A top psychiatrist flags serious signs of an eating disorders that you might be ignoring
In the 90s, when the world was unaware of the term ‘bulimia’, there was one global icon who had confessed she suffered from it. We are talking about the late princess Diana. This was revealed in her documentary, The Story of Diana, that was aired on Netflix. And FYI, bulimia is a serious eating disorder.
There are many people who complain that whenever they are sad or stressed, they either binge eat or don’t eat at all. In both cases, the situation can affect your physical well-being.
This is what an eating disorder looks like
According to Dr Santosh Bangar, senior consultant psychiatrist, Global Hospital, Mumbai, eating disorders are complex mental illnesses, in which people experience disturbances in their eating behaviours, and related thoughts and emotions. They typically become preoccupied with food, and their body weight. Most often, women between the ages of 12 and 35 are affected.
There are three main types of eating disorders:
1. Anorexia nervosa – In this condition, even people who are underweight consider themselves as overweight, and get obsessed with this thought. It is also seen that people with anorexia struggle with OCD. Unfortunately, women are more prone to suffering from this eating disorder.
Dr Bangar reveals certain symptoms of anorexia:
- Limited food intake
- Fear of being “fat”
- Problems with body image or denial of low body weight
2. Bulimia nervosa – In this disorder, people indulge in overeating to an extent that it becomes painful for them. It becomes difficult for them to control the constant urge of eating.
“Patients with bulimia nervosa binge on large amounts of food in a short time, often consuming thousands of calories that are high in sugars, carbohydrates and fat,” explains Dr Bangar.
3. Binge eating disorder – In this disorder, people eat large meals way too quickly, which are not digested properly. Due to this, they gain weight rapidly, and start feeling guilty and feel ashamed of their appearance.
People with binge eating disorders have episodes of bingeing very large quantities of food in a brief period, and feel out of control during the binge. Unlike people with bulimia nervosa, they do not try to get rid of the food by inducing purging by vomiting or using a laxative.
“Eating disorders are multifactorial; there is a complex interplay between genetic predisposition, presence of other psychiatric disorders like anxiety, panic and obsessive compulsive disorder and significant stress. People with anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa tend to be perfectionists,” shared Dr Bangar.
Here are some red flags that may indicate an eating disorder
- Skipping meals or making excuses for not eating
- Adopting an overly restrictive vegetarian diet
- Cooking own meals
- Persistent worry or stress about being fat
- Repeatedly eating large amounts of sweets or high-fat foods
- Use of laxatives for weight loss
- Excessive exercise
- Calluses on the knuckles from inducing vomiting
- Secretive eating
“Treatment of eating disorders needs a holistic approach by a psychiatrist, psychologist, physician and nutritionist. The first step in treating anorexia nervosa is regaining weight to a healthy level; for bulimia nervosa, interrupting the binge-purge cycle is key. For binge eating disorder, it is important to help them interrupt and stop binge eating,” advises Dr Bangar.
He also suggests a combination of psychotherapy, for e.g; cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), family therapy and medication to treat comorbid conditions.
Now you know, your eating habits can say a lot about your mental well-being. That’s why we want you to keep a tab on the way you’ve been eating lately. And if you observe a change, then don’t shy away from seeking help.