What is an eating disorder?
When a person gets diagnosed with an eating disorder, it typically means that their eating patterns and behaviours surrounding food are abnormal or unhealthy. This may involve eating too much, not eating enough, purging, exercising excessively, and being obsessed with body image or weight. Eating disorders can affect both men and women of all ages, but they are most common amongst teenage girls. Treatment is typically given through both doctor and therapeutic interventions in an effort to help the person return back to normal, healthy eating habits and behaviours.
Different Types of Eating Disorders
– a type of eating disorder where the person does not eat enough food, exercises too much, or both. People with anorexia typically feel as though they look and feel overweight, despite how much weight they lose. Many of those with anorexia are very underweight, but not everyone with this disorder is underweight. Some may appear to be at a normal or average weight.
– a type of eating disorder where the person eats a large amount of food and then purges afterwards to get rid of it. People purge by either inducing vomiting or taking laxatives. Those with this disorder typically restrict what they eat and exercise excessively as well. Many people who suffer bulimia do not have an underweight appearance, which may make it harder to identify.
Binge Eating Disorder (BED)
– a type of eating disorder where the person will eat an excessive amount of food to the point where they feel uncomfortable or sick. Many people with this disorder report that the feeling to keep eating is uncontrollable, even once they begin to feel bloated and ill. After the person has binged, they often feel upset or guilty about the amount of food that they consumed.
Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED)
– a type of eating disorder diagnosis that is given when the person’s symptoms do not perfectly meet the diagnostic criteria for any of the other more specific eating disorders. People who are given this diagnosis may have symptoms that relate to more than one eating disorder, thus making it difficult to say whether they have one or another. It is important to understand that OSFED is still just as serious as BED, bulimia, or anorexia.
Common Signs of Eating Disorders
- Food restrictions
- Eating a lot in secret
- Rigid or restrictive diet or mealtime routines
- Purging (getting rid of food that was eaten)
- Uncomfortable when eating in public
- Anxiety surrounding eating or digesting food
- Excessive exercise
- Avoiding situations where food or eating is involved
- Weight is very high or low for someone’s age and height
- Obsessions over one’s weight or body shape
- Extreme fatigue from not eating enough or eating too much
How do I care for someone with an eating disorder?
When someone you care about gets an eating disorder diagnosis, it can be an emotionally difficult time for both of you. One of the best things that you can do early on is begin to gain as much information that you can about their specific type of eating disorder. It will be important for you to understand the signs and symptoms in order to effectively care for your loved one. It is extremely important to avoid any talk that could sound like shaming or blaming when talking to the person that you are caring for. Eating disorders are rooted in poor self-esteem, so try to boost it in any way that you can! Being encouraging in a way that allows them to know they are able to talk to you about what they are going through will help them in the long run but will also help to give you peace of mind.
When caring for someone with an eating disorder, avoid power struggles over food and mealtime. Instead, make mealtime fun, inviting, and enjoyable so that eating can be seen as low stress as possible. It can also be beneficial to talk with the person you care for to get a better understanding of their triggers. Knowing what can make them feel like they need to binge eat or starve themselves can be helpful in promoting their recovery. Amidst all of this, it is also important to take time for yourself. No matter what sort of ailment your loved one had, caring can be tiring, overwhelming and stressful. Knowing when to take a step back and practice self-care can help you to be a better carer! For more information on how to care for those suffering from eating disorders, click here.
Need more support?
If you are caring for someone who has an eating disorder and feel you may need a little bit of extra support, Suffolk Carers Matter would be happy to help! We offer free support, advice, and guidance and even have a free counselling service available should you need it!
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