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Eating Disorder: Bulimia anorexia and binge eating
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Defining eating disorders
An eating disorder is a serious mental illness which must be treated in order to recover. With an eating disorder, a person’s emotions and thinking patterns cause harmful eating habits, such as overeating or starving. Sometimes, these habits and disorders are a result of depression, stress, or anxiety. They are coping mechanisms. Along with the eating disorder, a person may also suffer from a compulsive disorder. With the concern over obesity and our obsession with thinness (models, magazines, television, and movies), these eating disorders are not surprising. Because eating disorders are very common today, there is a lot of information available for health providers, people who fear they have an eating disorder, and the general public. Information about eating disorders can be found in pamphlets in doctors’ offices and pharmacies, online on medical websites, and in bookstores where medical or self-books are sold. With treatment and family support, full recovery is possible.
Three main types of eating disorders:
Anorexia Nervosa
Anorexia nervosa is also called anorexia. This eating disorder can be life-threatening and is both a physical and psychological condition. In anorexia, food is severely limited because of the intense fear of gaining weight. Anorexia may start as dieting, but develops into an eating disorder. If untreated, people with anorexia may become severely thin. Starvation, serious health problems, and even death can be the result of severe or long-term anorexia. Anorexia is all about control. Sometimes, if people (especially teenagers) feel that they are not in control of their lives, they may develop anorexia which makes them feel in control. Anyone with anorexia needs treatment. Although it can become a lifelong illness, it is possible to achieve full recovery.
Bulimia Nervosa
Bulimia nervosa, also called bulimia, is one of the most common eating disorders. Someone with bulimia will eat a lot of food in a short time (binge) and purge themselves of the food by vomiting, exercising too much, or use laxatives. The food binging itself may bring a feeling of comfort, but afterwards, the person feels out of control, ashamed, guilty, and afraid of becoming obese. The “binge and purge” cycle of bulimia can result in serious, long-term health problems if left untreated. Bulimia can result in tooth decay, gum disease, and loss of tooth enamel from the acid in the mouth caused by vomiting. Eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia cannot be overcome by willpower alone.
Binge Eating Disordera
Also known as compulsive overeating, binge eating is exactly what its name implies: compulsively eating a large amount of food in a short
time. Binge eating gives comfort to the person at the time they are compulsively overeating, but then they feel a loss of control over their eating. Unlike persons with bulimia, binge eaters do not purge by vomiting or using laxatives, so they gain weight.
How eating disorders are identified

With anorexia, family members or other people, make comments about how thin the person is. When the person becomes even thinner, there is genuine concern and an attempt to make the anorexic see that his or her behaviour toward food is not normal. If that fails, a physician can recommend outpatient or inpatient treatment.

With bulimia, the person is aware and secretive about their behavior toward food. Sometimes the eating order is not detected by others because the bulimic habits are practiced alone and out of the sight of anyone else. A person with bulimia needs to recognize that their behavior towards food is not healthy and seek help. Sometimes a dentist or physician can detect the illness by the condition of the mouth upon examination. 

With binge eating, the person doing the compulsive overeating tries to hide the amount of food they eat in a short time. It has become the most common eating disorder and persons that practice binge eating are usually obese. If others don’t see or comment on the amount of food consumed in a person’s binge eating, he or she will practice compulsive overeating in private and not be discovered. Compulsive overeating (binge eating) is the most difficult eating disorder to recognize and diagnose since secrecy is involved. A person with a compulsive eating disorder often suffers from depression as well. A parent may notice a child’s weight gain and question the cause. A physician may also notice a person is becoming obese and offer guidance.

In order to achieve recovery, the person must acknowledge their illness, seek information about eating disorders, and decide they need help.

Treatment of anorexia, bulimia and binge eating,
and related compulsive disorders
If the eating disorder has become so severe that it is life-threatening, a person will probably need treatment at an inpatient facility that specializes in eating disorder treatment. Full recovery is possible with the right treatment and support.  The treatments of anorexia, bulimia and binge eating have several common components since they are all eating disorders. Recovery involves using all or some of these components.
This type of individual counselling focuses on changing a person’s thinking (cognitive therapy) and behaviour (behavioural therapy) regarding food. Practical techniques for developing healthy outlooks toward food and weight are developed in counselling. Persons with eating disorders (and compulsive disorders that often accompany eating disorders) are given healthy, alternative approaches for dealing with difficult situations involving stress, anxiety, or a feeling of being out of control.
Some antidepressant medications are used to control anxiety and the depression associated with eating disorders. Medication can also be used to treat the accompanying compulsive disorder.
Nutrition counselling
Nutrition counselling is needed to help restore healthy eating patterns and to coach the person to recognize the importance of nutrition and a balanced diet.
Group and/or family therapy
Family members must understand the eating disorder in order to provide support. They should be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of anorexia, bulimia and compulsive overeating (binge eating) disorders. Some persons can find support in group therapy sessions where they openly discuss their feelings and behaviours.
The bottom line is that eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, and compulsive overeating are serious and can be life-threatening. They are certainly life-altering in a harmful way. If you think you have an eating disorder, or know someone who does, seek information about eating disorders and start on the path to recovery.
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