For today’s post I thought I’d talk about some eating/feeding disorders that perhaps don’t get talked about as much as anorexia and bulimia but are still just as serious, complex and misunderstood. Hopefully by the end of this post you’ll be more aware and more understanding of these conditions.
Pica is an eating disorder that involves eating things that aren’t categorized as food and contain very little/no nutrition value for example, dirt, paper or paint. While this doesn’t sound that serious, to receive a diagnosis these symptoms must be present for a long time (at least a month) and be ‘developmentally inappropriate’ i.e. it would never be diagnosed in a child aged under two years old because they are prone to putting random things in their mouths without having an actual disorder.
Pica can be present alongside other eating disorders or mental health conditions and can be very serious, as although generally those with Pica aren’t opposed to consuming food as well as the other items, the things that they are consuming that aren’t appropriate can have severe side effects. For example, a lot of things a person with Pica would eat could cause intestinal blockages or even poisoning – paint can have lead in it which is toxic. It is also common for pica sufferers to frequently get infections and other illnesses because the items they’re consuming aren’t sanitary.
Some causes of Pica/frequently occurring co- morbid conditions include:
- Pregnancy (generally when a person gets intense food cravings)
- Anemia and malnutrition (in these individuals the pica is a sign that the body is trying to correct some nutritional imbalances)
- Intellectual developmental disorders
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
Unfortunately pica is often only diagnosed when it causes physical effects that can potentially be life threatening (another reason why we need to raise awareness of ALL eating disorders). If you or anyone you know has consumed something that you think could be harmful then please seek medical attention!
Binge Eating Disorder:
Binge eating disorder, while it sounds similar to bulimia, differs in one crucial point and isn’t as commonly talked about. While both BED (binge eating disorder) and bulimia suffers binge (eat large quantities of food over a short period of time), those with BED don’t often purge their food in any way (e.g. over-exercising, fasting or making themselves vomit).
BED is not simply ‘over-indulging’ as is commonly thought, it’s a serious mental health condition. Binges accompany a complete loss of control and can be incredibly distressing to the sufferer. BED sufferers often experience intense feelings of shame and guilt because of their behaviors and as a result of this can be very secretive about them. Because of this they often they feel unable to reach out for help – talking about these things more means that the stigma surrounding them lessens and people who are suffering won’t feel as ashamed to reach out and talk about their problems.
Binge eating disorder can cause serious health complications such as high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and may also experience depression, low self esteem and anxiety. Another common misconception about BED is that all sufferers are over-weight and, while two-thirds are labelled over-weight, that still leaves a large proportion that are either a ‘healthy’ weight or even underweight – not all obese people binge eat and not all binge eaters are over-weight. Please see this link for a comprehensive list of warning signs and symptoms of binge eating disorder
Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder:
Avoidant restrictive intake disorder (previously known as selective eating disorder) is similar to anorexia in many ways, both disorders involve limiting the amounts/types of food consumed however ARFID sufferers don’t experience distress about body size or shape or restrict for the purpose of losing weight. They also don’t take part in other behaviors that are characteristic of anorexia (e.g. excessive exercising or purging).
Some possible signs of ARFID (as taken from the Beat website) include:
- Eating much less food than needed to stay healthy, or missing meals completely
- Sensitivity to aspects of some foods, such as the texture, smell, or temperature
- Appearing to be a “picky eater”
- Lack of interest in eating
- Attempting to avoid social events where food would be present
- Weight loss (or in children, not gaining weight as expected)
- Needing to take supplements to meet their nutritional needs
There are many different reasons for the development of AFRID, including (but not limited to) being acutely sensitive to food taste/texture/appearance or having had traumatic experiences related to a specific food/group of foods (e.g. choking). It can affect people of all ages but is most commonly diagnosed in children.
OFSED (other specified feeding or eating disorder), previously known as EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified), is a diagnosis a patient may receive when their symptoms don’t fit fully with the diagnosis of another eating/feeding disorder such as anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder. For a more detailed description of possible symptoms, signs and examples, please see this link.
Rumination disorder is a disorder characterized by the regular regurgitation of food for a period of at least a month. The regurgitated food may be re-chewed, re-swallowed or spat out. It’s often effortless and painless and isn’t accompanied by any feelings of disgust or nausea. Although the regurgitation is voluntary, sufferers of the disorder often complain of feeling out of control of it. If left untreated it can lead to serious effects such as malnutrition, weight loss, electrolyte disturbances and dental erosion. There aren’t any exact known causes for the disorder although it’s been suggested that factors such as a stressful home life and problems in parent-child relationships may contribute to it’s development.
Orthorexia is a relatively new disorder (although it’s not yet officially recognised by the DSM as an official ‘condition’), with the term first being reported in use in 1997. It refers to an unhealthy obsession with eating only ‘clean’ or ‘pure’ foods (foods deemed ‘clean’ or ‘unclean’ differ from person to person). This doesn’t mean that every person who eats a ‘healthy’ meal plan has orthorexia, people with the disorder eat that way in order to cope with negative emotions and thoughts or to feel more ‘in control’. They would also feel extremely anxious or guilty if they ate food that they didn’t think was healthy. It can fit into an anorexia diagnosis but it can also stand on it’s own and not be accompanied by worries about shape and weight and other behaviours as with anorexia.
Orthorexia can cause severe physical issues as the sufferers beliefs about what is ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’ can lead them to cut out even whole food groups that contain essential nutrients. Quite often people with orthorexia often experience deficiencies of some sort as well as psychological side effects.
That’s it for today, I hope you found this informative and I’ve shed some light on some conditions that you maybe hadn’t even heard of.
I’ll hopefully see you tomorrow, lots of love!