Eating Disorders – Types, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Eating disorders are complex mental health conditions that are more than just about food. Contrary to the commonly held misconception that eating disorders are a lifestyle choice, they’re serious psychological conditions associated with severe disturbances in people’s eating behaviours and related thoughts and emotions that often require the intervention of medical and psychological experts to alter their course.

They can affect people of any age, sex, race, body weight, shape, and size. They often start with a preoccupation with food, body weight, or shape.

Though the exact cause of eating disorders is not fully understood, research suggests a combination of several complex factors, such as genetics, brain biology, personality, cultural and social ideals, and mental health issues, can raise a person’s risk.

In severe cases, eating disorders can cause serious health consequences and may even result in death if left untreated. In fact, eating disorders are among the deadliest mental illnesses, second only to opioid overdoses.

Common eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge-eating disorder, and avoidant restrictive food intake disorder. Each disorder is associated with different, but sometimes overlapping, symptoms. People exhibiting any combination of these symptoms may have an eating disorder and should be evaluated by a healthcare provider.

Common symptoms include severe restriction of food, food binges, and purging behaviours like vomiting or overexercising.

The physical, mental, and emotional symptoms vary from person to person and by type of eating disorder. Treatment may combine cognitive therapy, medication, and other therapies.

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