Eating disorder: what it is, causes and treatments

Eating disorder: what it is, causes and treatments

Written by Deepak Bhagat, In Health, Updated On
April 9th, 2024

An eating disorder can be linked to several factors. Investigating the causes is the first step towards assertive treatment.
When searching for the perfect body within the aesthetic standards considered ideal is increasingly intense, the mind and the organism can suffer several consequences. A healthy body has nothing to do with extreme sacrifices or restrictive diets deemed miraculous. This results from a conscious and balanced dietary re-education combined with physical practices beneficial to the mind and body.

The appearance of eating disorders can be linked to several factors, ranging from the aforementioned aesthetic pressure to genetics, including biological, social, and psychological changes. Investigating the causes is the first step towards assertive treatment with good results.

What is an eating disorder?

But what is an eating disorder, and how does it impact the body? The main characteristic is the disorder in eating behavior, which is considered normal and harms the individual. Different types of eating disorders can lead the body from excessive weight loss to weight gain at extreme levels. In addition, several other health problems arise due to that loss or weight gain.

When the individual develops a fear of eating, thinking he is going to put on weight, or starts to eat compulsively, it is necessary to seek help and investigate the causes of the eating disorder in a multidisciplinary way.

What are the types of eating disorders?

There are some eating disorders listed through medical studies and research, and among the most common types of eating disorders are anorexia, binge eating, and bulimia.


Anorexia is a condition that is characterized by food restriction as a way to reduce body weight drastically. Individuals with anorexia see themselves in the mirror in a distorted way, and the extreme fear that they will gain weight culminates in reducing food intake.

At the onset of the disorder, only caloric foods are expected to be gradually eliminated from the diet. As the condition progresses, other foods are eliminated from the menu, reaching a point where few items are kept in minute quantities.

“The more restrictive the diet is, even in situations considered normal, that is, in the absence of an eating disorder, the fewer nutrients the body receives. This is even more serious in the context of anorexia because, in addition to extreme weight loss, the body also suffers from malnutrition, which can cause other severe health problems ”.

Although body weight decreases, the individual with anorexia inversely worries about the pointer of the scale and body measurements. Even though extremely thin and fragile, the person sees himself as overweight. This is a severe disorder, which can even lead the patient to death if not treated in time.

Food compulsion

Here, it is necessary to differentiate the episodes in which the person rarely ends up eating a little too much, in specific situations—which can happen to anyone—and for the most varied reasons.

The binge has some unique characteristics. In addition to overeating food quickly, it comes with guilt and a feeling of shame right after the episode. Thinking about controlling these situations, many individuals with compulsion end up on restrictive diets, which are not only ineffective but can seriously aggravate the condition.


Unlike the person with anorexia, who avoids eating due to the fear of gaining weight, the individual with bulimia has episodes of high food intake – especially those considered more caloric – followed by actions considered compensatory and which would prevent weight gain. Use of laxatives or diuretics, induction of vomiting, and prolonged fasting are some of them.

Another difference between bulimia and anorexia is the state of the body. While the anorexic person tends to have cachexia, that is, thinness and extreme malnutrition, who has bulimia has a healthy body and often within aesthetic standards.

The person with this eating disorder usually experiences feelings of remorse or guilt after episodes of compulsion. The causes also vary and may be related to social pressure to achieve a perfect body or genetics.

“The use of laxatives, diuretics, and the induction of vomiting, which are routine actions in a situation of bulimia, can have serious effects on the body. Gastrointestinal problems, dehydration, and cardiac arrhythmias are some of them ”.

Treatment for eating disorder

It is essential to start treatment for eating disorders as soon as possible. It is challenging for the person to understand that there is a situation to be treated, so the observation made by family and friends is critical. It is necessary to break the taboo about disorders, in addition to understanding that it is not the patient’s choice to maintain the condition of their own free will – as, unfortunately, some people still believe.

Both anorexia and bulimia are joint disorders in young women – especially in adolescents – but they can also affect men and women in all age groups.

Treatment is based on an individual clinical investigation and varies according to the severity of the condition, the patient’s history, and how long the symptoms have been present. The psychologist and the nutritionist are essential professionals, acting to resign the patient’s relationship with his body and to provide a balanced dietary reeducation.

“Eating disorders have a multifactorial origin that involves genetic, sociocultural, psychological issues, etc. Thus, multidisciplinary treatment with a clinical doctor, psychiatrist, nutritionist, and psychologist is required. Without psychological treatment, there is no overcoming the factors that led to the development of the disorder; there is also less adherence to treatment ”.

Family members also receive guidance on how to care for the person being treated, acting together with the medical team in search of a better quality of life for the patient. Eating disorders can seriously impact the health of the body, so they need adequate and humanized treatment.

Important: People with an active medical diagnosis of anorexia or bulimia nervosa are not able to start the WW Weight Watchers program. However, a history of anorexia or bulimia nervosa in adolescence does not prohibit you from joining the Weight Watchers program – as long as your doctor considers that you are recovered.

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