Eating disorders affect almost 5% of the population worldwide. These disorders usually develop during adolescence but can develop in adulthood as well. Some disorders, such as anorexia nervosa, are more commonly found in women. However, these disorders can affect anyone irrespective of their gender, age, or other characteristics.
Eating disorders are serious conditions that can cause numerous complex medical issues and result in severe emotional distress.
People with severe eating disorders may require help from more than one medical professional to recover. To root out the issue in its entirety, not only medical assistance is required but mental health counseling is also paramount, since eating disorders are mainly psychological issues.
Some serious eating disorders may require daily supervision. Nurses can play a significant role in this regard. From the point a patient walks through the hospital doors till the point they leave, nurses are the primary point of contact for the majority of the patients.
It is from this critical position that nurses can help patients identify their eating disorders earlier on. These disorders almost always manage to stay under the radar until they’ve progressed in severity. Developing the eye to recognize the signs of an eating disorder in a patient requires exceptional knowledge and skill.
To develop and gain that knowledge, nurses can pursue either an MSN or DNP degree. Comparisons of msn vs dnp can help you home in on the type of degree that would serve you well in your own career.
Defining Eating Disorders
Eating disorders can be defined as certain behavioral conditions characterized by severe and persistent disturbances in an individual’s eating behaviors. Eating disorders are considered among the deadliest of mental illnesses. They can impair a person’s social, psychological, and physiological functioning.
So, let’s take a closer look at some of the common eating disorders:
Anorexia nervosa is one of the most commonly known eating disorders. This disorder prevalent among women more than in men and often starts during adolescence or early adulthood.
People suffering from anorexia view themselves as overweight despite often being severely underweight. They restrict their food intake and try to eat as little as possible.
Some common symptoms of anorexia nervosa are:
- Considerably underweight as compared to other people of their age
- Engaging in restricted eating behaviors
- Intense fear of gaining weight
- Engaging in behaviors that will prevent them from gaining weight
- They have a distorted body image and may face self-esteem issues due to it
- They deny accepting that they are underweight
- May also develop depression and anxiety
- They may use laxatives, diet pills and often fall ill
There can be many long-term side effects of anorexia nervosa if it goes undiagnosed and untreated for a long time. For instance, such people may face fertility issues, weak or brittle nails, and hair. Moreover, the lack of important nutrients can lead to organ failure as well.
Bulimia is characterized by binge eating episodes where they eat till it is painful. This is followed by purging. This includes behaviors like forced vomiting, excessive exercise, using laxatives, and so on.
Common symptoms include:
- Recurring episodes of binge eating and inability to control them
- Fear of gaining weight
- Frequently engaging in purging behaviors to avoid weight gain
- Self-esteem and body image issues
Bulimia nervosa can negatively impact one’s physical health if it is not treated. People with this disorder may experience a sore throat, digestive problems, dehydration, and hormonal imbalances. Moreover, they also have higher chances of experiencing a stroke.
Binge Eating Disorder
This is one of the most common eating disorders in the United States. It often gets confused with bulimia nervosa. However, it does not include purging behaviors. People with BED eat large amounts of food and are unable to control themselves.
This disorder is characterized by:
- Eating large amounts of food in a short time even if they do not feel hungry
- Unable to control or stop eating
- Feelings of guilt and shame regarding this behavior
- Absence of purging behaviors
Pica is a disorder in which a person craves non-food items, such as sand, soap, paper, chalk, ice, and more. It is more commonly found in children, pregnant women, or people with mental disabilities.
Such people are at a higher risk of suffering from poisoning, gut injuries, and various deficiencies.
This disorder can affect anyone irrespective of their age. In this disorder, a person tends to regurgitate food, swallow it, chew it again then swallow or spit it out.
It can also result in severe malnutrition and extreme weight loss if it is not properly treated.
Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)
ARFID starts during infancy or early childhood but it can persist into adulthood as well. Furthermore, it is commonly found in both men and women. In this disorder, the person has disturbed eating patterns due to a lack of interest in eating or dislike towards certain tastes and smells.
Common symptoms include:
- Avoiding or restricting food intake
- Eating habits interfere with normal social functioning
- Malnutrition and weight loss
- May also be dependent on supplements of tube feeding
How Can An Eating Disorder Be Treated?
Even though eating disorders are serious and can cause numerous problems, they are treatable. People suffering from disorders can recover and lead healthy lives with the help of early detection and the right treatment.
Some common treatment methods for eating disorders are:
This is effective for all eating disorders. It helps identify underlying issues which helps understand the causes of the disorder. Moreover, it helps establish healthy eating patterns and coping mechanisms.
It is also used to deal with psychological side effects of eating disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. Commonly used therapeutic interventions include CBT, behavioral therapy, and family therapy.
Medication can be used for treating the side effects of eating disorders. For instance, anti-depressants can be prescribed to fight off depression and increase serotonin levels.
Nutritional counseling helps the patient in learning about healthy eating habits. It helps you recognize signs of hunger and satiation. Furthermore, following a healthy diet plan helps you maintain body weight and overcome any deficiencies caused by the disorder.
This option is often required for severe cases where the patient needs intensive treatment and care. However, it is not very common.
Eating disorders are mental health conditions that involve disturbed eating behaviors. Moreover, these disorders can have a negative impact on a person’s mental and physical health. Therefore, they require effective and immediate treatment as they can worsen if left untreated.
There are six types of eating disorders that are commonly found. However, their treatment options are somewhat similar. Treatment includes medication, therapy, nutrition and diet planning, and hospitalization in severe cases.