Are You Suffering From An Eating Disorder? | Do’s & Don’ts
What is an Eating Disorder?
An eating disorder is a mental health issue that is often disregarded as a personality problem. It is a one-of-a-kind illness that nobody talks about it- as an ‘illness’. Being continuously on diet or be obsessed with weight is considered quite normal among the Millenials and gen Z.
Binge-eating while watching movies is a common phenomenon these days. As a result, when we overeat, our brain asks for more food. On the contrary, when we eat less, our brain signals us to stop eating at all.
To put it shortly, eating disorder happens when we eat in a wrong proportion which eventually triggers many health problems- both physical and mental.
A Major Disorder?
In the midst of an unhealthy lifestyle which is the norm of the day, how can a mere eating disorder be considered a major issue? Well, an eating disorder is actually more than just a disorder. It can risk your life to severe health problems including organ failures and even death. Many studies have also shown the same.
But you may ask- why is it buttoned down as a mental health disorder? Because- our mind allows or restricts eating- thereby controlling our body. Since there is a neurological link to it, it falls under mental health disorder.
However, an eating disorder is not as scary as other mental health illnesses. It is fully curable if treated early.
Why Eating Disorder even exist?
There is a myriad of reasons for eating disorders to become widespread across the globe. I am listing the most relevant causes down below.
Societal or Peer pressure
Young minds mold easily. When done in a positive way, they become their best self later in life. But, when molding goes wrong, it can wreak havoc.
Sometimes, our family members become our biggest enemy. Unknowingly, they mock us for being fat or skinny. And the idea of shaming for being fat or skinny gets seeded deeply to our subconscious- which leads to all sorts of mental and physical distress.
And to combat the stress, we either under-eat or overeat. The feeling of guilt and shame also give us an equal company to our misery.
During my teenage years, one day our history teacher asked us out of the blue- “How many of you feel overweight?” Most of the students including me raised our hands. Surprisingly most of us were super skinny. Now when I look back, I realize how our innocent young minds were influenced by our body shape and size even without the awareness.
During the adolescent period, teenagers are very vulnerable to suggestions. An added pressure of looking a specific way creates an inferiority complex among them.
Feeling inferior, due to their body image results in eating disorders. Though it occurs in the teenage period, people can carry forward the disorder to their later years too.
So, while you may be having a psychological issue with food, don’t expect it to go away by itself. Because it will not. One has to take care of their mental health and keep a tab on the negative external influences to get rid of the disorder.
Our media is one of the biggest causes of people’s agony today. Media dictates us to be certain body weight, body shape and so on. They advise us to follow fad diets which are misleading and advocate self-hating. Instead of promoting body positivity, the advertisement industry encourages body shaming for their moneymaking schemes.
People lacking in self-worth get trapped in the gimmicks advertised by the immoral media. Some of their low self-esteem finds solace in eating wrongly and leading a poor lifestyle- which creates more distress and mental pain.
For example- obese people try to control their food or stop eating at all. And skinny people start eating too much hoping it can increase their weight.
Certain job requirements
Sometimes our job can be demanding enough forcing extreme imbalances in our food intake. If you are an actor, model or social influencer, you may understand the pain of fitting the standard no matter what. If you cannot fit the bill, you are asked to step out then and there.
Such situations are also seen among sportsperson. However, the focus must be given on eating healthy and staying fit instead of being just skinny.
Once, I heard a story of a model eating only one apple a day to look like other models. The result- her bones became brittle and she suffered from anemia. And this is just one story. There are millions of people who try to meet their job requirements and risk their health on the process.
Such type of extreme diets only weakens your body and immune system- aging you more and onwards to the death bed. Such cruelty needs to stop for the sake of a healthy society where our children can live happily.
Studies on Eating Disorder
A study on animals revealed that binge-eating affects our dopamine and acetylcholine levels in our brain. And when we starve, there are changes in mesolimbic DA and serotonin levels.
So, our hormones alter depending on our eating patterns- which in turn affect our motivation and reward system in the brain.
Some studies also show that eating disorder is heritable. Similar to other mental health problems like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, the eating disorder also has a genetic link. Twin studies show that there is about a 58% chance of heritability for anorexia nervosa. Other researches even show a chance of up to 74%.
Most Affected by Eating Disorders
There is a stereotype that only adolescent girls struggle with eating disorders. The belief that teen girls want to look like ramp models is far from the truth. Young girls are not the only ones who are prone to such disorders. Men and women of all ages are prone to eating disorders.
Would you believe that anorexia nervosa is seen equally among boys? The reason why boys are not diagnosed often for eating disorders is because of societal expectations. They don’t report as many cases as their other counterpart does maybe because of the fear of losing masculinity.
On the other hand, bulimia nervosa is more common among females. On the other hand, both genders are susceptible to binge-eating disorder.
A Psychological Disorder in Modern Society?
There is a lack of personal self-worth and authenticity in today’s day and age. Due to the rise of opportunist media and negative lifestyle influences on our life, a false standard of body and beauty is globally set. It is leading to intolerable pressure among the young generation today causing depression, anxiety, mania, and eating disorder to name a few.
So, do I believe it to be a psychological disorder?
Yes, I believe it to be so.
The need of the hour is to love and respect the body we are born with. We need to accept our flaws and improve the self-worth for better psychological health- which can drastically reduce eating disorders.