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What is Eating Disorder?

Eating behavior depends on a variety of elements including the person’s appetite, availability of food and family and cultural norms. Also, being thinner than is necessary for healthy functioning is very popular in today’s day and age. Most current fashion and activities trends, as well as advertising campaigns for healthy foods promote the image of a skinny person as the desirable prototype. Eating disorders are psychological disturbances characterized by extreme avoidance of food or overeating while being overly concerned with weight, image and body shape. Many individuals analyze their eating and exercise habits, try to be healthy and fit, but once persons become so preoccupied with being thin that their behavior negatively impacts the health it is considered that they are suffering from an eating disorder.

Causes of Eating Disorders

As is the case with any other mental disorders, their main characteristics are present in the general population but do not interfere with everyday lives. Researchers and clinicians have been trying for a long time to identify how and why the initially optional behavior changes into a disorder. Aside from being psychological, eating disorders also have a medical component as the adverse behavior leads to health complications.

Anorexia and Bulimia

Eating disorders can be divided into two categories, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia. Anorexia is characterized by staying away from food as much as possible. Anorexic individuals often believe they are overweight even though they are abnormally thin. Bulimia, on the other hand, is manifested through binge eating, or consuming large quantities of food at once, and than forcing oneself to throw up or using laxatives to get rid of the digested food. In addition, both of them are most likely to develop during teenage years, although there are some instances in which the disorders are observed in late childhood or late adulthood. There are approximately 8 million individuals affected by eating disorders in the United States alone, and about 90 percent are women. It has been very challenging for scientists and clinicians to pinpoint the exact causes of the eating disorders, but it is clear that they are comorbid with other psychological disturbances. For instance, mood disorders such as depression and anxiety are often present in individuals who are anorexic or bulimic. Also, substance abuse problems, whether these are alcohol or drugs, are frequently detected among individuals affected by eating disorders.

Health Problems

Other than the mental problems, eating disorders are also accompanied by plenty of physical health difficulties as well. For instance, untreated anorexia leads to digestive and cardiovascular problems. More often than not fine hair grows and covers most of the body and sometimes the face. When it comes to bulimia, dental problems are a frequent occurrence, especially rotting of the teeth from excess amounts of stomach acid constantly present in the mouth. Similarly to anorexia, bulimia results in stomach and heart problems, but it also leads to kidney failure, which can be fatal.

Rumination in Eating Disorder

Rumination refers to the act of rechewing already swallowed and partially digested food by bringing it back up into the mouth. The individual does it fairly effortlessly, without any retching or feeling sick to the stomach. The food that is being rechewed does not taste foul to the person. In order to be diagnosed with rumination the symptoms have to be present for at least 30 days. The affected individual engages in the behavior quickly after finishing a meal, and often on a daily basis. Some people ruminate their food for months or years at a time. In addition, the consequences of rumination are vast and include significant weight loss, growth disturbance, dehydration, gastrointestinal disorders, upper respiratory tract problems, pneumonia, tooth decay, choking, and in some severe cases eve death. Further, there haven’t been any clinical studies trying to investigate the disorder, and all of the information is based on case studies. Other than in individuals with developmental problems, rumination is often present in children, but it can be found among adults, too. Out of those who engage in the behavior anywhere between 5 and 10 percent die as a direct result. Although the disorder is altogether rare, it seems to be more prevalent in women than in men. In the case of developmentally challenged individuals the onset can occur at any age, while among the general population it usually begins early in life and goes away on its own. The disorder in general is starting to get more attention as of late.

Relapse in Eating Disorder

The treatment for eating disorders includes both medical doctors and clinical psychologists. In order for it to be successful a strong support system is necessary to provide the recovering individual with support and empathy. Nevertheless, relapses during therapy are often observed. The recovery process is very long so it is no surprise that there are ups and downs. In any case, with the right team of specialists and the will power of the affected individual, eating disorders can be treated.

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