Weight & Body Image Disorders: Causes Symptoms & Signs
Body image refers to how people see themselves. Distorted body image refers to an unrealistic view of how someone sees their body. Like eating disorders, it is seen most commonly in women, but many men also suffer from the disorder.
You begin forming your perceptions of your bodys attractiveness, health, acceptability, and functionality in early childhood. This body image continues to form as you age and receive feedback from peers, family member, coaches, etc.
Personality traits such as perfectionism and self-criticism can also influence the development of a negative internalized image of your body.
What Are The Warning Signs Of Anorexia
- Deliberate self-starvation with weight loss.
- Fear of gaining weight.
- Refusal to eat or skipping meals.
- Denial of hunger.
- Greater amounts of hair on the body or the face.
- Sensitivity to cold temperatures.
- Absent or irregular periods in girls or women.
- Loss of scalp hair.
- A self-perception of being fat when the person is really too thin.
How To Know If You Struggle With Body Image Issues That You Manage Through Food
Its common that people who struggle with body image issues tie their emotions and sense of self-worth to their weight, as well as to eating. People with eating disorders tend to associate food and fullness with shame or guilt, and they often associate purging, restricting, and hunger with self-control or virtue. This mindset can lead to excessive dieting, restriction, and/or bingeing: behaviors that often precede or cause an eating disorder.
Body image issues are all too common. By age 6, girls especially start to express concerns about their own weight or shape, and 40-60% of girls ages 6-12 are worried about gaining weight. Over one-half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives.
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Mental Health Treatment Locator
For more information, resources, and research on mental illnesses, visit the NIMH website at . The National Library of Medicines MedlinePlus website also has information on a wide variety of mental disorders.
For general information on mental health and to locate treatment services, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Treatment Referral Helpline at 1800662HELP . SAMHSA also has a Behavioral Health Treatment Locator on its website that can be searched by location.
Signs & Symptoms Of Negative Body Image
Symptoms of unhealthy or negative body image may include:
- obsessive self-scrutiny in mirrors
- thinking disparaging comments about your body and frequent comparison of your own shape and size to other people
- envy or a friends body, or just as commonly: the body of a celebrity or someone else in the media.
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What Is The Prognosis For People Who Have Eating Disorders
People who get treatment for eating disorders often recover and go on to lead healthy lives. Its helpful to detect a problem early and start treatment right away.
There are different levels of care, including:
- Outpatient therapy .
- Intensive outpatient therapy .
- Inpatient therapy .
Your primary care doctor will work with you to decide what level of treatment would be right for you.
Left untreated, people with eating disorders can develop life-threatening complications. Some people may need to receive medical and mental health care at a hospital or treatment center.
There Was Nochoice In Developing It
In fact, I didnt even know I had an eating disorder until I was too deep in to pull myself out. I didnt want it. But had no idea how to get rid of it.
Every ounce of joy I had was sucked away. I felt imprisioned in my own mind and obsessive, terrifying thoughts. Not to mention the anxiety and depression that can come along with an eating disorder.
It was miserable, and I wouldnt wish it on anyone.
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Are Teenagers Affected By Eating Disorders
Teenagers can be especially susceptible to eating disorders because of hormonal changes during puberty and social pressure to look attractive or thin. These changes are normal, and your teenager may only practice unhealthy eating habits every once in a while.
But if your teenager begins to obsess over their weight, appearance, or diet, or starts consistently eating too much or too little, they may be developing an eating disorder. Abnormal weight loss or weight gain may also be a sign of an eating disorder, especially if your teenager frequently makes negative comments about their body or perceived size.
If you suspect your teenager has an eating disorder, be open and honest about your concerns. If theyre comfortable talking with you, be understanding and listen to their concerns. Also have them see a doctor, counselor, or therapist to address the social or emotional issues that may be causing their disorder.
Research also suggests that men with eating disorders are underdiagnosed and undertreated. Theyre less likely to be diagnosed with an eating disorder, even when they exhibit similar symptoms as a woman.
Research suggests that many young men with eating disorders dont seek treatment because they consider them stereotypically female disorders.
What Can You Do
Even though eating disorders are very serious and not to be taken lightly, they are very treatable. If you or a loved one is battling an eating disorder, seeking treatment is the best thing you can do for yourself and your family. Fairwinds is the leading treatment center in Florida for eating disorders. Our compassionate team treats each patient like family in a warm and welcoming atmosphere to help you get to the root of the problem and heal the body as a whole physically, emotionally, and mentally. Contact us today for more information on our treatment programs for eating disorders.
