journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

Spotting the First Signs of an Eating Disorder

This week the UK’s eating disorder charity BEAT has released a poster that educates the first signs of an eating disorder. There are a range of eating disorders and these do display different symptoms, however there are some general signs that could signal a problem.

Tips_compressed_original

The TOP 3 Early Signs of an Eating Disorder:

  • Food obsessions

    – Has their attitude towards food changed? Have they started measuring foods, counting calories, or cutting out foods they used to enjoy? Do they love cooking for others but don’t eat the meals themselves? They may also begin showing secretive behaviour when it comes to food or meal times. Be aware that it may look like they’re eating but they could be being secretive (such as throwing food away when you’re not looking or taking it to their room and then not eating it).

  • Distorted body image 

    – Has the person lost weight but still say they’re too fat and that they look terrible? In the first stages of an ED the person will make these commons frequently. Later, when suspicions are raised, they will start to become more quiet and withdrawn. Realise that ED thoughts occur for some time before the person loses a significant amount of weight – step in before this physical symptom.

  • The emotional roller coaster 
  • -Are they experiencing changes in their mood? Are they becoming more irritable, over sensitive, a perfectionist, compulsive, depressed, more anxious or wanting to be alone?

Other warning signs and symptoms include:

  • Constant adherence to increasingly strict diets, regardless of weight
  • Habitual trips to the bathroom immediately after eating
  • Secretly bingeing on large amounts of food
  • Hoarding large amounts of food
  • Increase in consumption of laxatives, diuretics or diet pills
  • Exercising compulsively, often several hours per day
  • Using prescription stimulant medications and/or illicit stimulant drugs to suppress appetite
  • Withdrawal from friends and family, particularly following questions about her disease or visible physical/medical side effects
  • Avoidance of meals or situations where food may be present
  • Preoccupation with weight, body size and shape, or specific aspects of one’s appearance
  • Obsessing over calorie intake and calories burned via exercise, even as one may be losing significant amounts of weight

Physical symptoms of anorexia may include:

  • Underweight, even emaciated appearance with protruding bones or a sunken appearance to the face
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Brittle nails
  • Hair that thins, breaks or falls out
  • Menstrual irregularities or loss of menstruation (amenorrhea)
  • Baby fine hair covering face and other areas of the body (lanugo)

Emotional and behavioural signs of anorexia nervosa may include:

  • Refusal to eat
  • Denial of hunger
  • Excessive exercise
  • Eating only a few certain “safe” foods, usually those low in fat and calories
  • Adopting rigid meal or eating rituals, such as cutting food into tiny pieces or spitting food out after chewing

Symptoms of bulimia may include:

  • Abnormal bowel functioning
  • Damaged teeth and gums
  • Sores in the throat and mouth
  • Scarring on the back of the hand/fingers used to induce purging
  • Swollen salivary glands (creating “chipmunk cheeks”)
  • Menstrual irregularities or loss of menstruation (amenorrhea)
  • Irritation and inflammation of the esophagus (heartburn)

Behavioural symptoms of bulimia may include:

  • Constant dieting
  • Hiding food or food wrappers
  • Eating in secret
  • Eating to the point of discomfort or pain
  • Self-induced vomiting
  • Laxative use
  • Excessive exercise
  • Frequent bathroom trips after eating
journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

Eating Disorders Amongst the Dancer Community

More than 725,000 people in the UK are affected by an eating disorder, 11% of these being male. The main eating disorders are Anorexia, Bulimia and Binge Eating Disorder (BED), eliminating EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified).Before the latest change in diagnostic criteria, it was estimated that of those with eating disorders, 10% were anorexic, 40% were bulimic and the rest fall into the EDNOS category which included BED.

In the dance world, these statistics are even higher. Society puts pressure on people to look a certain way in order to be accepted. In dance, the pressure to be thin is not only due to appearance but also due to performance. Dancers, especially those who take ballet, are often expected to be very thin. Young dancers look to dancers much older who have thin bodies. Dance places a large emphasis on physical appearance. Dance requires you to wear skin-tight clothes whilst dancing in front of a million mirrors for hours at a time. This environment can impact dancers views on their self and possibly lower their self esteem. Dancers constantly look at themselves and their bodies and compare themselves to others.

