Eating disorders are categorized in two main groups – bulimia and anorexia. People who have bulimia generally binge eat and then attempt to compensate through vomiting, excessive exercise or fasting. People with anorexia, on the other hand, usually have an intense fear of becoming fat and refuse to maintain a healthy, age-appropriate body weight. Some people with anorexia only restrict food intake while others binge eat and then purge through self-induced vomiting or the misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or enemas.
Having an eating disorder is much more than being on a diet. It is an illness that has a negative impact on every part of a person’s life. Eating disorders are caused by a variety of factors including low self-esteem, external and internal conflicts, or feeling out of control. These disorders are not about weight and food but about the underlying issues that are causing maladaptive behavior. For those with anorexia or bulimia, being able to focus on food or control food may be one of the only ways that they know how to cope with uncomfortable feelings like anger, depression, anxiety, or stress.
Treatment for eating disorders is best approached on multiple levels. Both medical and mental health care are important. Medications, however, are rarely enough to treat eating disorders. Individual, group and family therapy can help the person to address and resolve root causes of the illness. The best treatment strategy is combine appropriate therapy with nutrition education and medications when needed.
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