If you think a lot about your body and what you eat, you may have an eating disorder. An eating disorder harms you both physically and mentally. But there is help to get, and you can get rid of the disease if you seek care.

In this text you can read about different types of eating disorders. If you are a parent or relative of someone who has an eating disorder, you can  read more here .

How do I know I have an eating disorder?

You can have an eating disorder if you think a lot about your body and your weight and are strict and judgmental about yourself. It does not always appear on the outside that you have an eating disorder. Since eating disorders often come gradually over a long period of time, it can be difficult to see and understand for yourself when it starts to be a disease. 

Signs of eating disorders

Here are some descriptions that might indicate an eating disorder:

  • You become more and more fixated on what you eat and your weight. 
  • You postpone or skip meals, eat slowly and often alone.
  • You eat large amounts of unhealthy food when you are alone.
  • You get rid of what you have eaten by, for example, vomiting.
  • You exercise excessively or get anxious if you skip exercise 
  • You are critical to your body. 
  • You have to eat some food in a special way, otherwise you get  anxiety .

You may also have difficulty concentrating, feeling depressed,  depressed,  or having anxiety,  injuring yourself or having suicidal thoughts. If you recognize in these descriptions, it may be an eating disorder and then you need to seek help.

Test: Do you wonder if you or someone in your neighborhood has an eating disorder? 
Answer five quick questions from KÄTS, Knowledge Center for Eating Disorders.

Different types of eating disorders

There are different types of eating disorders. They are 

A doctor makes a diagnosis based on both physical and mental symptoms. It is not uncommon for you to have other mental disorders along with eating disorders. Here is a brief description of the various diagnoses. For more detailed information, click on the links. 

Anorexia

If you have anorexia  , you maintain a strict diet, fasting or starving. Often you exercise a lot. You are afraid of gaining weight. You have a perception of your weight and your appearance that does not match how others see you. Your self-esteem is related to how you experience your weight and body shape. Often you feel ill mentally and suffer from  anxiety,  depression or depression.

Bulimia 

If you have  bulimia,  you eat and then try to get rid of the food, usually by vomiting or using laxatives. If you have bulimia, your self-esteem may be related to how you experience your body shape and weight. The illness can cause you to pull away and isolate yourself from other people because you are ashamed of your problems. 

Hot-eating disorder, BED

Hot eating disorder, also called BED (shortening the binge eating disorder of the English language), means that you have periods when you eat hot, but without trying to get rid of the food afterward by, for example, vomiting. If you have a heat disorder, you have previously had anorexia  or bulimia . As a result of the heat-eating disorder, you can become overweight. 

Other types of eating disorders

There are also eating disorders that are variants of the above diagnoses. They have been given the notion of other specified eating disorders. Examples of such are:

  • Atypical anorexia – when you have all signs of anorexia but are not underweight.
  • Bulimia or binge eating disorder that does not meet the criteria for how often you binge eat.
  • Self-cleaning – when you regularly vomit or get rid of food, without eating hot.
  • Nightly eating, when you wake up during periods and get up and eat at night.

You may also have other eating disorders that do not have as specific symptoms but are at least as serious and require treatment.

Avoidance or restrictive eating disorder – ARFID

Another form of eating disorder is called avoidance or restrictive eating disorder or ARFID, which is the English abbreviation. It means that you completely avoid most types of food and only eat a few, specially selected things. Avoiding eating disorder is also called Selective Eating Disorder (SÄ) or Selective Eating Disorder (SED).

This form of an eating disorder is most common in children but can occur at any age. Unlike other eating disorders, avoiding or restrictive eating disorders is not about wanting to control their weight or body shape. Instead, you are guided by a strong dislike of different kinds of food and drink that you think smells, tastes or feels disgusting or disgusting.

What color the food has and what temperature can also play a big role in whether you can eat it or not. The aversion to the food you avoid is so strong that you can vomit if you get the wrong kind of food in your mouth.

Excessive exercise together with a strict diet – “orthorexia”

Exercising in a compulsive way with a strict diet is common if you have an eating disorder. It is sometimes called “orthorexia”, for example in various news media. Although many may recognize the description of orthorexia, it may be good to know that it is not a formal eating disorder or psychiatric diagnosis. The term orthorexia also has a slightly different meaning when used internationally.

The problems can still be serious for the person concerned. When seeking treatment, you may be diagnosed with anorexia,  OCD – Obstructive Syndrome or some form of anxiety instead of orthorexia. Whatever the diagnosis is called, you can get treatment for your problems.

Eating disorders can pass into each other

The different diagnoses can go into each other and one condition can change into another. For example, a person who has anorexia may later develop  bulimia and then switch to a heat-eating disorder. Whatever eating disorder affects you, it is important that you seek help, and work out what the problems may be and what you can do to change how you relate to food and eating.

