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Eating disorders manifest themselves in different ways. Here's what to watch out for

There are millions of sufferers all over the world, dealing with specific eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia and binge eating. Symptoms include excessive exercising, self-induced vomiting and dependence on laxatives or diuretics to lose weight.

You may wonder why this problem occurs in the first place. It's triggered by a combination of factors — personality type, self-esteem, environment and genetics. Eating disorders manifest themselves in different forms, with some overlapping symptoms. The typical symptoms are covered here, so one can know exactly what to look out for. Here are some signs to watch for. Take them seriously, if you have a problem. And if you know someone who has these symptoms, try to get them help, fast.

Consulting a medical counsellor and therapy sessions to understand the importance of getting back into sensible eating habits are necessary to treat eating disorders.

Anorexia

Unlike other eating disorders, anorexics starve themselves by eating little or no food. They become so thin that you their see bones sticking out. Apart from appearance, there are behavioural changes as well. Anorexics have a distorted body image and live in constant fear of gaining weight.

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40 per cent of all anorexics are girls

aged between 15 and 19.

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To underscore the seriousness of the condition, anorexia is thought to have the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder. Treatment for anorexia nervosa tries to restore the person to a healthy weight and treat the psychological disorders related to the illness. There is also an attempt to reduce or eliminate behaviours or thoughts that originally led to the eating disorder.

Bulimia

Signs to watch out for:

* Recurrent episodes of binge eating

* Eating, in a fixed period of time, an amount of food that is definitely larger than most people would eat under similar circumstances.

* Lack of control over eating, a feeling that one cannot stop eating or control what or how much one is eating.

* Recurrent inappropriate compensatory behaviour to prevent weight gain, such as self-induced vomiting, misuse of laxatives or other medications, fasting, or excessive exercise.

* Triggers include periods of stress, traumatic events, and over-evaluation of body shape and weight.

Binge eating

Those with binge eating disorders do not purge, fast or engage in strenuous exercise after binge eating. Those with a binge eating disorder are more likely to be overweight or obese.

Binge eating disorder is often associated with very negative feelings about food. As with other eating disorders, binge eating is an “expressive disorder” — a disorder that is an expression of deeper psychological problems.

Common binge eating symptoms

1. Binge eating disorder is twice as common among women as among men. The disorder is found in all ethno-cultural and racial populations.

2. People with binge eating disorder may become ill due to a lack of proper nutrition. Bingeing episodes usually include foods that are high in sugar and/or salt, but low in healthier nutrients.

3. People who are obese and also have binge eating disorder are at risk for type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol levels, gallbladder disease, heart disease and certain types of cancer.

4. Most people with a binge eating disorder have tried to control it on their own, but have not been able to do so for very long.

5. Obese people with binge eating disorder often feel bad about themselves and may avoid social gatherings.

6. Most people who binge eat, whether obese or not, feel ashamed and try to hide their problem. Often they become so good at hiding it that even close friends and family members don't know they binge eat.

7. Holiday stuffing and general over-eating does not qualify as a binge eating disorder.

8. Although mental health professionals may be attuned to the signs of binge eating disorders, most physicians do not raise the question, either because they are uninformed about the condition or too embarrassed to ask about it.

NAMITA JAIN

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