Eating disorders may result from consuming either too much food, or too little. Our bodies require a balanced diet to get the right mix of vitamin and minerals and if you have an eating disorder it may be the quantity of food as well as the lack of essential vitamins and minerals that can cause damage.
Whether it's about eating too much, or too little, eating disorders are mental illnesses that affect someone's daily eating habits and diet. Usually the sufferer will have their life taken over and controlled by food.
Eating disorders are due to a range of reasons. These may include stress, boredom, anxiety or sadness and also a lack of self esteem. According to the Eating Disorder Association (EDA), such problems with food consumption may affect anyone, but young women between the ages of 15 to 25 tend to experience these issues the most, although people of all ages and backgrounds may be affected. People may use food to cope with emotions and feelings that occur in their lives.
Two of the more common eating disorders, that most of us have heard of, are Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa.
Another condition, known as Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is possibly less well documented but still affects many people. Overeating can lead to obesity and I accompanied by various health risks such as diabetes and heart disease. Consuming less food and consequently less energy can lead to distorted views on food and the effects can be disastrous to health.
Anorexia Nervosa literally means 'loss of appetite for nervous reasons'.
Chemical changes in the body following lack of consumption of vital foods and nutrients affect the brain and distort the perception of food. As the illness develops, people tend to suffer from the effects of starvation. Exhaustion is the most common problem. It can also be fatal, if left untreated.
Effects include weight loss, constipation, poor circulation and possible osteoporosis. Children may experience growth problems.
Bulimia Nervosa involves binge eating a large quantity of food and then removing this food as quickly as possible through vomiting and sometimes laxatives. By reducing food intake, or starvation or excessive exercise, to try and burn off the calories that have been consumed.
The effects include having a sore throat, tooth decay and bad breath caused by excessive vomiting. Poor skin condition, irregular periods and lethargy or fatigue are also symptoms of this illness.
Such conditions should not be considered as weight loss alternatives as the body essentially suffers from a lack of energy and nutrients which can lead to health degradation.
Any eating disorder if not treated immediately could have a devastating effect on the person it's happening to. Whether you are 15 or 50, the most important thing is to seek help from family, friends or professionals. We have seen in the press that the effects of any eating disorder can ultimately lead to death or severe physical impairment.
If you need to find help, then provided you are prepared to deal with the underlying psychological causes, there are a number of ways to get help.
If it's someone else you are worried about, then don't be surprised or offended if they are very defensive about their weight or their eating habits.
Talk in confidence to a qualified adviser from the eating disorders charity "Beat" by calling their helpline on 0845 634 1414. They also have a designated youth helpline on 0845 634 7650.
B-eat - http://www.b-eat.co.uk/
New Medical - What is an Eating Disorder - http://www.news-medical.net/