Three most common eating disorders and their causes

by Loginto Health Loginto health

Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses involving unhealthy eating behavior. Unhealthy behavior means eating very large quantities of food at once, limiting the amount of food eaten, getting rid of the food eaten through harmful means like purging, fasting, laxative misuse, or excessive exercise. Many people forget this but eating disorders are actually not all about food itself. These disorders are about feelings. They are about the way the person interacts with food, making him or her feel more able to cope or be in control. This problem is also more associated with adolescents as at a certain age they are uncomfortable with their body and weight issues due to peer pressure among other things. Eating disorders can cause serious harm. Some, like anorexia that has the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses, may be fatal.

It is always advisable to consult a counsellor or a psychologist in a reputed hospital like Jaslok Hospital in Mumbai who has an experienced team of consultants and even an adolescent clinic called the Light House. CEO, Jaslok Hospital said, “Jaslok Hospital has always worked towards the betterment of the people. This initiative was a plan to provide treatment, solutions and spread awareness of specialised treatment options available for teenagers.”

What causes eating disorders?

Eating Disorders are complex disorders. A facet of factors influences them. Though the doctors don't know the exact cause of eating disorders, they generally believe that a combination of biological, psychological, or/and environmental abnormalities come together and play a role in the development of these sicknesses.

Biological factors include:

•             Irregular hormone functions

•             Genetics

•             Nutritional deficiencies

Psychological factors include:

•             Negative body image

•             Poor self-esteem


Environmental factors include:

•             Dysfunctional family dynamic

•             Family and childhood traumas

•             Cultural or peer pressure a

•             Stressful transitions or life changes

•             Professions, careers, and aesthetically oriented sports that promote being thin and weight loss, placing emphasis on maintaining a lean body for enhanced performance.

These could include:

•             Ballet

•             Diving

•             Gymnastics

•             Long distance running

•             Rowing

•             Wrestling

Who gets eating disorders?

Eating disorders have been stereotyped and it is becoming harmful for many people. Hence it is necessary to remember that the likelihood that a person could develop an eating disorder should never be ruled out. Young women, aged between 12 to 20, are most likely to develop an eating disorder. However, anyone can develop the disorder, despite their age, gender, or ethnicity. Doctors believe that around a quarter of sufferers of eating disorders are male. According to them, the number of patients among boys, men, older people, and people from ethnic or cultural minorities could be higher than the people currently think. They believe this because these people may be more reluctant to show themselves and ask for help with a disease that is already difficult to discuss.

Types of eating disorders


Also called anorexia nervosa, anorexia is the most well-known eating disorder. It generally occurs during adolescence or young adulthood. It tends to affect more women than men.

People with anorexia usually view themselves as overweight. Their belief doesn't change even if they’re dangerously underweight. They tend to constantly monitor their weight. These people also avoid eating certain types of foods and rigorously restrict their calorie intake.

Common symptoms of anorexia nervosa are:

•             Considerably underweight in comparison to people of similar age and height.

•             Very restricted eating patterns.

•             Intense fear of gaining weight

•             Persistent behaviors to avoid gaining weight

•             A relentless pursuit of thinness

•             Unwillingness to maintain a healthy weight.

•             A distorted body image that includes the denial of being dangerously underweight.

•             Other obsessive-compulsive symptoms

Anorexia is known to be very damaging to the body. Over time, people living with anorexia nervosa may experience the thinning of their bones, brittle hair and nails, infertility, and the growth of a layer of fine hair all over the body.

In worst cases, the disorder can result in heart, brain or multi-organ failure, causing death.


Bulimia is one of the most well-known eating disorders.

Similar to anorexia, bulimia nervosa develops during adolescence and early adulthood, appearing to be more common among women than men.

Individuals with bulimia frequently eat unusually large amounts of food in a comparatively short period.

Each binge-eating episode goes on until the person is painfully full. Furthermore, during a binge, the person with bulimia usually feels that they cannot stop eating. They feel that they can't control how much they are eating.

Binges can happen with any type of food. Individuals then attempt to purge to compensate for the calories consumed and reduce gut discomfort. They sometimes induce forced vomiting, fast, and do excessive exercises.

 Rather than becoming underweight, individuals with bulimia nervosa usually maintain a relatively normal weight. However, they some symptoms similar to the sub-types of anorexia.

Symptoms of bulimia nervosa are:

•             Recurrent episodes of binge eating

•             Recurrent incidents of unseemly purging behaviors to stop weight gain

•             Self-Esteem influenced by weight and body shape

•             A fear of gaining weight, regardless of having a normal weight

•             In worst cases, the disorder can create an imbalance in body levels of electrolytes. This imbalance can cause a stroke or heart attack.

Binge Eating Disorder

Until recently, binge eating was not seen as an eating disorder.

But doctors believe that it is currently one of the most common eating disorders. Although it can also develop later on, it typically begins during adolescence and early adulthood.

People with this disorder show symptom similar to those with the binge-eating subtype of anorexia or bulimia. But, contrary to the two previous disorders, individuals with binge eating disorder do not restrict their calories or use purging behaviors to compensate for their binges.

Symptoms of binge eating disorder are:

•             Eating large amounts of foods rapidly until uncomfortably full

•             Eating large amounts of food though not feeling hungry.

•             Not using purging behaviors, such as calorie restriction, vomiting, excessive exercise to compensate for the binging.

People with this disorder are often overweight or obese.  In worst cases, binge eating disorder may increase their risk of complications that have some relation to excess weight. They include heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes

Although they are serious disorders, they are treatable, and it very possible to make a full recovery. Like any other mental illness, the sooner a person with a disorder is treated, the more likely recovery is. Getting yourself or the person you’re supporting diagnosed and treated as quickly as possible is the most important thing while handling eating disorders.

Hence, Jaslok Hospital has launched the first adolescent clinic in Mumbai. The clinic is aptly named ‘Lighthouse’ aims to address concerns related with the physical, mental and emotional health of the youngsters.

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Created on Aug 22nd 2019 06:55. Viewed 20 times.


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