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How To Tell If You Or A Loved One Has A Healthy Body Image
Here are a few things to look out for to assess if you or someone you know has an unhealthy relationship with food:
- That relationship with food becomes obsessive
- Your eating patterns begin to have a destructive impact on your self-image
- Your eating patterns get in the way of you functioning
- You hide your eating behavior
- You withdraw from social contact in order to avoid situations involving food
- No matter how much you weigh, how your clothes fit or what your body looks like, you perceive yourself as overweight
Theres no checklist to diagnose an eating disorder, but some common warning signs include dramatic weight fluctuation, preoccupation with calories and dieting, food rituals, skipping meals, withdrawal from friends and activities, extreme concern with body size or shape, and evidence of bingeing or purging behaviors such as overeating, vomiting, and laxative use. The National Eating Disorder Association has an online screening tool with some simple questions you can answer to assess your risk and get the help you need.
Health Risks Of Anorexia
Long-term anorexia can lead to severe health problems associated with not getting the right nutrients . But these will usually start to improve once your eating habits return to normal.
Possible complications include:
- problems with muscles and bones including feeling tired and weak, osteoporosis, and problems with physical development in children and young adults
- fertility problems
- loss of sex drive
- problems with the heart and blood vessels including poor circulation, an irregular heartbeat, low blood pressure, heart valve disease,heart failure, and swelling in the feet, hands or face
- problems with the brain and nerves including fits , and difficulties with concentration and memory
- kidney or bowel problems
- having a weakened immune system or anaemia
Anorexia can also put your life at risk. It’s one of the leading causes of deaths related to mental health problems. Deaths from anorexia may be due to physical complications or suicide.
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What Insurance Does The Hospital Take
If you are being admitted to one of our hospital-based programs, both Inpatient and Partial Hospitalization, our business office will verify your benefits beforehand, and the admissions coordinator will contact you with information about your coverage. Admission to our program in the Johns Hopkins Hospital Department of Psychiatry qualifies as a mental health hospitalization and will be authorized under the mental health portion of your insurance, not the medical portion. Please see the Admissions page for more information.
Eating Disorders And Youth
Eating disorders are marked by a variety of emotional, physical, and behavioural changes. While some of the behaviours may appear to be little more than teenage dieting and body dissatisfaction, taken together they can indicate a serious, life-threatening eating disorder. The average age of onset for eating disorders is 12- to 13-years-old , with eating disorder specialists reporting an increase in the diagnosis of children, some as young as five or six.
It’s important for parents, relatives and school personnel to be aware of risk factors and symptoms of eating disorders so they can take steps to address these issues early to ensure the best possible outcomes for the young person affected.
See below for more information and resources about eating disorders and young people.
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Treatment For Negative Body Image
Getting treatment for distorted body image is a critical step to recovery. The problem wont just go away by itself.
Recognizing and acknowledging your feelings and accompanying body sensations will help you become more comfortable in your body and lessens the tendency to suppress feelings and revert to unhealthy, negative inner diatribes to escape uncomfortable feelings.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, an approach where irrational thoughts are recognized, analyzed and restructured to more rational self-talk, is frequently used.
Additionally, dance and movement therapy are often employed to develop a greater trust and appreciation of ones body based upon creating internal experiences, rather than simply evaluated ones body aesthetically.
Karen Kennedy is a filmmaker and television producer in Los Angeles, California. For contact information, please email us.
How Is Anorexia Nervosa Diagnosed
After ruling out that weight loss is caused by another condition, your doctor may refer you to a mental health professional. This health professional will diagnose anorexia nervosa based on your thoughts, feelings and eating behaviours. They will also check for any other mental or physical complications.
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Social Or Environmental Risk Factors
Social or environmental risk factors in the development of an eating disorder may include:
- being teased or bullied
- a belief that high expectations from family and others must be met
- major life changes such as family break-up, or the accumulation of many minor stressors
- peer pressure to behave in particular ways
- a parent or other role model who consistently diets or who is unhappy with their body
- media and advertising images of the ideal body size and shape as slim and fit
- a cultural tendency to judge people by their appearance.
How Is Anorexia Nervosa Treated
The first step to recovery is restoring good nutrition and a healthy weight. This allows treatments to work effectively. If the person has life threatening medical complications or is extremely low weight, they may need to spend time in hospital.
A psychologist can help a person with anorexia nervosa learn behaviours that will help them to return to and maintain a healthy weight. Someone with anorexia nervosa may also see a dietitian, family therapist, psychiatrist or other members of a healthcare team.
Antidepressants and other medicines are sometimes used to treat anorexia nervosa along with psychological therapy.
On average, people have anorexia nervosa for 5 to 7 years. It’s common for people with the condition to relapse, so follow-up and treatment for anorexia nervosa is important.
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How Can I Help Someone Who Might Have An Eating Disorder
If you believe someone you know might have an eating disorder, talk to them about it. These conversations can be difficult because eating disorders can trigger negative emotions or make someone feel defensive about their eating habits. But listening to their concerns or showing that you care and understand can help encourage someone to seek help or treatment.
Eating Disorders: A Problem Worth Paying Attention To
Many people who have had an eating disorder, or who may identify it in others, tend to brush it under the rug or shrug it off entirely. They may think that it really isnt that big of a deal and surely theyll get over it on their own.
