Struggling with an Eating Disorder: A Closer Look

If you or someone you know appears to be struggling with an eating disorder, it’s important to take a closer look at the issue and understand the potential risks. Eating disorders are complex issues that can have serious, life-threatening consequences.

In this article, we take a closer look at the factors that may contribute to an eating disorder and how individuals and families can seek help for the disorder.

1. Understanding Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are a very serious mental health condition. They involve a person’s behavior and thoughts related to food. Eating disorders can affect anyone, no matter your age, gender, socioeconomic status, or race.

It’s important to know the different types of eating disorders and how to recognize them. Here’s a quick overview of some of the most common eating disorders:

  • Anorexia Nervosa: People with Anorexia Nervosa drastically restrict their food intake and exercise excessively. This can lead to extreme weight loss and other physical and mental health issues.
  • Bulimia Nervosa: People with Bulimia Nervosa tend to binge eat, followed by attempting to purge the food that was consumed. They may over-exercise, use laxatives, or vomit in an attempt to get rid of the food.
  • Binge Eating Disorder: People with Binge Eating Disorder have recurring episodes of compulsive overeating. They may eat large amounts of food in a short period of time or consume high-calorie foods, but they don’t purge or use other compensatory behaviors like a person with Bulimia Nervosa might.
  • Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorders (OSFED): OSFED is an umbrella term for disturbances in eating or feeding that don’t fit into any of the above categories but still cause significant distress.

The root cause of eating disorders is complex and can vary from person to person. It is typically believed to stem from biological, environmental, emotional, and social factors.

Eating disorders can have major consequences if left untreated, so it’s important to seek help if you think you or someone you know might be struggling.

Eating Disorder

2. Causes of Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are complex and structured ailments, and there is no single cause. Rather, multiple factors contribute to the development of an eating disorder. Commonly cited causes include:

  • Genetics and Biology – Eating disorders are likely rooted in biological predispositions. Studies have also linked various genes to eating disorders.
  • Social Environment – Stressful life events, changes in social groups, and the media’s persistent portrayal of thinness as an ideal can perpetuate distorted thoughts, compulsive behaviors, and harmful habits.
  • Psychology – Low self-esteem, difficulty expressing emotions, and poor problem-solving skills can lead to distorted body image, causing people to attempt to control their appearance by obsessive dieting.

Combined, these factors can contribute to the onset or worsening of an eating disorder. If left untreated, eating disorders can lead to severe health complications and even prove fatal.

3. Signs and Symptoms of Eating Disorders

There are various signs and symptoms to be aware of when it comes to eating disorders. The following are some of the primary indicators of disordered eating:

  • Extremes in eating behaviors, such as restricting or overeating.
  • Changes in weight or appetite, such as a sudden decrease or increase.
  • Preoccupation with food, such as obsessively counting calories.
  • Using food to cope, such as using it to suppress emotions.

Other can include intense fear of gaining weight, body dysmorphia and body image issues, withdrawal from regular activities, fatigue, changes in sleep and mood, and feeling out of control around food.

It’s important to note that these signs and symptoms can manifest differently in each individual. It’s also important to recognize that an eating disorder can be present without being visible.

Extremes in eating behaviors
Harvard Health – Harvard University

4. Treatment and Intervention

Identification: Before any type of treatment or intervention can be provided, it is important to correctly identify the problem being addressed. A mental health professional can assess a person to determine whether or not they are struggling with a mental health disorder.

Treatment: Once the disorder is correctly identified, s can be tailored to meet the individual’s needs. Types of treatment may include:

  • Counseling
  • Medication
  • Support groups
  • Behavioral therapy
  • Alternative treatments

Finding the right balance between treatments is important and usually develops over time. Treatment often involves a combination of methods in order to achieve optimal results.

5. Moving Forward Through Understanding and Support

When it comes to navigating difficulties and finding solutions, the importance of understanding each other cannot be underscored enough.

When people approach such conversations with a genuine interest and a willingness to listen, those involved often find that everybody’s needs can be better met by being open and honest.

Even with the best of intentions, it can still be difficult for individuals to understand one another when there are opposing views at play.

Mutual support is also key in these situations. One person’s understanding and compassion are often enough to offer comfort to others who are struggling.

Encouraging words can instill hope, and an offer of assistance can help people to take the next step forward with positivity and enthusiasm. Here are a few ways we can support each other and move forward:

  • Validate feelings. Acknowledge feelings of hurt and pain.
  • Opt for compromise. Offer potential solutions that meet certain needs.
  • Help problem-solve. Provide creative ways to approach a challenge.
  • Reach out. Offer assistance to those who need it.
Eating Disorder


This article explored the signs and symptoms of eating disorders and offered insight into why individuals may be prone to the disorder. It’s clear that though these conditions can be difficult to handle, those who are struggling can find comfort in knowing they’re not alone.

If you or a loved one think you might be experiencing an eating disorder, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Recovery is possible and there is much to look forward to down the road.

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