Eating disorders are a serious mental illness that can have a major impact on physical health, yet they are often misunderstood. These are conditions in which people feel very concerned about their weight and body shape. Most people with eating disorders are women, although there are also many men with eating disorders. Those with eating disorders will often base their self-worth on their weight and body shape and will have an intense fear of gaining weight. This fear of gaining weight is called body dysmorphia. People with this distorted body image cannot see reality and do not see how thin they really are.
How Are They Diagnosed?
Anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder all have unique signs and symptoms. To diagnose an eating disorder, a physician will take your medical and psychiatric history, conduct a physical exam, and even do other tests. Diagnosing an eating disorder can be tricky because there is rarely a medical test to confirm a diagnosis.
By the same token, many people experience disordered eating during recovery, so it’s important to remember that a combination typically diagnoses factors, not anyone symptom. Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses that can have a devastating effect on a person’s quality of life. But eating disorders can be treated, and recovery is possible. The earlier an eating disorder is diagnosed and treated, the better the prognosis.
How Does It Affect Your Body?
You might have heard the term eating disorders before, but do you know what they are? The most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, and the most common characteristics of these are extremes in weight-loss behaviors and body consciousness. For example, someone with anorexia nervosa may have a body mass index (BMI) of less than 17, which is significantly below the average BMI of 20 to 25. These disorders are linked to serious health problems.
When you have an eating disorder, you may put yourself at dangerous risk for serious health problems. Eating disorders are associated with a number of physical complications, including but not limited to:
- Heart failure
- Kidney disease
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Enlarged heart
And in some cases, it can even cause death. However, there is a wide range of medical, psychological, and social problems that come with eating disorders.
The key to overcoming an eating disorder is identifying its warning signs and seeking help from a professional. Most people with eating disorders suffer in silence and are afraid to admit they’re true feelings or ask for help.
Can You Still Recover from An Eating Disorder?
Disordered eating is a serious issue that can have lasting effects on a person’s physical and mental health. But by getting help at an early stage, people can recover from eating disorders. No matter which eating disorder someone has, the sooner they seek treatment, the better their chances of a full recovery.
More often than not, eating disorders have links to other mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. Bulimia and binge eating disorder are associated with the highest risk of psychiatric comorbidity, including mood disorders, anxiety, and substance abuse. When eating disorder symptoms are severe, a person is at risk for medical complications, such as electrolyte imbalances and chronic malnutrition.
Treating the Eating Disorder
It’s natural for anyone who has been diagnosed with an eating disorder to wonder if they can get better and fully recover from their illness. It’s possible to recover from an eating disorder, but it’s a long and difficult journey. Recovery is about accepting yourself and allowing your body to heal. It’s not easy, and it’s not something you can do by yourself. Therapy, support groups, and the guidance of a professional eating disorder specialist are all valuable tools.
While it’s true that eating disorders will always be a part of your life, that doesn’t mean you can’t live a happy and healthy life. In fact, the earlier you seek help, the better your chances of recovery. In order to recover from an eating disorder, you need to get treatment for your illness, whether it’s anorexia, bulimia, or a binge eating disorder. The treatment plan will be tailored to your particular eating disorder, so it’s important to find a therapist or eating disorder treatment program specializing in the eating disorder you have.