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Eating Disorders: The Need-to-Know Facts

why do i have anorexia

Worldwide, some 70 million people suffer from an eating disorder. Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of all the emotional/mental disorders. In addition to those facts, there’s huge comorbidity with the mood and anxiety disorders. Definitely Chipur discussion material…

Laxative Abuse: Repeated, frequent use of laxatives to eliminate unwanted calories, lose weight, ‘feel thin,’ or ‘feel empty.’ Reference Karen Carpenter’s cause of death.

I loved Karen Carpenter – still do. Karen died in 1983 at the age of 32. Her death was attributed to emetine (a drug used to induce vomiting, produced from the ipecac root) cardiotoxicity as a consequence of anorexia nervosa. (True confession: To this day I choke-up when I hear the Carpenters song, “Rainy Days and Mondays.”)

Given the eating disorders’ relationship with the mood and anxiety disorders, it’s been on my mind for some time to post a general need-to-know piece. It’s my hope that the exposure and information will motivate those who know, or suspect, they need treatment to step forth from the shadows and get the help they need – deserve.

This is going to be a longie, but it needs to be. Go ahead and print it. It’ll make for easier reading and you’ll have it handy for future reference. And pass the article along to a friend or loved one in need.

Speaking of reference, I turned to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA).

Eating Disorders: What Are They?

The eating disorders are in many ways serious business, and they can impact people of every age, sex, gender, race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic group. Though the cause is unknown, the convergence of a range of biological, psychological, and sociocultural factors is likely involved. That’s sort of how it goes with the emotional/mental disorders, isn’t it?

Disorder by disorder, let’s do the highlights…

  • Anorexia Nervosa: Weight loss (or lack of appropriate weight gain in growing children); trouble maintaining an appropriate weight for height, age, and stature; and, in many, distorted body image. Common are calorie and food types restriction, purging (vomiting, laxative use), compulsive exercise, and binge eating.
  • Bulimia Nervosa: A cycle of binge eating and compensatory behaviors, such as self-induced vomiting, designed to undo or compensate for the effects of binge eating.
  • Binge Eating Disorder: Recurrent episodes of eating large quantities of food; a feeling of loss of control during the binge; experiencing shame, distress or guilt when it’s over; and not regularly using unhealthy compensatory measures to counter the binge eating. It’s the most common eating disorder in the US.
  • Orthorexia: An obsession with proper or “healthful” eating.
  • Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED): Includes those who don’t meet strict criteria for anorexia or bulimia, but still have a troubling eating disorder.
  • Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID): Limitations in the amount and/or types of food consumed, but doesn’t involve distress about body shape or size, or fears of fatness.
  • Pica: Eating things that aren’t typically thought of as food and don’t contain significant nutritional value (hair, dirt, paint chips, etc.).
  • Rumination Disorder: Regular regurgitation of food. The regurgitated food may be re-chewed, re-swallowed, or spit-out.
  • Unspecified Feeding or Eating Disorder: Symptoms characteristic of a feeding and eating disorder that cause significant distress or impairment, but don’t meet full criteria for any of the feeding and eating disorders.
  • Laxative Abuse: Repeated, frequent use of laxatives to eliminate unwanted calories, lose weight, “feel thin,” or “feel empty.” Reference Karen Carpenter’s cause of death.
  • Compulsive Exercise: Extreme, excessive exercise that significantly interferes with routine functioning. 

Eating Disorders: Risk Factors

how do you fix mental illnessIf any of us are to be proactive in addressing that which ails us, we need to know about risk factors. For the eating disorders we’ll categorize them into biological, psychological, and social…

  • Biological: Having a close relative with an eating disorder or any emotional/mental health condition, history of dieting, negative energy balance (burning-off more calories than taken-in), type 1 diabetes (diabulimia: coexisting eating disorder and diabetes, typically type 1, in which the individual restricts insulin to lose weight).
  • Psychological: Perfectionism, body image dissatisfaction, personal history of an anxiety disorder (there’s that comorbidity), behavioral inflexibility (always following the rules, as there’s only one “right way” to do things).
  • Social: Exposure to weight stigma, bullying, teasing; buying-in to the socially-defined “ideal body,” acculturation (e.g.: undergoing rapid Westernization), loneliness and isolation, trauma history.

Eating Disorder: Treatment

There are a variety of effective treatments available for the eating disorders. Levels of care include inpatient, residential, partial hospitalization (PHP), intensive outpatient (IOP), and outpatient. As with any emotional/mental disorder, treatments are based upon individual need and the results vary on a per case basis.

Of note, common psychotherapies include acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), enhanced cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT-E), cognitive remediation therapy (CRT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), family-based treatment (FBT), interpersonal therapy (IPT), and psychodynamic therapy.

Let’s Close

It’s so easy for any of us to cruise through life, all the while ignoring maladaptive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors – as though that’s just the way it is.

If an eating disorder is at the foundation of all the hubbub, I’m hoping this piece will get your attention and serve as a call to action. And, again, perhaps you’re being called to alert someone in need.

Eating disorders destroy lives, but help is available. And that’s important information for any mood or anxiety disorder sufferer. I mean, we can’t ignore the comorbid potentialities.

Hey, be sure to check-out the wonderfully helpful info and resources on the NEDA website.

And when you get time, scan those Chipur mood and anxiety disorder-related titles.