (fine hairs, moss, characteristic of newborns), hair loss, accentuated eye socket, dry skin;

  • Low blood pressure and heart rate, dizziness;

  • Chest pain, shortness of breath;

  • Anemia;

  • Osteoporosis.

Development of the disease

In the past, it was incorrectly believed that excessive and indiscriminate dieting led to anorexia. However, it has been established that anorexia nervosa is a mental illness that is not a consequence but a cause of eating disorders. Very often, before they begin to "regulate" food, anorexics have greatly increased anxiety. The problems are most often related to the family sphere, intimate life, the unsatisfactory attitude of friends and peers. Obsessions usually occur that if they lose weight, certain things will happen, for example: they will be happier, they will be more liked, their life will change in a positive direction. The restrictive regimen that patients adopt may include some or a combination of the following elements—strict diet, voluntary fasting, induced vomiting, excessive exercise, abuse of diuretics, etc. Following such a regime, they become purposeful and focused, and as a result, they begin to methodically shed pounds. Often before the worsening of anxiety symptoms, anorexic sufferers receive positive feedback about their appearance from friends and acquaintances, which reinforces their belief that the regime they have adopted is helping them to be happier. Following the regimen makes them feel strong by controlling the high anxiety that provoked the development of the disease. Increased self-criticism is characteristic. Anorexics receive positive feedback about their appearance from friends and acquaintances, which reinforces their belief that their regimen is helping them be happier. Following the regimen makes them feel strong by controlling the high anxiety that provoked the development of the disease. Increased self-criticism is characteristic. Anorexics receive positive feedback about their appearance from friends and acquaintances, which reinforces their belief that their regimen is helping them be happier. Following the regimen makes them feel strong by controlling the high anxiety that provoked the development of the disease. Increased self-criticism is characteristic.

Adhering to the unhealthy lifestyle adopted by those with anorexia can be fatal. Anorexia nervosa is considered a mental illness leading to high mortality. The number of cases of suicide among patients is increased compared to the rest of the population, and the presence of anorexia nervosa is considered the main cause of the act leading to death.

Who are at risk of anorexia nervosa?

Approximately 95% of those affected by anorexia are female, most often teenage girls, but men can also develop the disease. Anorexia usually begins to manifest during early adolescence, but is also seen in young children and adults. In the United States and other countries of high economic status, about one in every 100 adolescent girls has been found to have this disorder. The white race is more often affected by it than people of other races. Many experts believe that people for whom being thin is a particular desire or professional requirement (such as athletes, models, dancers and actors) are at risk for eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa.

What are the causes of anorexia nervosa?

The exact cause of anorexia nervosa has not been determined. However, research in medicine and psychology continues to explore possible causes.

Studies show that genetic components (inherited) may play a more significant role in a person's susceptibility to anorexia than previously thought. Researchers are currently trying to identify a specific gene or genes that may influence a person's tendency to develop this disease, as preliminary studies indicate that a gene located on chromosome 1P may be involved in determining a person's susceptibility to anorexia nervosa.

Other evidence points to dysfunction in the hypothalamus part of the brain (which regulates certain metabolic processes) as contributing to the development of anorexia. Other studies suggest that an imbalance in neurotransmitters (brain chemicals involved in signaling and regulatory processes) may occur in the brain in people suffering from anorexia.

Feeding problems as an infant, a general tendency toward undernutrition, and maternal depressive symptoms may be risk factors for the development of anorexia. Other personal characteristics that may predispose an individual to developing anorexia include high levels of negative feelings and perfectionism. For many people with anorexia, the destructive cycle begins with pressure to be thin and attractive. And the negative attitude towards oneself joins the problem.

While some experts remain of the opinion that family discord and high demands from parents can put a person at risk of developing this disorder, a growing body of evidence opposes the idea that the family environment causes anorexia.

How is anorexia nervosa diagnosed?

