Eating disorder definition/meaning:
What eating disorder means is using food for something besides nutrition. According to the DSM 5 eating disorders are severe disturbances in eating behaviours and attitudes.
Are eating disorders mental health issues?
Eating disorders are mental and physical health issues and are driven by psychological distress in an anxiety-making world.
What causes eating disorders?
Eating is about nourishment, care and belonging. At the heart of most eating disorders is a feeling of unsafety caused by insecure connection with caregivers, social group or, in the aftermath of trauma, life itself. A developmental issue or a trauma of some kind brings a sense of threat and distress. Feeling unsafe, disconnected, you find it hard to regulate your emotions. The lack of ease in your mind and body that goes with dysregulation leads to problems making contact with yourself and others. It also blocks awareness of what’s really going on in your own mind/body and in other people’s minds.
Captured by threat, you become increasingly isolated and lonely. You express that misery through eating distress also known as an eating disorder. Now you judge your self-worth largely or even exclusively, in terms of controlling your shape and your weight. You’ll be loved then, right? No, you’re caught in an exhausting bind, stressing around eating in order to keep stress at bay. The underlying issues however, which cause the self-harming eating behaviours remain: anxieties, fears, panic, trauma, depression, loss of identity, loss of spirituality, emotional emptiness, emotional isolation and emotional distress.
I believe that eating disorder is a symptom of distress, often with deep traumatic roots.
Why eating disorders develop
Eating disorders develop after trauma, or long experience of being unseen, or being validated for striving behaviours like perfectionism. They develop where you have little or no self-esteem. You don’t ‘get’ that you can change your unhappy situation. Social media images destroy your confidence.
Where do eating disorders come from
It’s complex. Eating disorders have been described since ancient history. We know they’re a shame expression. It feels as if there’s nothing you can do about your unhappiness, because you’re that powerless, but in the shadow of your slow suicide, you’re screaming determinedly to be seen. The eating disorder distracts you from your inner pain, regulates the intolerable feelings and helps you cope with stresses. Medicine says the source is mental or genetic. Psychology says it’s about family conflict. A cultural view says you’re judged these days for living in an imperfect body. It must be fixed so that you can be a social success. Whichever way you look at it, under the distress there’s a human who wants to find ease.
Signs and symptoms of eating disorder include:
Anxiety, low self-esteem, secretiveness, using food for non-nutritional regulation purposes, and weight issues. Underneath, you’ll find: anxieties, fears, panic, trauma, depression, loss of identity, loss of spirituality, emotional emptiness, emotional isolation, emotional distress, and 24/7 negative internal dialogue.
- Types of eating disorder:
- anorexia nervosa;
- binge eating
- bulimia nervosa,
- compulsive over-eating,
What eating disorders are most common
- Anorexia nervosa
Anorexia nervosa refers to severely restricting food intake. It literally means loss of appetite.
- Bulimia nervosa
Bulimia nervosa means an exaggerated craving for food. It is associated with purging.
Who develops eating disorders?
People of all ages, genders, social groups and cultures.
- Bullying is a significant driver of eating disorders in young males.
- Work appearance requirements drives it in older men (pilots, athletes, actors).
- For females, comparison to others is a key driver of the eating disorder. Social media pressures to match an unreal and ideal body norm destroys confidence and leads to eating issues.
- 43% of adolescents are dissatisfied with their bodies. Up to 3% develop the eating disorders Anorexia Nervosa or Bulimia.
Why eating disorders are dangerous
They are dangerous because they can have severe medical effects.
Eating disorders affect:
- The whole body
- The brain
- Mental and emotional health
Eating disorders affect weight, height and all of the following levels:
- Vital signs (pulse, blood pressure, temperature, respiration)
- Electrolytes, glucose, calcium, magnesium, phosporus
- Complete blood count and thyroid function (T3, T4, and TSH)
- Albumin, transferrin
- Liver function
- Bone density