Eating disorders affect eating behaviour and the thoughts and emotions that accompany food and eating. They usually cause an obsession with food and body weight. These disorders are often linked to other mental illnesses such as anxiety, panic, an obsessive-compulsive disorder as well as substance use disorder. The different types include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder.
- Anorexia Nervosa – this eating disorder is categorised by an obsession with a fear of becoming fat. To prevent this, these individuals become obsessed with limiting their food consumption, excessive exercising, using laxatives or a combination of these techniques to ensure no fat gain. People with anorexia often have a severely distorted view of their bodies, issues with self-image and body image that when left untreated can lead the body to go into starvation ceasing menstrual cycles and causing osteoporosis, brittle hair and nails, depression and many other health issues.
- Bulimia Nervosa – like anorexia, people with bulimia nervosa also struggle with self-image and body image but are obsessed with bingeing large amounts of high-calorie foods after which they feel guilt that forces them to purge what they have eaten using vomiting or laxative to rid the food from their bodies. Depending on their purging habits, individuals with this condition can vary in body size but left untreated; bulimia nervosa can cause a chronic sore throat, swollen salivary glands in the neck and jaw, severe dehydration and tooth decay to repeated exposure to stomach acid.
- Binge eating disorder – this disorder is categorised by episodes of feeling completely out of control and eating large amounts of food for a brief period (binging). Unlike bulimia nervosa, people with binge eating disorder do not try to rid the food they have binged using laxatives or vomiting. Left untreated, binge eating disorder can lead to severe obesity, diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular diseases.
Because these conditions can lead to severe health complications when left untreated, it is essential that those who feel they - or a friend of theirs – may have an eating disorder, seek help from a mental health specialist like Dr Chawane.