What can I do for myself?

If you suspect you have an eating disorder or if others around you are worried about you, it may be important to find out. You can start by finding out as much as possible about eating disorders and how they are treated. This can be a first step towards seeking help.

Start talking to others

There are various associations on the net that offer  support and assistance via telephone, chat or email . You can also start by talking to a friend or someone you trust, so you don’t have to be alone with what’s difficult. 

If you have questions about anorexia, bulimia or other eating disorders, you can contact the National Association for Eating Disorders,  Healthy and Free . They have local associations in several locations and can help you answer questions and refer you further. You who identify as a girl and are between 10 and 25 years can also email or chat with a volunteer at the  Eating Disorder Zone .

Another association that is knowledgeable in both eating disorders and self-harm behavior is SHEDO. At  SHEDO.se  you can read more, chat or email to tell and get support and help. 

Dare to talk about difficult feelings

You are worth feeling well and feeling happy with who you are. It is important to socialize with people who help you appreciate and develop yourself. 

To start talking about what you have held for yourself and ashamed of can feel both difficult and a relief. You can react in a way you did not expect. Everyone reacts differently, and there is no right way to feel. 

Get new perspectives

When you start talking to others, you will automatically start to think and feel differently, because you are no longer alone with your thoughts. Often thoughts about weight, body and food have taken a lot of space. Maybe you’ve forgotten what other things you think are important in life? 

By talking to others, you can gain new, healthier perspectives than if you go along with your thoughts. 

Find out what you need

Pictures of seemingly perfect bodies in advertising and social media can increase the press and cause us to lose touch with our own bodies. When am I really hungry? May I be hungry? What does it mean to me to feel good? The answers to these questions can give you insights on what you need to feel good.

You may need to learn more about  healthy eating ,  exercise and  sleep , and what your body needs to feel good. You can learn to trust your body and distinguish between hunger and sweetness. Sometimes  relaxation and exercises in mindfulness can help.

When should I seek care?

Seek health care as soon as possible if you think you have an eating disorder. It is important that you get a proper investigation to get the right help. Sometimes there may be bodily illnesses that cause symptoms similar to eating disorders.

If you are under 18 years of age

You who are under 18 may contact a  youth clinic  , student health or  child and adolescent psychiatry, bup . At some bup-clinics, you need a  referral  from the health center.

If you are over 18 years of age

If you are 18 years of age or older, you can book time at a  health care center,   psychiatric clinic or occupational health care if you work. You who are up to 20-25 years can also contact a youth reception.

The age limit varies between different youth centers. You who are studying can contact the student health if the problems are related to the studies of the university. 

Special receptions

More and more county councils have special eating disorders. At some clinics you need a  referral  from the student health or medical center, but in several places you can contact yourself.

Try again if the help didn’t work

If you have previously received help somewhere but do not think it worked, try again somewhere else.

Talking to different people can work well. It is also different how it feels during different periods. Sometimes it may take time before it feels right to receive help.

What is the cause of eating disorders?

You can develop an eating disorder regardless of body shape and weight. You can have an eating disorder regardless of gender and age.

It is different for different people why they get eating disorders. Almost always it depends on several things. For example, it may be low self-esteem, an attempt to channel anxiety or difficulty in setting limits to the demands of others.

It can also be that the body feels different during or after puberty, a pregnancy or that one has gained weight and does not feel comfortable in one’s body. It can be a reaction to how the body is portrayed in television, newspapers, advertising and social media. 

Rapid weight loss can trigger

It is common for an eating disorder to begin with losing weight in a short amount of time. Maybe you feel a pressure on you to be successful and slim? Maybe you want to prove to yourself or someone else that you can become narrower? 

In the beginning, you may receive comments that feel good and encouraging. But instead of being satisfied, you continue to worry about what you eat or try to gain more control over your body, and then the risk of you getting an eating disorder increases.

The longing to be satisfied

If you have problems that feel difficult to solve, it may feel like a solution to change something else, like your body. You may feel pressure on yourself to be perfect and look good, while at the same time performing well and succeeding in social contexts. It will be an impossible task. Then control over eating becomes a way to counteract the feeling of powerlessness. 

Congenital sensitivity

Some have an innate sensitivity that makes it easier to eat eating disorders if they follow a strict diet or eat poorly. 

Can be related to stress

Eating disorders can sometimes be due to  stress  or that it is painful in some other way in life. Most people with eating disorders feel bad in some way. It is common to be  depressed,  anxious or dislike about oneself.

