Social media and pop culture has been slowly eating away at the brains of young and old people alike. You must be thin! You must be beautiful! This doesn’t only apply to women – the standards of beauty for men are just as high, although differ slightly. You must be muscular! You must be well-groomed! With all the pressure resting over both men and women these days, eating disorders are becoming more and more prevalent. There is a lot more to eating disorders than just being worried about what you’re eating and counting calories. What many people don’t realize is that over-eating is also considered an eating disorder. If you’re asking yourself, “do I have an eating disorder?”, let’s take a deeper look into the different kinds of eating disorders and symptoms to watch out for.
Perhaps the most well-known eating disorder, anorexia nervosa is characterized by persistent starving that leads to an abnormally low body weight. This doesn’t have to be a permanent fast; those who are anorexic count calories religiously and restrict their eating to a minimum. They are obsessed with their weight, are terrified of weight gain and are unaware of how severe their problem is. Those with anorexia nervosa become extremely thin, continuing to starve themselves even after they have reached an abnormal body weight. They have a severely distorted body image, unable to see how unhealthy they have become. In more severe cases, menstruation may stop completely until a normal diet is resumed.
Over an extended period of time, those with anorexia nervosa may start showing more extreme symptoms such as:
- Brittle nails and hair
- Dry or yellowing skin
- Abnormal hair growth on various parts of the body
- Muscle weakness
- Lower internal body temperature
Bulimia nervosa is typically characterized by binging and purging – which means eating an excessive amount of food and then attempting to induce vomiting to get rid of that food. Inducing vomiting is not the only way that bulimics try to get rid of their food. Other alternatives can be the use of laxatives, excessive exercise, diuretics or fasting after eating an excessive amount of food. Like those with anorexia nervosa, they have a distorted body image and are constantly obsessed with losing weight.
After a period of time, those suffering from bulimia nervosa may begin to show other symptoms such as:
- Sore or inflamed throat
- Cardiovascular problems
- Swollen glands in the neck
- Acid reflux disorder
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Intestinal problems
- Electrolyte imbalance
Those with binge eating disorder do not show signs of purging like those with bulimia nervosa. Because of this, those suffering from this disorder are often slightly to extremely overweight. Binge eating disorder is characterized by the complete loss of control over eating habits. Since binge eating often leads to an extreme weight gain, those with this disorder may suffer from high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. They may feel guilty about their lack of control over their eating habits, which in turn makes them eat even more. Binge eating is a vicious circle.
How Do You Know if You Have an Eating Disorder?
Simply worrying about your weight or eating chocolate every day doesn’t mean that you have an eating disorder. However, it’s important to keep track of warning signs that may show that you are on the path to developing an eating disorder. Oftentimes, the disorders start by simply eating slightly more or slightly less food than usual. If you think you may have an eating disorder or are at risk for developing one, ask yourself these questions:
- Are you worried about being overweight?
- Do you avoid eating, even if you’re hungry?
- Do you count the calories you consume?
- Have you ever felt unable to stop eating once you start?
- Do you try to avoid foods that are high in calories, carbohydrates, or fat?
- Have you ever induced vomiting or used a laxative after eating?
- Do you feel guilty after eating?
- Do you eat to cope with emotions?
- Has anyone ever told you that you are too thin?
- Do you spend an abnormal amount of time thinking about your BMI?
- Do you feel better about yourself when you have an empty stomach?
- Do you feel that you are being controlled by thoughts of food or thinness?
- Has anyone ever told you you need to eat more?
- Do you force yourself to exercise until you burn a certain amount of calories?
- Do you weigh yourself every day?
- Does your weight tend to fluctuate a lot?
- Do you eat in secret?
- Do you eat a lot when you aren’t hungry?
If you have answered yes to a handful of these questions, you may be at risk for developing an eating disorder. It’s important to note that answering yes to these questions doesn’t automatically mean that you have an eating disorder, and this questionnaire is not a replacement for an accurate medical exam. If you are worried about your health, you should contact a professional.
If you feel as though you have an eating disorder or you are at risk for developing one, you are not alone. There are thousands of other people out there – both male and female – who are feeling the same way. Treatment depends on the severity of your situation and your particular symptoms, so it’s important to get in touch with a professional that can accurately diagnose any problems you have. You may need to get in touch with your primary doctor, a psychiatrist, and a dietician to get the treatment you need. Support groups are available for those of you who need people to talk to, and medications are available for treatment of depression or anxiety that is a result of or has caused an eating disorder.
You’re not alone, and help is out there. If you feel as though you are suffering from an eating disorder, don’t let it take over your life. Tell someone you trust about your problems and get the help you need. If you’re worried about your weight and are looking for a healthier way to keep the pounds off, Udemy has a great course that will help you stay skinny without dieting and maintain healthier eating habits.