Facts About Eating Disorders
What are the causes of eating disorders?
An eating disorder is a very complex and complicated disorder of unknown cause. We now know that eating disorders involve genetic predisposition and there may be a range of pathways to triggering the disorder. It is important to know that patients do not choose to be ill, nor should anyone be blamed. Successful treatment does not require knowing a cause.
Different types of eating disorders:
- Anorexia Nervosa- having intense fear of gaining weight. An anorexic starves themselves to keep their body below 18% body mass index (BMI) and refuses to gain weight. Because of this low weight there is no menstrual cycle. They may also purge or use other self-destructive methods to keep weight off.
- Bulimia Nervosa– Eating large amount of food in a short period of time, “frenzied eating”, followed by self-destructive ways to get rid of the food that was just eaten (purging/self-induced vomiting, laxative abuse or over-exercising). Bulimics can be underweight, normal weight, overweight or obese.
- "Compulsive Over-Eating"/Binge Eating Disorder (BED)– "Out of control" or “frenzied eating” until too full or uncomfortable. No effort is made to get rid of the food that was eaten. Binge eaters have incredible feelings of shame and guilt after a binge. A binge eater can be normal sized, overweight or obese.
- Diabulemia– A person with diabetes who skips or decreases their insulin in order to lose weight. Even though this category is not officially recognized, the problem exists and can be very dangerous & deadly.
- Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS)-This category includes other disordered eating problems that do not fit bulimia or anorexia criteria. Binge eating disorder, orthorexia and diabulemia fall into this category.
- Orthorexia– an unhealthy obsession characterized by only allowing oneself to eat what they consider “healthy food.” An orthorexic may avoid foods that contain any amount or trace of sugar, animal products, white flour, fat or preservatives and may only eat “organic” foods. They display an exaggerated concern regarding healthy eating. This category is not yet recognized officially in the DSM V.
Personality & Other Genetic Traits:
If you attend a support group for people with eating disorders you may be surprised by realizing how much you have in common with others in the group. One reason for this is because people with eating disorders often share similar genetically inherited traits.
Some of these shared personality traits include:
- Impulsivity (stealing, shoplifting, not thinking things through)
- Dichotomous Thinking (“black & white”, “all or nothing” thinking)
- Strong-Willed Personality
- Rigidity or being emotionally unflexable
- Affect Disorders (depression, anxiety, OCD)
- Family history of eating disorders
- Family history of substance abuse (A high number or people with eating disorders also have a substance abuse problem)
On October 2006 Dr. Tom Insel, the director of The National Institute of Mental Health, stated in a letter that eating disorders are, in fact, brain disorders:
“ Anorexia nervosa, among the most serious of mental disorders, can be deadly for young women who get caught up in a malignant cycle of weight loss and compulsive behaviors. The mortality rate for those with anorexia nervosa is estimated at 5 per cent per decade. Research tells us that anorexia nervosa is a brain disease with severe metabolic affects on the entire body. While the symptoms are behavioral, this illness has a biological core, with genetic components, changes in brain activity, and neural pathways currently under study. Most women with anorexia recover, usually following intensive psychological and medical care.”
Eating disorders can affect anyone, of any age, any race, any religion, any nationality, any socioeconomic level, they can run in families, and an eating disorder can be deadly.