Anorexia nervosa can be difficult to diagnose because people suffering from it often try to hide it. Denial and secrecy often accompany the other symptoms. It is unusual for individuals with anorexia to seek professional medical help, as those affected usually do not recognize it as a problem. In many cases, the actual diagnosis cannot be made until medical complications occur. Severely malnourished patients are often unreliable in providing accurate information. Therefore, it is often necessary to obtain it from parents, spouse or other family members to assess the degree of weight loss and the extent of the disease.

Warning signs of developing anorexia or another type of eating disorder include an excessive interest in dieting or losing weight. There are a wide variety of websites that try to inspire people to extreme weight loss. They contain information, photos of famous, extremely thin celebrities, testimonials, and before and after photos of people who have lost extreme weight. The actual criteria for anorexia nervosa are found in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

There are four main criteria for diagnosing anorexia nervosa, which are:

  • Refusal to maintain body weight within the minimum limit for age and height (maintenance of body weight is less than 85% of expected weight)

  • Intense fear of gaining weight or gaining fat, even though the person is underweight

  • Excessive emphasis on body weight in self-assessment, and weight lost is currently not recognized or underestimated.

  • Absence of three consecutive menstrual cycles (amenorrhea) or onset of a cycle only after administration of hormones.

  • What is the treatment for anorexia nervosa?
    Anorexia can be treated in an outpatient setting. For severe weight loss that has compromised organ function, hospital treatment should initially focus on correcting malnutrition. Sometimes weight gain is achieved with the help of eating schedules, reduced physical activity and increased social activity. For individuals who have had otanorexia for several years, treatment goals may be slower to achieve.

  • A variety of psychological therapies are used to treat people with anorexia - individual therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, group therapy, and family therapy are successful treatment practices.

  • Each treatment approach addresses issues underlying control and self-perception. Family dynamics are also explored. Group counseling can help an individual in the recovery process. The ultimate goal of treatment should be to lead a physically and emotionally healthy life.

    Medications such as olanzapine (Zyprexa, Zydis), risperidone (Risperdal), and quetiapine (Seroquel) are used as mood stabilizers to treat schizophrenia and may also be helpful in treating anorexia. These medications can increase weight and manage some of the emotional symptoms such as anxiety and depression that can accompany anorexia.


Anorexia through the eyes of an affected person

The story of a 22-year-old anorexic patient (168 cm, 34 kg): My father is an employee, my mother is a housewife. I have a brother who is two years younger than me. Looking back, I would say that I grew up surrounded by a lot of care, and I was very ambitious. I always excelled in school, took ballet, violin and piano lessons. My illness started when I was in the ninth grade. Around this time, my mother developed diabetes, but she also drank heavily. From that moment on, she became the absolute center of the family. My father only cared for her. On the surface, we were the perfect, super harmonious family. Every day I fought with my mother, I hated her because of her illness, but mostly because of the alcohol. I always felt guilty after the scandals because she was so sick. I escaped to my homework and just studied. In our family, everything revolved only around food. For me then there was nothing but lessons and cooking. I ate less and less and felt fine. After graduation, I wanted to move out, start a new life, but it wasn't that simple (….) food is the main content of my life. All I can think about is eating, I can't get rid of this obsessive thought. I have to weigh everything, know calories first, I can no longer eat anything but whole wheat bread and diet margarine. This limits my life to no end: I avoid invitations so as not to be tempted to eat something else. I can't concentrate on anything anymore, I feel like every activity is exhausting me. I am also physically exhausted, dizzy, shaky, stomach cramps, and constantly feeling like I'm going to explode with anger. I can hardly stand the presence of many people. I'm isolating myself more and more. But of course I control myself. My life is real torture. I went through several therapies (….) I feel totally dependent on other people. I have a terrible fear of my hunger and that I might gain weight. I want to eat normally again, to eat well. I want to learn to make real connections with people.

Bulimia neurosis


What is bulimia?

Bulimia, also called bulimia nervosa, is a type of eating disorder. Bulimia is characterized by crises of covert binge eating followed by the application of inappropriate methods of weight control, for example, patient-induced vomiting (purging), abuse of laxatives and diuretics, or excessive physical exertion. Like anorexia, bulimia is a psychological disorder. It is another condition that crosses the lines of uncontrollable dieting. The binge-purge cycle can quickly become a fixation, similar to an addiction to a certain type of medication or drug. Usually, the disease appears after undergoing a series of failed diet attempts.

