For genetic, psychological, economic or work reasons, we have a tendency to suffer disorders in our eating habits, causing problems for our health.

For this reason, eating disorders have been an individual, family and even social problem, which we must address promptly.

In the following article, we explain what these types of pathologies consist of and what their most relevant characteristics are.

What are eating disorders?

Eating disorders constitute a series of pathologies that mostly have a component of psychological origin, which are characterized by excessive concern for body image and the weight of our body.

These pathologies cause severe deviations in the eating behavior of those who suffer from them, manifesting as eating disorders and can cause very serious health problems.

You should know: Eating disorders are suffered by men and women , more frequently in the population of children and adolescents, focusing on losing body weight or avoiding weight gain. (1)

Most common types of eating disorders

Below we describe the eating disorders, which occur more frequently in the general population:

1. Anorexia 

Anorexia or anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that consists of the systematic rejection of food to maintain a normal weight or as low as possible. The cause of this is still unknown, however multi- causal factors are attributed to it, including biological, psychological and environmental factors. 

Note: According to scientific studies, anorexia nervosa mainly affects young women. (two)

The most common symptoms are excessive weight loss, dry skin, insomnia, fatigue among many others. The consequences of this disorder can range from anemia, facing cardiovascular diseases, loss of muscle mass and in women to loss of menstruation.

In this case, the treatment for people with anorexia is carried out under continuous psychological therapy, achieving a full recovery of the patient.

2. Bulimia 

Bulimia, or bulimia nervosa, is an eating disorder characterized by the patient suffering episodes of binge eating and purging of food. (3)

In this case, the person feels compulsive desires to eat excessively , but then to avoid gaining weight, they resort to purgative processes such as vomiting or the use of diuretic laxatives to avoid gaining weight.

The cause of this disorder is also unknown, but it is attributed to the combination of genetic, psychological, traumatic, family, social and cultural factors. The consumption of large amounts of food, the use of purgative procedures or excessive physical activity, among others, are recurrent. 

Consequently, people suffer psychological problems such as low self-esteem and problems with social relationships, even in their own health when cardiovascular diseases and pathologies in the oral cavity appear.

You should know: To treat this disorder, continuous psychological therapy, nutritional guidance, family help will be required and, in the most serious cases, medication or hospitalization may be required.

3. Obesity

Obesity is an eating disorder where, unlike anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, the concern is not body aesthetics but having an excessive amount of adipose tissue. This happens due to an imbalance in energy consumption, where the patient consumes more calories than he needs.

This eating disorder occurs because there is a multifactorial incidence among which we can mention such as a sedentary lifestyle, eating habits, hormonal factors, economic factors, among others.

To highlight: Since the causes of this disorder occur due to different factors, its intervention must be equally multidisciplinary. (4)

As a consequence of the above, obesity can cause the patient to develop metabolic, cardiovascular, and musculoskeletal diseases, among many others.

4. Avoidance/restriction of food intake

The avoidance/restriction disorder is another of the eating disorders where the patient is not afraid of gaining weight, since they eat very little food or avoid eating any of them and generally arises in childhood. 

The causes of this disorder are attributed to physiological factors and psychiatric origin that may be affecting food intake. In addition, they are characterized by being very selective with the type of food they want to eat (5)

Because of the above, there is weight loss, malnutrition problems and loss of social ability to relate. 

Note: It has been agreed that the appropriate treatment for this disorder is early multidisciplinary intervention, including family support.

5. Rumination

Among the eating disorders with very rare characteristics is rumination. This disease is characterized because the patient regurgitates food after eating it to chew it again and eat it again or spit it out, constituting the main symptom.

This syndrome affects children and adults and its origin is located in physiological factors of the gastric system and also psychological factors such as aversion to certain foods, the inevitable impulse to regurgitate or concern about body weight.

Important: This deviation in eating behavior reflects negative conditions in the state of health, such as damage to the esophagogastric wall, weight loss and malnutrition, requiring multidisciplinary intervention to treat this syndrome and ensure the health and quality of life of the patient. (6)

6. Binge eating

Binge eating disorder or binge eating disorder is one of the most serious eating disorders , because the patient feels a compulsive desire to eat large amounts of food without any control and all at the same time. In this case, the patient is not concerned about weight gain.

The literature describes the symptoms as excessive rushing to eat food, eating a lot without feeling hungry and eating until feeling uncomfortably full to later manifest a feeling of guilt and low self-esteem. (7)

Like most eating disorders, the causes of this pathology have not been clearly established, but certain risk factors affect its appearance , such as psychosocial and genetic problems, unhealthy eating habits, among others. This generates major health problems, mainly those related to the cardiovascular system, metabolic syndrome.

To highlight: The treatment of this pathology focuses on a multidisciplinary intervention of specialists in behavioral therapies, nutritionists and medical specialists.

7. Itchy

Among the most complicated eating disorders is pica, due to the fact that the patient ingests things that are not considered food or frequently resorts to the consumption of substances without nutritional contribution such as paper, mud, feces, stone, among other materials. (8)

Based on this characteristic, subjects suffering from pica suffer from malnutrition, iron deficiency anemia, metal poisoning, constipation among others. 

You should know: The causes of this disorder are still not defined but are commonly attributed to disorders in cognitive development such as autism, intellectual disabilities or mental health problems. 

Due to the above, psychological therapy is indicated in these cases together with family help and in extreme cases, pharmacological therapy could be indicated.

8. Unspecified eating behavior (TCANE)

Unspecified eating behavior (OSC) is one of the eating disorders that manifests itself incompletely because the patient shows symptoms of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, without forming a specific picture of any of them. It focuses on food, the perception of the body and the fear of gaining weight. (9)

The most common symptoms are concerns about aesthetics and body weight. Binge eating can also occur, but irregularly without showing any compensatory behavior, as well as the person chewing food without swallowing. 

To highlight: This behavior is attributed to the negative incidence of social, personal, biological, hormonal factors and others to be defined. In this case , cognitive behavioral therapy and medical assistance are recommended to mitigate some of the symptoms, family help being key.

Key Findings

  • Eating disorders in most cases constitute serious deviations in eating habits.
  • Eating disorders focus their symptoms on aesthetic appearance and body weight.
  • These disorders must be intervened in a timely manner to prevent irreversible damage to health.
  • Multidisciplinary intervention is necessary for the treatment of patients with these pathologies, as well as family participation.

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