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Warning Signs Of An Eating Disorder

An eating disorder is a serious mental illness that affects millions of people globally, but often we fail to understand it. Moreover, the signs and symptoms might not be too prominent, since most people would associate them with having an obsession with weight loss. However, any eating disorder should be dealt with as early as possible. If neglected, it can even prompt the patient to take their life. Anxiety, depression, and substance abuse are very common among patients who have an eating disorder. Though we are familiar with bulimia nervosa and anorexia, it is imperative to know the actual signs and symptoms to be able to properly diagnose a patient. Though it is not clear yet as to why it happens, it is believed that our cultural and social sensitization towards body image has contributed largely. Treatment includes regular counseling as well as leading a healthy lifestyle. Thankfully, chances of recovery are good.

Here are some signs and symptoms to look out for.

Physical Changes

A sudden weight loss or even weight gain might be a sign of an eating disorder. Rapidly losing weight, feeling fatigued and dizzy all the time, vomiting, and fainting are other signs to watch out for. Additionally, patients might also feel cold all the time even if the weather is hot, cuts or callouses on the fingers, especially near the knuckles, can be seen, and a sudden tooth loss and appearance of cavities are also tell-tale signs. Due to the rapid loss of weight, women patients often see a change in their menstrual cycle or pattern. Constipation and acid reflux are also quite common during this time.

Behavioral Changes

Behavioral changes are the most prominent ones. Basically, the person will be obsessed with all things related to food, dieting, weight loss, and body image. They would start counting calories, and keep checking for fat content every food bought from the supermarket. Because of misconceptions, they might refuse to eat certain kinds of food like carbohydrates, because most people think carbs can make us fat. Other symptoms include being fixated on new fads in dieting, refusing to use any kinds of condiment in their food, and having extremely small portions during meal times. Worrying unnecessarily over body size and shape and obsessively checking several times in the mirror for extra fat and flab can be another symptom. Meticulously following certain rituals during mealtime, for example, using a certain kind of cutlery, eating at only a particular time, and avoiding social contact especially related to food, is common among patients with eating disorders. They also tend to eat slowly or avoid meals altogether at times and withdraw from social activities.

Psychological Changes

The psychological changes happening in the person is a mixed result of physical and behavioral changes. These patients suffer from extreme low esteem and become overly sensitive to comments regarding their body or size. They also seem to be depressed during mealtime and have this intense fear of gaining weight. Their mind seems to be constantly pre-occupied with thoughts of food but barely eat any. Mood swings and irritability are also common. They seem to always find fault in their body image, and there is this constant self-loathing or feeling of guilt going on at the back of their minds. They also tend to wear ill-fitting clothes as they want to hide their body behind it.

Causes Of Eating Disorder

As mentioned before, the actual causes of eating disorder have not been decoded yet. But, most experts believe that the environment, an abusive childhood, genetics, negative body image projected by society, and peer pressure have a lot to do with eating disorder. Women are prone to getting this mental illness, though men are not completely immune to it as well. It has been found that several athletes, especially from the fields of ballet, figure skating, diving, and gymnastics, have succumbed to peer pressure and have become victims of this disorder. Models are also highly susceptible to this disease. In fact, eating disorders are so rampant within the fashion industry that France had passed a law in 2015 that required models to be declared fit by a doctor first.

Many of our pre-conceived ideas have been proven to be false. We should also get rid of negative body images as they plague the minds of even young girls, and instead of enjoying their childhood, they spend it getting worried over their weight. Now is the time for change. And we must acknowledge this mental illness and seek a proper treatment accordingly.

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