What are eating disorders?


What exactly are eating disorders? Many people often think it’s just when people eat nothing or too much, but it’s more complex. Eating disorders are when people have a distorted body image and it leads to unhealthy eating habits. Anyone can develop an eating disorder regardless of their race, gender, or age.


The most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and bulimia nervosa. People who suffer from anorexia nervosa have an intense fear of gaining weight and because of that they restrict their diet to very little. People with anorexia nervosa also excessively exercise and make themselves throw up after meals. Because of their poor diet, people with anorexia nervosa are often underweight and have malnutrition. According to the ‘National Eating Disorder Collaboration’ some effects this eating disorder can lead to is fatigueness, anemia, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts.


Binge eating disorder is another common eating disorder where people have episodes of eating excessive amounts of food. After these episodes, someone with BED might feel guilt, shame, and be upset with themselves. However, after the episode no purging or fasting is done. As a result many people with BED are overweight. According to the ‘National Eating Disorder Collaboration’ some effects BED can have are high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, depression, and self esteem issues. 


The third common eating disorder is bulimia nervosa. Bulimia nervosa is very similar to BED where people eat big portions of food in short episodes. However, unlike BED people who have bulimia nervosa will forcefully throw up, fast, excessively exercise, or take laxatives to try to prevent gaining any weight. According to the ‘National Eating Disorder Collaboration’ some effects bulimia nervosa can have are fatigue, dizziness, body dysphoria, low self esteem, and depression.  


So, how exactly do people develop eating disorders? Well, there’s many factors that can lead to developing an eating disorder, but the two main factors are social and psychological. 


According to the ‘National Eating Disorders Association’  glorification of specific bodies and beauty standards are both factors that can contribute to developing an eating disorder. Because of this, social media has become one of the biggest factors for developing an eating disorder. Online there’s tons of photos of models, who oftentimes are extremely thin or photoshopped into unrealistic body types. This causes many people to idolize and also want unrealistic bodies. Social media can also promote unhealthy beauty standards and diets. Teens specifically are more vulnerable to developing eating disorders due to social media. 


For some people however, the main factors for developing an eating disorder are psychological. According to the  ‘National Eating Disorders Association’ . Some people develop eating disorders as a result of unhealthy coping mechanisms. Eating very little or too much can make someone feel like they have control over something in their life when they are feeling overwhelmed or stressed. People who already suffer with other mental illnesses like depression or anxiety are also more vulnerable to develop unhealthy coping mechanisms like eating disorders. However eating disorders can still affect anyone regardless of their mental health history. 


According to school counselor Laura Gutierrez, some warning signs to look out for if you think someone has or is developing an eating disorder are “Picking at their food, obsessiveness with calories, excessively exercising, spending a long time in the bathroom after meals, or going without eating the whole day.” If you notice these signs you can take several approaches. If you’re close to the person, you might want to check up on them and have a talk with them about your suspicions. However, if you’re not close with them, or you’re a minor you might want to reach out to a trusted adult and let them know about your concerns. From there, the person can get the help they need and find out what treatment is best for them.