|Every single day, many people in the world are struggling with issues related to their eating habits, self-esteem or body-image, or even experiencing the serious consequences of an eating disorder. It can be confusing to understand these concerns and to know when to reach out for more help, and so the focus of the next five articles on the blog will be to demystify these real-life mental health concerns.
Check out the other articles in this series:
The following article will highlight the possible precursors to the development of an eating disorder by exploring the prevalence, behaviours, dangers and help available for disordered eating. The information shared in this article can relate to signs and symptoms to check for if you are concerned about your own situation or the health and well-being of a loved one.
Please note: The information in this article is not medical advice. If you are concerned about your health and well-being, concerned you may have an eating disorder or if you or someone else is in an immediate crisis situation, reach out to a health professional, crisis line, or your nearest emergency service for more support.
What is Disordered Eating?
According to the National Eating Disorders Collaboration, Disordered Eating (DE) can be defined as "a disturbed and unhealthy eating pattern that can include restrictive dieting, compulsive eating or skipping meals".
Compared to normal eating behaviours which include ingesting a healthy and balanced diet, experiences of Disordered Eating go far beyond these norms to the point of becoming dangerous for the health and well-being of the individual.
The causes of developing DE behaviours are many and may include having experiences of extreme stress or trauma or being influenced by social pressures or behaviours that seem normal such as dieting or achieving a certain outward appearance.
"Dieting is the number one cause of the onset of an eating disorder and seeking help early is the best preventative measure. ~NEDC
The development of Disordered Eating may be an unconscious coping mechanism to try to help regulate or soothe emotional distress. It's important to consider that although many of the behaviours of disordered eating relate to food or consumption, the underlying causes are much more broad and undefined, even for the person experiencing these concerns.
Prevalence of Disordered Eating
Disordered Eating Behaviours
Some examples of Disordered Eating behaviours can include:
Many of the behaviours of individuals who are experiencing Disordered Eating may be precursors to an eating disorder and may not qualify for an official diagnosis. However, these behaviours can be very dangerous for the health and well-being of the individual which will be discussed next.
Dangers of Disordered Eating
The dangers of Disordered Eating can take a toll on the emotional, physical and social areas of an individuals life and can have devastating consequences on an individuals self-esteem. An individual may feel shame or guilt for engaging in these behaviours which can lead to isolation, depression or suicidal ideation.
Some of the risks of disordered eating include:
Disordered Eating: Identifying, Treating, Preventing & Differentiating It From Eating Disorders
Help for Disordered Eating
It is important to note that, even if these behaviours related to eating, mental health, or social isolation have been happening for years, it is possible to work towards creating healthier habits and preventing this inevitable trajectory towards developing an eating disorder.
Some examples of finding help include:
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The next article in this series explores 3 Types of Eating Disorders including their descriptions, symptoms and the health-related risks involved with each of the disorders.
References: nedc.com.au, spectrum.diabetesjournals.org, nedic.ca
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