Bulimia affects an average of 3% of women during a given period of their lives. Bulimia is estimated to affect approximately 6% of teenage girls and 5% of young women attending college or university. About 10% of all diagnosed cases of bulimia affect male patients. Bulimics are also prone to other fixations, obsessions, emotional disorders and addictions. Twenty to 40% of women suffering from bulimia have a medical history of drug and alcohol use problems, suggesting that many affected women experience difficulty controlling their behavioral impulses.

Unlike anorexics, bulimics go through significant weight fluctuations, but their weight loss is not as severe or obvious as that of anorexics. The long-term prognosis for bulimics is slightly better than for anorexics, and their recovery rate is higher. Nevertheless, many bulimics continue to binge eat to some degree even after the recovery period.

Binge eating in bulimics is not due to an excessive feeling of hunger. It is a reaction to depression, stress or other feelings related to body weight, body shape or food. Binge eating often brings with it a sense of calm or happiness, but soon the feeling of self-loathing due to the sheer amount of food consumed quickly replaces the short-lived euphoria.

Often, the patient suffering from bulimia loses control during binge eating and cleansing the body becomes a way for him to regain control over his body weight. Not all bulimics undergo self-induced vomiting, abuse laxatives and diuretics, or do enemas during a crisis. Some of them are fasting in the days after the crisis. Others engage in strenuous physical exercise in order to regain control over themselves and rid their bodies of possible overeating pounds. Usually, the exhausting exercise interferes with normal daily activities or is applied at the wrong time or under unfavorable conditions, and may continue even during illness or in the presence of trauma.


What are the causes of bulimia?

As with anorexia, the exact cause of bulimia is not fully known. Because of the complexity of this eating disorder, medical and psychological scientists continue to study its dynamics.

Usually, bulimia begins in the form of the patient's dissatisfaction with the characteristics of his own body. In fact, the individual may be underweight, but when he or she looks in the mirror he or she sees an unrealistic reflection of himself or herself and perceives himself or herself to be heavier than he or she really is. Initially, the patient begins the application of diets. Since even after them the patient continues to see himself as extremely full, the diet escalates into a bulimic practice.

Certain types of neurological or medical conditions show disturbing eating habits, but not the main psychological characteristic of bulimia - preoccupation with body shape and weight. For example, binge eating is a common symptom of depression. However, sufferers of depression do not worry about their appearance and do not engage in disturbing weight reduction practices like bulimics.

The organic causes of bulimia are still being studied. There is evidence that bulimia and other eating disorders may be related to abnormalities in the levels of certain types of chemical agents (neurotransmitters) in the brain, specifically serotonin. Other research in this area shows that people suffering from bulimia have an altered metabolism, a decreased sense of satiety, and abnormal neuroendocrine regulation (the process by which the nervous system affects the production of hormones and hormonal substances).


How is bulimia diagnosed?

As with anorexia, denial and secrecy make it difficult to accurately diagnose the disorder. The patient's symptoms are usually noticed by the attending physician only after the occurrence of a specific medical condition or the manifestation of a serious psychological problem. Important for establishing a correct diagnosis is the disclosure of behavioral irregularities in the affected individual. There are five main criteria on the basis of which a diagnosis of bulimia neurosis can be made:

1. Recurrent crises accompanied by excessive food consumption. Binge eating refers to the consumption of a large amount of food every two hours, in a specific period of time and under specific similar circumstances.

2. Feeling of lack of control over food consumed during a crisis or feeling unable to stop food consumption.

3. In addition to overeating, inappropriate compensatory behavior is observed in order to prevent the accumulation of extra pounds. The methods of releasing the excessively accepted food are: inducing vomiting, abuse of laxatives and diuretics, enema, fasting, excessive physical exertion.

4. To be diagnosed with bulimia, both binge eating and compensatory behaviors must occur at least twice a week for three months.