You may also be angry or confused and want to hurt yourself. By banning yourself from eating, a compulsive behavior similar to  OCD-compulsive disorder is created . The more you try to avoid the food you have forbidden to eat, the more the craving for just such food increases.

Usually, feel bad in other ways as well

Sometimes a person may have other illnesses or disorders besides eating disorders. Then it is called complacency. For example, it is common to have depression simultaneously with an eating disorder. Other examples may be alcohol or drug abuse,  ADHD,  bipolar disorder or a personality disorder such as borderline. 

By seeking help for the eating disorder, you can begin to correct your other problems as well.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding

Even if you have been free from an eating disorder for several years, negative thoughts about food and your own body may come back during pregnancy or after you have had a baby. Then it is very important that you get professional help early. Read more about eating disorders in connection with pregnancy and breastfeeding.

What can I get for treatment of eating disorder?

The sooner you can get help, the easier it is to become good. You need to start changing the thoughts and behaviors that you have become accustomed to as you develop eating disorders.

You may need help to create a balance so that your thoughts on food, appearance and body are reduced, and you have room for other thoughts and interests. You may also need help clarifying your feelings and relationships with people close to you.

It is important that you are motivated

Your own motivation is an important driver of the treatment, and it is important that you feel involved. But many have mixed feelings about getting treatment. In that case, an important first step will be to talk about these feelings so you can find the strength to change your situation.

Fear can go over

It is common to not want help if you are afraid of losing control and gaining weight. You may think that your eating disorder is part of yourself. Maybe you feel that the eating disorder has become a kind of security.

It may feel nasty to start a treatment, even if you want to get rid of the problems that eating disorders entail. That fear usually goes away when you begin treatment, or when you begin to feel safe with your treating therapist.

Different treatments

If you have eating disorders you often need help through  psychotherapy . There are many different types of therapies and treatments used for eating disorders. Here is a description of the most common.

Family therapy

There is family-based therapy developed specially for people with eating disorders. It is a therapy form that takes a holistic view of the family’s food situations.

The treatment focuses on food situations and the psychological barriers that make it difficult to eat in a functional way. Treatment may also include other problems in the family. Family therapy has proven especially effective if the person with eating disorders is young and has recently become ill.

There is also a form of family therapy in groups, where several families meet and the therapist helps people learn from each other. It is called multi-family therapy.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy

In cognitive-behavioral therapy, KBT, you meet the therapist once a week, for about 10-20 weeks. The treatment is based on your needs and you can also get a shorter or longer treatment. In some forms of KBT, treatment via the internet and apps can help you change your eating pattern.

Psychodynamic therapy

In psychodynamic therapy, you meet a therapist once or several times a week. You talk to the therapist about your problems, your relationships with other people and your life in general. This form of treatment can help you understand your problems, and express your feelings and needs towards the environment. Psychodynamic therapy can last for a shorter or longer period. From ten weeks up to several years.

Interpersonal psychotherapy

Interpersonal psychotherapy, IPT, is a short-term therapy that has been adapted to a variety of mental health problems, such as eating disorders. The treatment focuses on your relationships with people who are important to you. The therapy usually consists of about 12-16 hits, but can also last longer.

Body-oriented treatment

Body-oriented treatment means that you, for example, together with a physiotherapist work with the body and learn to understand and accept yourself and your body.

The forms of treatment used are exercise training, relaxation exercises, body therapy, and dance therapy as well as training on the body. You can sometimes receive body-oriented therapy as a complement to conversion therapy.

Psycho-Education

Psychopedagogy is about gaining knowledge about how eating disorders work and how they affect you. Psychopedagogy does not replace psychotherapy, but as a compliment and is preventative so that you do not get sick again. Psychopedagogy is often conducted in groups or with close relatives or family members. You can also access psychopedagogy online.

Daycare Treatment

Daycare treatment means that you receive treatment a few hours each day for a period of time. Often you receive daycare in a group and eat together with others who receive treatment at the clinic.

Sometimes a group and therapist meet daily for a few months. In other groups, the meetings are alternated with everyone being at home for a few weeks to more independently practice what has been practiced in the group. Daycare can be a little different depending on your symptoms, your age and how motivated you are.

Hospitalization

Sometimes it may be necessary to be hospitalized. It may be necessary if there are serious risks to your physical health, such as if you have very low body weight or if you have lost a lot of weight in a short time.

The treatment of an eating disorder may be different for different people but usually, you are only a short and limited part of your treatment at the hospital.

Treatment of eating disorders with drugs

If you have problems with, for example, stomach pain or upset stomach, there are medicines that stimulate the movement of the stomach.

If you are depressed or have anxiety while having eating disorders, there are medications that may be helpful. Then you can, for example, get medicines used for depression.

Ehtisham Nadeem

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