Overview

Eating disorders are serious and often fatal conditions related to persistent eating behaviors that negatively impact your health, your emotions, and your ability to function in important areas of life. Most eating disorders involve preoccupation with food, your weight, body shape and weight, leading to dangerous eating behaviors. These behaviors can significantly impact your body’s ability to get appropriate nutrition. Eating disorders can harm the heart, digestive system, bones, and teeth and mouth, and lead to other diseases.

The most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder.

Eating disorders often develop in the teen and young adult years, although they can develop at other ages.

Symptoms

 

Symptoms vary, depending on the type of eating disorder. Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder are the most common eating disorders. Other eating disorders include rumination disorder and avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder.

Anorexia nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is a potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by an abnormally low body weight, extreme restriction on eating, or use of other methods to lose weight, such as excessive exercise, using laxatives or diet aids, or vomiting after eating, intense fear of gaining weight, and a distorted perception of your weight or body shape, unwillingness to maintain a healthy weight. People with anorexia use extreme efforts to control their weight and shape, which often significantly interferes with their health and life activities.

Bulimia nervosa

Bulimia nervosa is a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by recurrent and frequent episodes of binging and purging that involve feeling a lack of control over your eating.

During these episodes, person typically eat a large amount of food in a short time, and then compensates for overeating such as force vomiting, use laxatives or diuretics, fasting, excessive exercise or a combination of these.

These behaviors are accompanied by preoccupation with weight and body shape, even though one may be at a normal weight or even a bit overweight.

Binge-eating disorder

People with binge-eating disorder lose control over their eating and eat large amount of food. After binge eating person feels guilty, ashamed or disgusted but it is not followed by any compensatory behaviors like purging, excessive exercise, or fasting. As a result, people with binge-eating disorder often are overweight or obese. Binge-eating disorder is the most common eating disorder in the U.S.

Co-existing/Co-morbid Disorders

Other mental health disorders like anxiety disorder, depression, OCD

Risk Factors

  • Genetic- family history of eating disorder
  • Other mental health disorders like anxiety disorder, depression, OCD
  • Dieting and starvation
  • Stress

Diagnosis

  • Clinical signs and symptoms and eating habits
  • Physical exam
  • Psychological evaluation
  • Additional tests may be required for any complications related to eating disorders

Treatment

Includes a team approach- involving Primary care providers, psychiatrist, therapist, dietitians and depends on the specific type of disorder

Medications

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are medicines that treat eating disorders. SSRIs can help reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression. Once you start feeling better, usually after a course of 6 to 12 months, you may be able to gradually taper off the SSRIs. Stopping them abruptly can cause withdrawal symptoms.

Please Note: In some cases, children, teenagers, and young adults under 25 may experience an increase in suicidal thoughts or behavior when taking SSRIs, especially in the first few weeks after starting or when the dose is changed. This warning from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also says that patients of all ages taking SSRIs should be watched closely, especially during the first few weeks of treatment.

If you are considering taking an SSRIs and you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or breastfeeding please let us know prior to starting the medicines.

Psychotherapies

Several types of psychotherapy (also called “talk therapy” or, in a less specific form, counseling) can help people with depression. Examples of evidence-based approaches specific to the treatment of depression include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), Family-based therapy.

Holistic approach:

  • Getting regular exercise such as brisk walk, swimming, jogging etc. helps with anxiety and depression and promote sleep in addition to the physical benefits of work out
  • Yoga and anaerobic exercise have also shown beneficial effects on mental health
  • Keep a mood log
  • Be mindful of your triggers and warning signs
  • Eat healthy and nutritious diet
  • Maintain regular follow ups with your care providers
  • Take all medicines as prescribed, consult your doctor before making any medicine changes
  • Avoid misuse of alcohol or other drugs
  • Adopt good sleep habits
  • Mindful breathing