The term “eating disorder” is very vague, suggesting simply a problem with food and with the act of eating. It suggests that there is only one “disorder,” and by doing so, that there is only one cause.
One of the most valuable lessons that can be learned about eating disorders is that there are no perfect definitions, no definite causes, and no absolute cures.
Some of the common descriptions of Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia, compulsive eating and compulsive exercising can be found below, as well as possible effects of these disorders, and ways to help people who suffer from them.
In presenting these descriptions, it must be emphasized that they are only lists of some possible characteristics of the problems. These lists are far from complete, and a person does not need to show all of the signs listed to have a problem. Any group of symptoms that disrupts an individual’s lifestyle constitutes a problem.
Some Ideas for Helping People with Eating Disorders
For most people, one of the most helpful steps in overcoming an eating disorder involves learning to talk to people about it. By talking to a person about their problems, you give them a person they can know will be willing to listen. While you may not be listened to immediately, your attempts will show that you do care.
Avoid power struggles over eating habits. If you are constantly watching the eating and exercise patterns of a person with an eating disorder, it is very likely that rather than changing their styles, they will simply stop eating in front of you and will try to keep their problems hidden further. Know that you may be rejected as you try to confront someone about her or his problems. This is not your fault. It takes time for most people with eating disorders to learn to talk about their problems; it is possible that they simply aren’t ready to talk. However, it is still important that they know you are concerned.
Additional support is available from Psychological Counseling Services.