But eating disorders can, in fact, be extremely dangerous and even deadly. If it isnt the detrimental physical effects of these disorders that begin to cause problems, itll be the psychological aspects that have a damaging impact.
Thats why if you see the signs of an eating disorder you should seek help today. There are a variety of treatment options out there to fit your personal situation.
So take the steps towards getting healthy. You wont regret it.
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Do Stress And Trauma Lead To Eating Disorders
Eating disorders can be spurred by life transitions as well as stressful or traumatic events. Those incidentssuch as starting a new job, a sexual assault, or the death of a loved onecan lead to overwhelming and uncontrollable emotions.
Restricting food intake and regulating weight can lead people to feel a sense of control amid the chaos. And sometimes this is the only aspect of life they think they can control. In this way, a triggering event can lead to a persistent disorder.
Are Eating Disorders Genetic
Research in twins, biological families, and adoptive families show that genetics can render people at greater risk of developing a disorder. People who have a family member with an eating disorder face a much greater risk of developing one themselves. For example, studies show that people are 7 to 12 times more likely to develop anorexia or bulimia if they have a relative with an eating disorder.
Those genetic underpinnings may also help explain why eating disorders often overlap with certain conditions, such as depression, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder.
However, ones genetic predisposition is only one piece of the puzzle. For most people, a triggering event would also be necessary to spur the development of a disorder.
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Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder
Avoidant restrictive food intake disorder , which people previously called selective eating disorder, is similar to anorexia in that it involves restricting calorie consumption.
Unlike anorexia, however, a person with ARFID does not obsess about their body size or weight gain. The condition can occur due to a lack of interest in eating, or a person may avoid eating because of the sensory characteristics of food.
ARFID can occur at any age. It may be more difficult to detect in children, who are often fussy eaters. However, a child with ARFID may have delayed growth and development.
An adult with ARFID may experience weight loss and malnourishment. In some cases, people do not consume enough calories and nutrients to support their essential body functions.
Signs and symptoms
Some signs and symptoms of ARFID include:
- significant weight loss
How Are Eating Disorders Treated
It is important to seek treatment early for eating disorders. People with eating disorders are at higher risk for suicide and medical complications. Some people with eating disorders may also have other mental disorders or problems with substance use.
Treatment plans for eating disorders include psychotherapy, medical care and monitoring, nutritional counseling, medications, or a combination of these approaches. Typical treatment goals include restoring adequate nutrition, bringing weight to a healthy level, reducing excessive exercise, and stopping binge-purge and binge-eating behaviors. Complete recovery is possible.
Specific forms of psychotherapy and cognitive behavioral approaches can be effective for treating specific eating disorders. For more about psychotherapies, visit .
Research also suggests that medications may help treat some eating disorders and co-occurring anxiety or depression related to eating disorders. Information about medications changes frequently, so talk to your health care professional and check the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website for the latest warnings, patient medication guides, or newly approved medications.
How Do I Find Treatment?
The NIMH is a federal research agency and cannot provide medical advice or practitioner referrals. However, there are tools and resources available at www.nimh.nih.gov/findhelp that may help you find a provider or treatment.
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Who Develops Eating Disorders Breaking Down The Stereotype
Despite the common misconception that only upper-class women tend to develop eating disorders, anorexia, bulimia, and BED affect people of every class, gender, and ethnic background.
In fact, eating disorders among males have grown in number significantly, due in part to the same media portrayals and sexual objectification that influence eating disorders in women.
While it is true that women develop such disorders at a disproportionate rate, studies show that a surprising 10 million men will develop a clinical eating disorder at some time in their life.
Its key, then, to recognize that a significant number of men will also suffer from these disorders.
Sexual Abuse And Eating Disorders: Whats The Connection
What is the connection between sexual abuse and developing an eating disorder? Why does bingeing, purging, starving and chronic dieting become a solution for the abuse?
Abuse shatters the sacred innocence of a child and often becomes a primary trigger for an eating disorder. The survivor of sexual abuse becomes plagued with confusion, guilt, shame, fear, anxiety, self-punishment, and rage. She seeks the soothing comfort, protection, and anesthesia that food offers. Food, after all, is the most available, legal, socially sanctioned, cheapest mood altering drug on the market! And emotional eating is a mood altering behavior that can help detour, divert, and distract a person from inner pain.
Barbara describes, My fathers best friend molested me in our garage starting when I was seven. I was filled with such anxiety that I began gorging on everything that wasnt tied down. I gained 30 pounds by the time I was 11 which my mother attributed to my eating too much pizza at the school cafeteria.
Amber was abused by an older cousin who said it was a game of doctor. Overeating and laxatives became my way to rid myself of the pain and confusion. I realized I was trying to evacuate my cousin out of my body through those laxatives.
In addition to falling prey to eating disorders, all survivors of sexual abuse are vulnerable to depression, substance abuse, post traumatic stress disorder, and a profound mistrust of intimacy.
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