Eating disorders are constantly a favorite topic of mental health specialists. Despite decades of research, the public does not seem to really understand how eating disorders develop or why. To this I say there is good news and bad news. The bad news is that experts do not have a single answer or definitive, solid solutions. The good news is that we know enough to be able to help people regain control of their behavior and move on to living full, happy, and lives free from the clutches of these incredibly disruptive and dangerous disorders.
Eating disorders are very complex to say the least. There are many different types of eating disorders. Some eating disorders are easier to spot in loved ones, while others are not as noticeable. This can leave loved ones to suffer unnoticed for years, resulting in irreparable damage to their bodies. It is critical to familiarize yourself with the most common eating disorders to be able to spot the behaviors in your loved ones that require immediate help.
- Bulimia Nervosa – Binge eating followed by behaviors that result in avoiding weight gain. A couple examples: vomiting right after eating or working out excessively.
- Anorexia Nervosa– When someone excessively restricts food consumption, resulting in clinically significant weight loss. Often those with Anorexia resort to hiding food to make it appear as though they have eaten it and to not have to explain their behavior to their families.
- Pica – Eating things not meant for consumption, such as pencil erasers, plastic, etc.
- Purging Disorder- engaging in unhealthy or excessive weight loss behaviors through vomiting or taking laxatives without the presence of binge eating.
Because we all wear masks to hide our most sensitive struggles, sometimes it is hard to see what someone is going through. Dr. Shahram Heshmat, Associate Professor Emeritus at the University of Illinois at Springfield, explains in his most recent book Eating Behavior and Obesity: Behavioral Economics Strategies for Health Professionals, that eating disorders stem from a lack of positive attachment styles. The over/under eating comes from a need to have control over one’s own body in a life where everything appears in a state of loss or lack of control.
An eating disorder can happen to anyone: your parent, friend, partner or child – no one is immune. This is why understanding the signs of a masked eating disorder is crucial. Help save someone’s life by keeping yourself and those around you informed.
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