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What Are the Psychological Effects of Eating Disorders?

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  • Written By: Erik J.J. Goserud
  • Edited By: PJP Schroeder
  • Last Modified Date: 11 March 2014
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The relationship between eating disorders and psychological issues are twofold, in that the irregular eating habits may cause mental issues just as mental trauma may in turn cause an individual's eating disorders. The psychological effects of eating disorders are broad and complex. A few of the many psychological effects of eating disorders are distorted self-image and perception of the self, decreased self-esteem, depression, and anxiety.

The exact causes of eating disorders are not completely understood. The vast amount of attention in the psychological research field has enabled professionals to establish a number of theoretical suggestions pertaining to why such behavior exists. The three most common forms of eating disorders are bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa, and binge eating.

The psychological effects of eating disorders have been classified using the axis system of the American Psychiatric Association. The first axis outlines a number of causes and effects of eating disorders and includes psychological issues such as depression, substance abuse, and obsessive compulsive disorder. The second axis usually describes personality disorders that may be present due to eating disorders, such as borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, or avoidant personality disorder.

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Bulimia nervosa is the act of ridding oneself of calories consumed, generally performed immediately after eating. An example would be self-induced vomiting after eating a large meal. This disease is generally present among those trying to control weight, and it may cause psychological as well as physical issues. Anorexia nervosa is an obsessive fear of gaining weight, resulting in difficulties maintaining a healthy body weight. One of the psychological effects of eating disorders such as these is a distorted self-image.

The third of the three most common disorders mentioned is binge eating. This involves unusually extreme consumption episodes often coupled with periods of minimal caloric intake. About 3.5% of females and 2% of males in the United States suffer from this prevalent disorder, adding to the 5 to 10 million nationally that are estimated to suffer from some sort of eating disorder. The large range of estimates are due to the sensitive nature of such diseases, which may result in underreporting.

The relationship between irregular eating habits and psychological issues is a very strong yet complex one, which is why anyone suffering from such a disease needs to seek help in overcoming this life-altering hurdle. Professionals to consult are psychologists, physicians, psychiatrists, counselors, and nutritionists. They may often work in coalition to treat the many factors contributing to the destructive habits.

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