An eating disorder is usually caused by psychological pressure and stress. While the typical age of onset is about 15–24, eating disorders can affect people of all ages.
According to a study by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, about 6% of women aged 15–35 and 0.3% of men aged 15–35 have had an eating disorder.
The development of an eating disorder is a long process and a sum of several factors. It can be influenced by social ideals, family dynamics, personality, the formation of the self-image as well as hereditary factors. Affected people often suffer from body dysmorphia, food-related obsessions and symptoms of depression.
People suffering from an eating disorder do not usually consider themselves ill or try to hide their symptoms, which is why their friends and loved ones play a key role in identifying the disorder. The sooner the treatment can begin, the better the person’s chances of recovery.
Most common eating disorders
Disorder related to weight, involving avoiding or rationing eating and food, excessive exercise and obsessively striving for perfection.
Disorder related to binge eating, involving the need to purge by vomiting or using laxatives.
BED (Binge eating disorder)
Disorder related to binge eating, does not involve the need to purge.
Atypical eating disorder (OSFED)
The symptoms are similar to those of anorexia or binge eating disorders but a key symptom is missing or manifests itself in a milder form. About 50% of eating disorders are atypical.
An obsession with healthy food. Orthorexia is not an official diagnosis but part of atypical eating disorders.
Treating eating disorders
In treatment and rehabilitation related to eating disorders, it is important to motivate the person to want treatment.
In addition to correcting the state of nutrition, the treatment consists of nutritional therapy, monitoring the weight and, depending on the patient’s situation, either psychotherapy or family therapy. Certain types of antidepressants (SSRIs, for example fluoxetine) can help with binge eating.
Eating disorders are usually treated in outpatient care, but if the person’s weight is very low or dropping fast, hospital treatment may be necessary. Psychotherapy or other psychosocial support can help process the reasons behind the disorder and find motivation for recovery.
By learning emotional skills, the person can learn to tolerate feelings of anxiety without relying on the mechanisms of eating disorders and start to rebuild their identity. In terms of treatment and rehabilitation, it is also important that the person does not isolate themselves from their friends and family.
Recovering from an eating disorder can be a long process and the symptoms may come back, especially in stressful situations. However, most people recover completely over time.