Many dancers also believe that achieving a lower weight will improve their dancing as well. Female dancers must be held in the air by their male counterparts in a series of long and strenuous lifts. Being lighter and easier to hold is desirable. Because extra weight changes the balance of the body, ballet dancers are careful to maintain a lower weight, thus allowing them to move easier and land softer.

Many people who suffer from eating disorders feel that the disorder gives them a sense of control. This act of self-discipline and structure is inherent in the nature of dance as well. Mastering a skill or achieving a low weight is a tangible goal for dancers. Some dancers have reported that being thinner than the other girls can give them an edge when it comes to getting a role in a dance. Having a sense of control over your body and your competition is powerful for dancers. These pressures are extremely relevant in the world of classical ballet, but that is not to say that developing an eating disorder is the right way to find success as a ballerina. In fact, it is just the opposite. Eating disorders destroy your body, leaving you malnourished and lacking in muscle tone and bone strength. Dance is a rigorous sport that requires an enormous amount of strength. A body plagued by a serious eating disorder is weak and not able to execute difficult leaps and skilful manoeuvres.

Studies have shown that girls begin to express concerns about their own weight or about becoming too fat as early as the age of six. Most dancers begin their high level training around age seven. These girls are dreaming of becoming professional dancers, and are doing so at an impressionable age. Feeling the need to be lean like their idols can significantly damage them both mentally and physically.

The dance world is tough and it can be easy to follow the rules of society.

It can be difficult to spot the onset or re-occurrence of an eating disorder when a person is of a normal weight. Warning signs include:

  • Constant or repetitive dieting such as always counting calories, skipping meals, avoiding foods, replacing meals with fluids.
  • Extreme exercise regimes and abnormal amounts of time spent at a gym to ‘burn calories’. Exercising when injured, in bad weather, exhibiting distress if not able to exercise, refusal to stop exercise for any reason.
  • Evidence of vomiting or laxative abuse – frequent trips to the bathroom during or after meals.
  • Changes in food preferences – suddenly refusing to eat certain foods, changing to vegetarian or vegan to avoid foods, claiming to dislike foods once enjoyed, interested in healthy eating.
  • Avoidance of eating food or social events that involve food.
  • Strong focus on body and body weight – interest in weight-loss websites and pro-ana sites, dieting books and pictures of ‘thin’ people.
  • Development of repetitive behaviours – pinching waist or wrists, constantly weighing, excessive time looking at the mirror.
  • Social withdrawal and isolation, avoidance of once enjoyed activities.
  • Eating very slowly and denying hunger  – even when the belly rumbles.
  • Sudden or rapid weight loss or frequent changes in weight
  • Complaining about being cold even in warm environments
  • Signs of vomiting – swollen cheeks, calluses on the knuckles or damaged teeth.
  • Fainting spells, panic attacks and dizziness
  • Always feeling tired and unable to perform many activities
  • Intense fear of weight gain
  • Negative self-esteem and body image as well as a distorted body image
  • Sensitive to comments or criticism about the body, weight or exercise and eating habits
  • Heightened anxiety, especially around food
  • Depression and other psychological disorders
  • Black and white thinking – everything is either good or bad, no in between.
  • Feeling out of control or hopeless
  • Moody or irritable

tumblr_m14urhLtWH1r9sqoeo1_500

Eating Disorder symptoms are as follows:

There are physical and psychological indicators of eating disorders. Depending on the disorder, some include: • Preoccupation with food, weight, and body • Unrelenting fear of gaining weight • Refusal to eat except for tiny portions • Dehydration • Compulsive exercise and inappropriate time spent at the gym • difficulty concentrating and focusing  • Distorted body image • Abnormal weight loss • Sensitivity to cold • Absent menstruation • Rapid consumption of a large amount of food • Eating alone or in secret • Abuse of laxatives, diuretics, diet pills, or emetics • Depression • Shame and guilt • Withdrawal • difficulty regulating mood (sad then happy) • associated mental disorders: depression, anxiety, OCD and substance abuse • slow pulse and blood pressure • dizzy spells and shortness of breath • chest pain • electrolyte imbalances • stress fractures, broken bones or injuries • low body temperature • low energy or extreme fatigue • constipation and stomach problems • laxative dependence

