- People are usually diagnosed with eating disorders during adolescence
- Early detection is important for treatment of eating disorders
- If you feel loss of control over eating, you might have eating disorder
An eating disorder can be defined as a range of psychological disorders that are characterised by abnormal or disturbed eating habits. A large-scale study was recently conducted in the UK, that can help primary care physicians to identify early warning signs of eating disorders. Investigators involved in the study detected that people diagnosed with eating disorders had higher rates of other conditions and prescriptions in the years before diagnosis. Published in British Journal of Psychiatry, the study found that eating disorders affect women predominantly, and men too are at risk of eating disorders.
People are usually diagnosed with eating disorders during adolescence and early adulthood. Also, eating disorders have highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses, both from physical causes and from suicide. Despite the large scale of this problem, the resources to treat eating disorders are quite scarce. There is a lack of specialisation treatment centres. What's more is that people who have a eating disorder are young, vulnerable and may avoid detection.
Thus, early detection is important for treatment of eating disorders. Researchers from the Swansea University Medical School examined anonymous health records from hospital admissions and primary care practices in Wales, reports psychcentral. Records of as many as 15,558 people were examined. Data from two years before their diagnosis showed that these people had higher levels of mental disorders like personality disorders, depression or alcohol disorders; they had higher levels of injuries, accidents and self-harm; they had higher prescription of antipsychotics and antidepressants; and higher rates of drugs for gastrointestinal problems like constipation, upset stomach and even prescriptions for dietary supplements.
This suggests that a combination of these factors can help physicians better identify eating disorders at an earlier stage.
Also read: The Tell-Tale Signs Eating Disorders
Here are other signs and symptoms of eating disorders that you must watch out for
1. Extreme fear of gaining weight
This is usually a sign of anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder that is characterised by weight loss because of excessive dieting and exercising. Some anorexics also binge eat and then purge by vomiting or misusing laxatives. They are likely to have a distorted body image where they think that they are overweight, when clearly they are underweight.
2. Symptoms that are common in people with anorexia nervosa are dramatic weight loss, wearing loose and bulky clothes to hide weight loss, refusal to eat certain foods like carbs or fats, stopping menstruating, denying extreme thinness being a problem, complaining about stomach pain or constipation, exercising excessively, preparing elaborate meals for others but refusing to eat them.
3. Evidence of binge eating
Disappearance of large amounts of food in a short period of time or finding lots of empty food wrappers and containers are common in people with bulimia nervosa. Bulimia nervosa is a eating disorder that is characterised by cycles of extreme overeating or bingeing, then purging, and other similar behaviours to compensate for overeating. A person with bulimia nervosa feels loss of control about eating. Bulimics are likely to visit bathroom shortly after having a meal, sounds or smells of vomiting or packages of laxatives or diuretics. If left untreated, bulimia can result in abnormal heart rhythms, bleeding from oesophagus because of excessive reflux of stomach acid and kidney problems.
4. Constantly dieting but rarely losing weight
This may be a symptom of people suffering from binge eating disorder. Binge eating disorder can lead to obesity and can have serious health consequences if left untreated. Binge eating is essentially characterised by episodes of extreme overeating and feeling loss of control about eating. After episodes of overeating, people with binge eating disorder later feel guilty and distressed about it. The behaviour tensed to become a vicious cycle as the more distressed they feel about bingeing, the more they seem to do it.
Early detection is undoubtedly important for people with eating disorders. They are treatable and with the right treatment and support, a person with eating disorders can get back to healthy eating habits and get their lives back on track.
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