What is an Eating Disorder?
An eating disorder is a relationship you may have with food that you find difficult. It can not only be a challenge for the sufferer, but also for the people surrounding the sufferer. Changing your eating habits now and again is normal, but if you feel food is taking over your life then it may become a problem.
In our current society, we are bombarded with images of what we are supposed to look like and are presented with an unrealistic, warped ideal of what beautiful is.
Social media, television, celebrity culture and the media reinforce the notion that we are not good enough, telling us how we need to look to achieve ‘perfection’ which is often unachievable. Due to these societal expectations, our body image and the way we see ourselves can become distorted, and as our sense of self-worth decreases, a constant pressure to be perfect increases, which can easily develop into an eating disorder.
An early diagnosis is much better for recovery because of the extent that people will go to in order to hide their eating disorder, and the longer it goes unnoticed the harder it is to break it.
The causes of an eating disorder are often hazy and difficult to pinpoint and can be linked to peer pressure, poor self-image and confidence issues, along with the media as discussed above. The images portrayed that we should aspire to look like are not real, they are often photo-shopped.
Eating disorders help some sufferers feel a sense of control in one aspect of their life, but they often see their friends less and less and shut themselves away and become lonely and isolated.
An eating disorder is a mental illness and needs to be talked about so that we can take greater care of each other and be less judgmental.
Do I have an Eating Disorder?
Does eating rule your life or do you struggle with control of eating and weight? If the answer is yes, then you may have an eating disorder.
An eating disorder is an illness, but unlike, say, chicken pox or a broken arm, it is not something that can easily be seen at first, plus it is not something that can be cured, but it can be controlled. Not all people fit exactly into an eating disorder category and some people suffer only with one disorder, which may evolve into another disorder, whereas others suffer with features of all eating disorders.
Eating disorders stem from thoughts, feelings and behavior. How you think about food is paramount – whether you obsess about the food you eat or what you weigh, have bad thoughts about your eating habits, compare yourself constantly to other people and/or have strict rules about what you should or shouldn’t eat. These thoughts can escalate into feelings of guilt, anxiety and fear. You may feel scared about eating normally and feel helpless around food, and when you do eat you may hate yourself for doing so and feel fat even if your friends and family say otherwise. This can all lead to how you behave with food – whether you binge eat in secret, vomit or use laxatives, are always on a diet and constantly weigh yourself, exercise excessively to control your weight, keep on eating even though you are full or starve yourself because you feel you might never be able to stop once you start eating.
People with an eating disorder lose sight of what is normal eating and lose the ability to enjoy food. Some are in denial, whilst others believe they have no right to seek help because they feel their eating disorder is not serious enough.
If your relationship with food and eating is having a detrimental effect on your life, it is ok to seek help. It doesn’t matter how much you weigh or what your body looks like.
Identifying Eating Disorders
The Effects of an ED