Diet and Nutrition

How Are Eating Disorders And Mental Health Interdependent?

With changing lifestyles and sedentary habits, the world is witnessing new diseases and disorders. Eating disorders are setting up the trend these days as more and more are falling prey to them. But do eating disorders have a role to play in your mental health condition? Let’s try to figure out.

Know more about Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are basically a range of psychological disorders characterized by abnormal or disturbed eating habits. In simplified form, eating disorders are illnesses in which people experience severe disturbances in their eating behaviors that directly relate to their thoughts and emotions.

There are five types of eating disorders.

  • Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia is diagnosed when the patient weighs at least 15% less than the normal weight expected for their height. Limited food intake, fear of being “fat” and problems with body image are some common symptoms.

  • Bulimia Nervosa

Although they diet frequently and exercise rigorously, the patients can be slightly underweight, normal weight, overweight or even obese. They binge eat frequently and may consume short amount of food in no time. After they binge eat, they may have stomach ache and a fear of gaining weight. So, they may vomit out the food or may consume laxatives in order to get rid of the food.

  •  Binge Eating Disorders
eating disorders

The patient may eat too much food regularly and feel lack of control over their eating.

The patient may eat quickly, eat more food than intended, eat when not hungry, and may continue eating even after they are full.

This is accompanied by a feeling of guilt, disgust or shame due to amount of food eaten.

  • Rumination Disorder

This is characterized by repeatedly and persistently regurgitating food after eating. But this is not due to some medical disorder. Food is brought back up to the mouth without nausea or gagging. Gurgitation may not be intentional.

  • Restrictive Food Intake Disorder

It is characterized by failing to meet the daily nutrition requirements. The patients may have no interest in eating or avoid the foods with particular sensory qualities. The patients are also concerned about the consequences of eating like the fear of choking. No fear of gaining weight is involved.

Now that we know about the various eating disorders, let’s try and understand their effect on the behavior of the patients.

After effects

Anyone can develop an eating disorder regardless of their age, gender or sex. Eating disorders usually lead to stress. And the people with eating disorders usually hide or deny that they are in stress. Hence, symptoms may be hard to detect in these cases.

But there are some common hallmarks that can be observed. These can be:

  • Constant intrusive thoughts about food
  • Negative body image and lack of confidence and self esteem
  • Constant thoughts on binging or excessive exercising and regularly checking the body image
  • Inability to focus
  • Inability to have meals with others
  • Significant anxiety and physiological responses to beliefs about food or body image
  • Nutritional instability

The above said symptoms give us a clear indication that eating disorders have a strong link to the mental state of the patient.

Eating Disorders and Mental Health

“If you don’t eat, your brain won’t function properly!” This is something that parents often tell children when they don’t eat properly. And perhaps it’s true.

Brain function is often impacted by people suffering from eating disorders. This is because we train our brains to think and react in a certain way.

In the case of teenagers, for example, the thought of food and exercise of discussion regarding the same can act as triggers. They may often think that they are ugly and overweight. This leads to negative body image and extremely low self esteem.

Also, when the brain does not get enough food, it constantly thinks about what it needs i.e. food. So, there is a decrease in focus, ability to pay attention and to think rationally. This way, constant thoughts about food, weight, body image issues occur.

In the case of children or even adults, the eating disorder might become a “best friend”. This means that the children become protective about the disorder. So, they react with a great resistance when parents try to help them. Sometimes, parents may fail to understand this reaction. But eating disorders usually don’t let people get better by clouding their thinking procedure.

Understand that people with eating disorders can think quite clearly about other aspects of their life. They just can’t rationalize their thoughts about food, weight, body image and calories. With proper medical assistance and unconditional support from family and friends, these can be overthrown in no time.

Click Here to read more about eating disorder recovery and treatment.

Written By,

Neha Kundu

Student, NIFTEM

Do you have a sweet tooth and wish there are more varieties of chocolate? Check out our article on shimmering, iridescent chocolates.

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Neha Kundu
Skilled at content writing and management and currently a Content Manager at Mindgrad(EMN), enthusiastic professional pursuing Btech in Food Technology and Management at NIFTEM

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