5. The patient expresses dissatisfaction with his body shape and/or weight.

There are two subtypes of bulimia nervosa. The purging type is expressed in regular self-induced vomiting or abuse of laxatives, diuretics, enemas. The nonpurging type of bulimia is characterized by the patient's demonstration of inappropriate compensatory behaviors, such as fasting or excessive physical activity.


What are the signs that prove the presence of bulimia?

It is not always possible to tell whether a patient suffers from bulimia. Individuals affected by this form of eating disorder may be overweight, underweight, or normal weight for their age and height. Although they cannot confirm the diagnosis, the following signs could raise the suspicion of the presence of the disease in an individual:

- going to the toilet after every meal (in order to induce vomiting)
- excessive physical exertion
- swelling of the cheeks or jaws, ruptured blood vessels vessels in the eyes and loss of tooth enamel as a result of frequent vomiting
- excessive concern about body shape and body weight

Complications and long-term effects of bulimia?

Complications of bulimia are usually due to prolonged binge eating and purging. The effect of the purification methods used varies according to the structure and systemic features of the organism of each individual.

Self-induced vomiting can lead to complications in the oral cavity. Stomach acids can damage tooth enamel, deepen cavities, and cause sensitivity to hot or cold food and drink. As a result of frequent vomiting, swelling and inflammation of the salivary glands, such as the parotid glands in the cheeks, can also become a cause for concern.

The esophagus and colon are the most commonly affected parts of the body as a result of bulimic behavior. Frequent vomiting can cause ulcers, tears or strictures (narrowing) of the esophagus. Acids backing up from the stomach (reflux) can also cause serious problems.

As for anorexia nervosa and other eating disorders, malnutrition or a sudden change in body weight can lead to irregular menstruation or amenorrhea (absence of a menstrual cycle).

A number of intestinal and physiological complications are also observed as a result of bulimia. Abuse of diuretics can lead to abnormal fluid accumulation (edema). Prolonged use of relaxing medications can damage the body's natural cleansing process. In some cases, damage to the normal function of the colon may require surgical intervention. Sometimes it takes weeks for bowel function to return to normal after the laxatives are stopped. Abuse of a combination of diuretics and laxative medications can put the bulimic patient at risk of electrolyte imbalance, a condition with life-threatening consequences.

The complex physical and chemical processes involved in sustaining human life can be disrupted, with serious consequences in the continuation of bulimic and purging forms of behavior. In addition, complications in pregnant patients may affect the fetus in bulimic women or the newborn in active bulimic mothers. Psychological problems can also escalate to serious levels, especially if the condition is left untreated, and can prevent the recovery of normal bodily functions.


How is bulimia treated?

Patients with bulimia suffer from a variety of medical and psychological complications that are generally considered reversible with the use of a multidisciplinary therapeutic approach. Treatment is supervised either by a therapist or a psychiatrist, and in some cases by a psychologist.
The degree of medical complications determines the type of primary treatment of the disease. For optimal results, treatment should be administered by a psychiatrist with general medical and psychological experience.

There are a number of antidepressants that have a beneficial effect on the treatment of bulimia. Research in this area shows that the drug fluoxetine (Prozac) is effective in treating patients with bulimia.

Other types of antidepressants suitable for treating bulimia sufferers are: monoamine oxidase inhibitors and buspirone (Buspar). They have a proven effect in reducing the symptoms of binge eating and vomiting in patients suffering from bulimia.

The condition of some patients required hospitalization due to the prevalence of medical and psychological complications. Other patients only need consultation and monitoring by a personal physician no more than once a week. Stabilization of the patient's physical condition is an immediate task in case the patient's life is in danger. The main goal of treatment is to pay attention to both the physical and psychological needs of the patient in order to restore his mental health and a proper diet.

The patient must name the reasons that, in his opinion, caused the disease. Appropriate treatment is based on these causes, self-perception, and family dynamics. Informing about the right way of eating and behavior provide the patient with a healthy alternative for controlling body weight. Group meetings with other bulimic sufferers are also important to the patient's recovery process.
The main goal of therapy is to help patients perceive themselves so that they can lead healthy physical and emotional lives. Restoring physical and mental health takes time and is gradual. Patience is an important part of the recovery process. Positive thinking combined with effort on the part of the patient affected by the disease is another integral part of successfully coping with the symptoms of the disease.



