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What are eating disorders?

Anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are the eating disorders. Eating disorders refer to disturbances in eating patterns and related thoughts. Individuals are critical of themselves and consider themselves as ‘fat’ or ‘overweight’.

Anorexia nervosa is a disorder in which an individual refuses to eat irrespective of low body weight. Bulimia nervosa refers to a disorder where an individual does binge eating and induces vomiting or use laxative after binge eating.

What does it look like?

1. Features of anorexia nervosa:

  • Physical symptoms

- Extremely low body weight or weight loss.

- Thin appearance is considered to be important for self-worth.

- Fatigue and feeling lethargy

- Malnutrition or nutritional deficiencies leading to life-threatening conditions.

- Absence of menstruation or amenorrhea because of low hemoglobin levels (anemia)

- Thin hairs and nails become brittle

- Dehydration and low blood pressure

- Individual feels cold because of low internal temperature

- Constipation

  • Emotional and behavioral symptoms

- Guilt over eating food

- Severely fasting or limited intake of food.

- Excessively exercising

- Inducing vomiting even after eating little food

- Using laxatives

- Denial of low body weight.

2. Features of bulimia nervosa:

- Swollen jaw and cheeks giving ‘chipmunk’ face look

- Sore throat

- Gastro-esophageal reflux disorder (GERD) caused by inducing vomiting

- Abdominal pain

- Laxative use to lose weight

- Severe dehydration

- Tooth decay

  • The similarities and differences between anorexia and bulimia are:

1. Similarities:

Both conditions are associated with the thought process of body weight gain. There is a distorted body image and low self-esteem.

Inducing vomiting after eating a small amount of food or after binge eating

The presence of dehydration and irregular pulse.

Constipation and abdominal pain

Individuals may exercise excessively.

2. Differences:

  • What causes eating disorders:

- We all want to be liked and validated by other people. The sense of belonging is strong in childhood and adolescence. We want to be part of a group and we do all the things that may help us to be liked by others which may be unhealthy for us.

- There is a set standard of beauty. Being pretty means being slim and fair. So, we get obsessed with the idea of looking slim. We want to fit in it and it leads to the development of body dysmorphia.

- Perfectionism is another factor in developing an eating disorder. Since one wants everything perfect and so there should not be an inch extra of fat.

- Food is something we can control easily, whether we want to binge eat or not eat at all. It gives us a sense of control.

- Constant bullying is another factor that makes us feel unaccepted. We try too hard to feel accepted. Moreover, bullying is a traumatic event and affects us on many levels.

  • Treatment of anorexia and bulimia nervosa

- Symptomatic treatment: Correction of electrolyte imbalance by providing supplements. Providing fluid therapy to reduce dehydration. The client may require the insertion of a nasogastric tube in order to maintain nutritional balance. Constant monitoring of weight to assess progress.

- Medications: Antidepressants, Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) MAOIs to treat depression and OCD. Anti-emetics are used to prevent the client from purging.

Olanzapine is used to stimulate appetite.

- Therapies include CBT which is Cognitive behavior therapy and family therapy.

- The most important thing is to accept yourself. It does not come so easily to people but it is achievable. The key is to find your true happiness and yourself in the process.

Unpopular opinion: Can anorexia and bulimia co-exist?

Yes, they can! Check out this video to know more:

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