IMG_20150107_175315

 

journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

The knock-On Effect of an Eating Disorder

How Eating Disorders Affect the Mind

The psychological consequences of an eating disorder are complex and difficult to overcome. An eating disorder is often a symptom of a larger problem in a person’s life. The disorder is an unhealthy way for that person to cope with the painful emotions tied to the problem. For this reason, the emotional problems that triggered the eating disorder in the first place can worsen as the disorder takes hold.

An eating disorder can also cause more problems to surface in a person’s life. Eating disorders make it difficult for people to perceive things normally because certain chemical changes take place when the body is deprived of nutrients. As a result, the body relies on adrenaline (a hormone that is normally released during times of stress and fear) instead of food for energy. Adrenaline naturally makes someone excited, which makes it more difficult to deal with painful emotions.

Research has shown that many people suffering from an eating disorder also suffer from other psychological problems. Sometimes the eating disorder causes other problems, and sometimes the problems coexist with the eating disorder. Some of the psychological disorders that can accompany an eating disorder include depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and anxiety and panic disorders.

In addition to having other psychological disorders, a person with an eating disorder may also engage in destructive behaviours as a result of low self-esteem. Just as an eating disorder is a negative way to cope with emotional problems, other destructive behaviours, such as self-mutilation, drug addiction, and alcoholism, are similar negative coping mechanisms.

Not everyone who has an eating disorder suffers from additional psychological disorders; however, it is very common.

DEPRESSION. Depression is one of the most common psychological problems related to an eating disorder. It is characterized by intense and prolonged feelings of sadness and hopelessness. In its most serious form, depression may lead to suicide. Considering that an eating disorder is often kept a secret, a person who is suffering feels alienated and alone. A person may feel that it is impossible to openly express her feelings. As a result, feelings of depression will worsen the effects of an eating disorder, making it difficult to break the cycle of disordered eating.

Feelings of depression will worsen the effects of an eating disorder, making it difficult to break the cycle of disordered eating.

OBSESSIVE-COMPULSIVE BEHAVIOUR. Obsessions are constant thoughts that produce anxiety and stress. Compulsions are irrational behaviours that are repeated to reduce anxiety and stress. People with eating disorders are constantly thinking about food, calories, eating, and weight. As a result, they show signs of obsessive-compulsive behaviour. If people with eating disorders also show signs of obsessive-compulsive behaviour with things not related to food, they may be diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

Some obsessive-compulsive behaviours practised by eating disorder sufferers include storing large amounts of food, collecting recipes, weighing themselves several times a day, and thinking constantly about the food they feel they should not eat. These obsessive thoughts and rituals worsen when the body is regularly deprived of food. Being in a state of starvation causes people to become so preoccupied with everything they have denied themselves that they think of little else.

FEELINGS OF ANXIETY, GUILT, AND SHAME. Everyone experiences feelings of anxiety (fear and worry), guilt, and shame at some time; however, these feelings become more intense with the onset of an eating disorder. Eating disorder sufferers fear that others will discover their illness. There is also a tremendous fear of gaining weight.

As the eating disorder progresses, body image becomes more distorted and the eating disorder becomes all-consuming. Some sufferers are often terrified of letting go of the illness, which causes many to protect their secret eating disorder even more.

Eating disorder sufferers have a strong need to control their environment and will avoid social situations where they may have to be around food in front of other people or where they may have to change their behaviour. The anxiety that results causes people with eating disorders to be inflexible and rigid with their emotions.

SYMPTOMS OF DEPRESSION

  • Extreme mood swings
  • Inability to experience pleasure in anything
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Constant fatigue (exhaustion)
  • Insomnia (sleeplessness) or sleeping too much
  • Loss of appetite or compulsive eating
  • Inability to concentrate or make decisions
  • Poor memory
  • Unexplained headaches, backaches, or stomachaches

depression