Hyperphagia (bulimia without vomiting) (PREMIUM)

Hyperphagia can be described as bulimia without vomiting. Binge eating is an eating disorder characterized by uncontrolled, impulsive eating without the ability to stop. Sufferers realize that the amount of food they take in is large, they are ashamed of it, they hide, they prefer to eat alone and they make repeated attempts to diet. The disorder is more common than bulimia nervosa, and half of people are overweight or obese. Overeating is dangerous, and its causes are mostly emotional problems. People who most often suffer from this PH are nervous, depressed and lonely. Yet not everyone who overeats suffers from PH.

Signs of uncontrolled overeating (hyperphagia):

These characteristics and indications are individual and not all of them need to be observed in every case of the respective eating disorder.

  • periodic loss of control over eating;

  • consumption of unusually large amounts of food in a certain time, exceeding many times the amount that can be accepted by an average statistically healthy person in the same time;

  • during attacks eating is much faster than usual;

  • food is taken until physical discomfort or pain in the stomach occurs, or until vomiting occurs;

  • consuming large amounts of food, even when there is no feeling of hunger;

  • during attacks most often eat alone to avoid discussing their condition with others;

  • surreptitious snacking;

  • night meals;

  • disgust or guilt after overeating, sometimes developing a negative attitude towards food;

  • they prefer high-calorie and often low-quality food;

  • difficulty concentrating;

  • change in sexual desire;

  • feeling insecure;

  • self-esteem is directly related to appearance, and pounds, successes and failures are attributed to appearance;

  • excessive preoccupation with appearance;

  • attempted diets;

  • abuse of diuretics and laxatives

  • a history of sudden changes in weight;

  • sudden increase in body weight or sudden appearance of obesity;

  • social isolation;

  • they eat little among other people and maintain a high weight;

  • difficulties in family and contacts;

  • depressed mood;

  • anxious mood;

  • very low self-esteem;

  • a desire to swallow larger and larger amounts of food.


Signs of compulsive overeating:

These characteristics and indications are individual and not all of them need to be observed in every case of the respective eating disorder.

  • bouts of overeating or uncontrollable eating, even when there is no feeling of hunger;

  • during attacks eating is much faster than usual;

  • eat alone;

  • feeling guilty after overeating;

  • constant commitment to body weight;

  • depression or mood swings;

  • realizing that eating habits are strange;

  • sudden increase in body weight or sudden appearance of obesity;

  • significantly reduced mobility, as a result of increased body weight;

  • data on previous variations in body weight;

  • data on numerous failed diets to control body weight;

  • low self-esteem and a feeling that they need to eat more and more food;

  • intrusive thoughts related to food and eating.

Physiological complications as a result of uncontrolled overeating (hyperphagia) and compulsive overeating:
  • Overweight;
  • risk of developing type 2 diabetes;

  • cardiovascular diseases;

  • respiratory disorders;

  • gastro-enterological diseases;

  • hormonal disorders;

  • bone and joint diseases;

  • disorders in reproductive functions;

  • elevated cholesterol;

  • sleep apnea (interruption of breathing during sleep);

  • increased risk of colon cancer;

  • gall stones.

Eating disorder, unspecified (according to American Psychiatric Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Washington, DC, American Psychiatric Association, 2000)

“The category of Eating Disorder, unspecified is for eating disorders that do not meet the criteria for any specific Eating Disorder. Examples:

  1. In women, all criteria of Anorexia nervosa are met except that the patient has regular menses.

  2. All criteria for Anorexia Nervosa are met except that, despite significant weight loss, the individual is currently of normal weight.

  3. All Bulimia Nervosa criteria met except that episodes of binge eating and inappropriate compensatory mechanisms occur with a frequency of less than twice a week or a duration of less than three months.

  4. The regular use of inappropriate compensatory behaviors by an individual of normal body weight after ingestion of small amounts of food (eg, self-induced vomiting after ingestion of two biscuits).

