There are a wide variety of food disorders that people can experience, but all are linked by a compulsive or obsessive relationship with eating. People with food disorders are unable to maintain a healthy diet - they either deprive themselves of food or repeatedly overeat. If you answer "yes" to one or more of the questions below, consider visiting a health professional to see if your food consumption is disordered.
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About food disorders
There are several categories of eating disorders, and the health community is still trying to establish the nature and limits of each category. Here are a few of the most common types:
Anorexia is characterized by the unhealthy urge to limit food consumption. People with this disorder, mostly but not exclusively women, starve themselves to be thin or to assert their control over their eating habits. They become thin to a dangerous extent and their bodies become unable to self-regulate. People with anorexia often have mood swings, heat fluctuations, menstrual abnormalities, hair loss, and dangerous heart irregularities.
Bulimia is a condition that involves overeating and purging. People with bulimia binge eat to ease their stress or calm their emotions. Then they induce vomiting or use laxatives to purge their body of the excessive food that they've consumed. Bulimia can cause throat and dental damage when the acid from the stomach travels up through the oesophagus and mouth. It can cause severe weight and mood fluctuations and - like anorexia - heart problems that are sometimes fatal.
Binge eating is excessive eating, usually in response to emotional stress. After overeating, people with this food disorder do not attempt to compensate their behaviour with purging or over-exercise. Binge eaters are usually embarrassed about their behaviour and try to hide it from others. They try to eat alone and, when alone, consume food abnormally quickly and in unhealthily high volumes.
Night Eating Syndrome is becoming more and more differentiated from general binge eating. Night eaters consume most of their daily food amounts during the night-time, eating little to nothing during the morning and daytime hours. Night eaters tend to eat privately, feel guilt about their eating behaviours, and are often overweight or obese.
Treatment of food disorders
Treating food disorders can take anywhere from a few months to lifetime. Even when technically cured, people who tend toward disordered eating will always have to be careful about their feelings toward food and their bodies. Most commonly, people with food disorders undergo psychotherapy to attempt to modify their habits. Sometimes, their friends or families become involved in the therapy to learn how to provide a healthy and encouraging atmosphere. Medications such as antidepressants and anxiolytics (anti-anxiety drugs) can help bulimics and binge eaters to moderate their urges to overeat. Binge eaters can consult nutritionists to learn about appropriate and healthy meal planning. Bulimics and anorexics can become so ill that they require emergency treatment through hospitalization. This is particularly the case when their food habits cause damage to the heart or, in the case of anorexia, when the body is wasted from starvation.
I HAVE A FOOD DISORDER?
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