Eating disorders are classified as frequent disturbances in the consumption or absorption of food in a manner that causes distress or impairs one’s mental, physical, or social functioning. Examples of eating disorders include pica, binge eating disorder, bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa, rumination disorder, and avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder. For eating disorders, there is sometimes a compulsive aspect of feeling you have to over-eat or under-eat. Based on individual and societal pressures, there are many reasons for developing and maintaining disordered eating—for example, the association of being skinny with femininity and having muscles with masculinity, etc.
Pica is an eating disorder that involves the persistence of consuming nonfood substances over at least one month over age two. Examples include dirt, clay, hair, glue, etc. Pica is prevalent in both men and women, such as during pregnancy. Rumination disorder is repeatedly voluntary bringing up swallowed food lasting over a month. The food brought up may be re-swallowed, rechewed, or spit out. Rumination disorder often leads to malnutrition or weight loss. Avoidant/restrictive Food Intake Disorder is categorized by avoiding food or lack of desire to eat due to food features or worries about the consequences of eating. Hence leading to a negative impact on mental health and social functioning. Other symptoms include weight loss and nutrition deficiency. Note that a lack of eating is not due to cultural practice or food availability. It is most common in infancy and childhood and can continue into adulthood.
Anorexia Nervosa is marked by taking limited food, leading to notable low body weight relative to one’s age, sex, and development. The second marker is significant worry about weight gain and engaging in behaviors to prevent gaining weight despite being underweight. Lastly, there is a discrepancy in how one’s weight and shape are perceived by themselves or not recognizing the seriousness of health consequences of current low body weight. It is more common in women than men and begins during adolescence. Bulimia nervosa is characterized by feeling a lack of control while eating during a binge episode. In addition to eating larger amounts than most people would consume within a specific time window, e.g., two hours. Then followed by engaging in activities to prevent weight gain, such as excessive exercise, throwing up, or misusing laxatives. Engaging in both sides of the disorder at least once a week for three months. Binge eating disorder is similar to bulimia nervosa without the additional component of trying to get rid of the food right after consumption, such as exercising. In addition, during binge eating episodes, said person eats faster than usual, eats until feeling uncomfortable and full, eats large sums despite not feeling hungry, eats without others around due to feeling embarrassed, and feels guilty or down after a binge episode.
Eating disorders often occur alongside other disorders, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar, substance misuse, etc. Typical behavior associated with eating disorders, depending on the type, is semi-starvation, throwing up, taking laxatives to eliminate food intake, or extreme exercise, such as shortly after eating. It can also look like an excessive fixation on healthy eating or mostly eating food in one category, such as protein, or avoiding others. Eating disorders are documented more in women and reported less in men. For trans people, there is an additional pressure to fit into societal expectations of the gender they identify as to reduce violence and increase safety.
Consider utilizing these resources if you suspect you currently exhibit disordered eating patterns. Overeaters Anonymous at https://oa.org. HPA Lifewell(disordered eating individual counseling and groups), https://hpalivewell.com/, https://oa.org/find-a-meeting/?type=0. Call capital counseling to make an appointment with a clinician at 518 462 6531. Or consider looking at https://www.psychologytoday.com/us to find a therapist and narrow your list to one specializing in eating disorders and taking your health insurance.
By, Chioma Ofodile, MHC Intern