  5. Repeated chewing and spitting, but not swallowing, of large amounts of food.

  6. Binge Eating Disorder: Recurrent episodes of binge eating in the absence of regularly applied inappropriate compensatory behaviors characteristic of Bulimia Nervosa.


Orthorexia (obsession with healthy eating) (PREMIUM)

Orthorexia is defined as a morbid obsession with healthy and proper eating. It comes from the Greek words "orthos" - faithful, correct and "orexis" - nutrition.

The term was first proposed in 1997 by Dr. Stephen Bratman of California and refers to people who undergo highly restrictive diets in the name of healthy eating.

Nearly 15 years after Dr. Bratman described the condition in his bestseller, orthorexia is still not recognized as an eating disorder (as well as a medical term for a medical condition) due to the existence of controversy among experts.

Some believe that this is a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder, based on the fact that "milder" cases of orthorexic behavior are not dangerous to life and health, but are characterized more by their obsessive nature (creating norms and rules , the observance of which takes up all the attention and time). Others find that orthorexia is no different from the already defined eating disorder - anorexia.


Why do some people cross the line?

Modern society constantly sets standards for us - tells us what is beautiful, how to look, how thin to be, what is healthy to eat. How, then, could focusing on healthy eating harm us?

Often, orthorexia begins as an innocent, sincere desire for a healthy lifestyle - a person stops eating red meat, later completely cuts out meat, saturated fat, carbohydrates, then processed foods, until finally eating only special foods prepared in a special way way.

Everyday life overlaps with taking the "right" food. Every "transgression" is followed by stricter rules, fasting, exhausting exercises.

Finally, the choice of food becomes so narrow in terms of calories, but also in terms of type of food, that health suffers. An ironic twist for a man so desperately devoted to preserving his health.

Not only the pursuit of a healthy life explains orthorexia. Often this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Orthorexia can also reveal other psychological problems - fear of illness, need to control everything in life, trying to escape from obsessive fears, a means of improving self-confidence, using food to build an identity.

According to Dr. Bratman, among people who believe in natural medicine, the drive is usually to avoid the use of drugs because of their side effects. Instead, attention is paid to what one eats.

But what most people fail to notice is that obsessing over what you eat also has many side effects—mainly the obsession itself.


What are the health risks?

Like anorexia, orthorexia is often associated with significant weight loss, but the so-called orthorexics fix their attention not on the quantity, but rather on the quality of the food they eat - they strive for a kind of "purity" of their eating behavior, and not so much for physical weight loss.

The right foods that can be safely taken become important. An orthorexia sufferer will spend all their time and energy thinking about the health benefits of the right foods – how the food should be processed and cooked.

At one point, this leads to a sharp limitation of the variety of foods, reaching 5-6 foods that are actually consumed.

Although orthorexia does not carry the same health risks as anorexia or bulimia, doctors warn that this disorder can easily turn into anorexia due to systemic starvation.

The restrictive nature of eating in orthorexia leads to malnutrition and starvation, which carry with them later risk of overeating and guilt, and bulimia is not late.

Excluding meat from the diet can lead to iron-deficiency anemia, which puts a heavy strain on the heart. The lack of fats is the reason for the development of hypo- to avitaminosis of fat-soluble vitamins - A (impaired vision), D (osteomalacia - softening of the bones), E (increased damage to cell membranes by free radicals) and K (blood clotting problems).

Due to the insufficient import of proteins, the breakdown of muscle proteins can occur, which burdens the kidneys, muscle weakness and susceptibility to infections are observed.

What is the treatment for orthorexia?

Like any disease with psychological roots, it is much easier to treat its effect on the body than on the soul. First, the orthorexic must admit that the problem exists, and then determine what exactly is causing the obsession.

Also, these people need to learn to be more flexible and less dogmatic about their food. Other emotional issues are usually hidden behind the excessive focus on healthy eating.

Their solution seriously facilitates the transition to normal nutrition and overall healing. It is best that specialists with experience with this disease undertake its treatment.


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