Eating disorders can be complex and difficult to fit into distinct categories. Many people think of eating disorders as Anorexia, which is an eating disorder but not the only or most common type.  At Syeda we do see and support people with Anorexia and individuals with other  common types of eating difficulty.  If you have some but not all of the diagnostic symptoms of an eating disorder or a combination of different eating disorder symptoms, you may be described as having an Other Specified Eating or Feeding Disorder – OSFED. This does not make your condition any less serious and you should still seek to receive help and support.

Syeda is not a diagnostic service in that we do not formally diagnose you with a labelled eating disorder, at assessment we ask questions around how things are for you at the moment, what your eating habits are like and how our services may be of help to you.

Binge Eating Disorder

Binge Eating Disorder is characterised by periods of uncontrolled, impulsive or continuous eating that pushes you beyond the point of feeling uncomfortably full. Like Bulimia, binges are likely to result from a desire to ’swallow down’ unwanted emotions or to satisfy a need that cannot be met by food alone. Unlike Bulimia, if you are suffering from Binge Eating Disorder you will not purge after a binge although periods of binge eating may be interrupted by sporadic fasts or dieting.

How you might behave

  • Uncontrolled, impulsive or continuous eating until you are uncomfortably full.
  • Eating when you are not hungry.
  • Eating rapidly.
  • Periodically fasting or dieting.
  • Being secretive about what and how much you are eating, eating alone.
  • Hoarding food.
  • Eating irregularly.

What you might feel

  • Out of control and anxious around food.
  • Distracted by thoughts of food and eating.
  • Feelings of guilt and shame, especially after binging.
  • Feelings of helplessness and isolation.
  • Reduced self-esteem and confidence.
  • Self conscious when eating with others.

How you might be affected physically

  • Increase in weight.
  • Poor skin condition.
  • Reduced energy and feeling of lethargy.
  • Problems with blood pressure, heart disease and lack of fitness.

Effects on your mood

A binge may be used initially to help you to deal with difficult emotions such as loneliness or anxiety or to ease tension caused by pressure or stress. It may help for a short while, but as you begin to feel full you are likely to experience feelings of guilt or shame. These feelings will add to the anxiety and distress that caused the binge pushing you into a vicious cycle. Discussing your concerns and behaviour with a loved one or professional may be hard at first but it will help you to untangle and escape this cycle.

Long-term physical effects

Many people with Binge Eating Disorder will become over weight or obese. This can lead to problems with blood pressure and can cause heart disease and diabetes. In the majority of cases, the physical symptoms of binge eating disorder can be reduced or reversed once you are eating a healthy, balanced diet and taking regular exercise.

What can you expect during recovery

How you might feel

Admitting that you have a problem and seeking help can be frightening. You may feel ashamed and confused by your behaviour. Sufferers who have broken through these barriers often report feeling of relief to have everything out in the open. Dealing with Binge Eating Disorder on your own is far more terrifying than dealing with it with the support and help of loved ones and professionals.

Talking about your behaviour and the emotions related to it will help you to unravel and break the cycle of binge eating and emotional turmoil. The urge to binge will not disappear straight away; you will have good days and bad days. But every time you resist the urge you will learn a little bit more about yourself and the ways in which you might cope with life without your eating disorder.

Some suffers of Binge Eating Disorder have reported feeling more exposed and anxious as they lose weight and the emotional protection that the eating disorder provided. You may find that your mood is more erratic without the option of binging to help you to control your emotions. These feelings will pass over time as you develop your self-esteem and confidence and discover alternative ways of dealing with stressful situations and difficult emotions.

Physical changes

With regular and balanced meals you will see a decline in the physical symptoms of binge eating disorder such as poor skin and feelings of lethargy. It will take your body a while to get used to eating regularly and you may find that weight fluctuates until your metabolism settles and your body learns to expect food in certain quantities at certain times.

It can be difficult to know how much to eat and when to eat at first. A professional eating disorders specialist, dietician or you GP can help you with this. Once you have an outline diet, try to stick to it and be patient in waiting for your weight to settle and the physical symptoms of binge eating disorder to subside.

 

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia (or bulimia nervosa) can affect anyone of any age, gender, or background. People with bulimia are caught in a cycle of eating large amounts of food (called binging), and then trying to compensate for that overeating by vomiting, taking laxatives or diuretics (water tablets), fasting, or exercising excessively (called purging). People who have Bulimia may be older than those with anorexia or other eating disorders, and many suffer symptoms of both conditions. Bulimic cycles and the emotions linked to them vary from person to person. You may experience from bulimic episodes monthly, weekly or several times a day. You may feel that it is not having a big effect on your life or you may be worried how often it is happening and be desperate to stop them. However you feel, bulimia is likely to be having a negative effect on your emotional and physical wellbeing.

How you might behave

  • Binges on large quantities of food in a short space of time.
  • Vomiting after meals.
  • Using laxatives, diuretics or extreme levels of exercise to compensate after a binge.
  • Periods of fasting after a binge.
  • Being secretive about what and how much you are eating.
  • Hoarding food.
  • Reluctance to socialise, especially when the event involves food.

What you might feel

  • Out of control and anxious around food.
  • Distracted by thoughts of food and eating.
  • Feelings of guilt and shame, especially after binging.
  • Feelings of helplessness and isolation.
  • Reduced self-esteem and confidence.
  • Emotionally relieved following purging, restrictive eating or exercise.

How you might be affected physically

  • Frequent weight fluctuations.
  • Sore throat and swollen salivary glands.
  • Tooth decay.
  • Disrupted menstrual cycle in women.
  • Loss of libido.
  • Poor skin condition.
  • Reduced energy and feeling of lethargy.
  • Frequent headaches.

Effects on your mood

A binge may be used initially to help you to deal with difficult emotions such as loneliness or anxiety or to ease tension caused by pressure or stress. It may help for a short while, but as you begin to feel full you are likely to experience feelings of guilt or shame. It is likely to be these feelings that lead to an uncontrollable urge to get rid of the food you have consumed by vomiting or using laxatives or to compensate by restricting your food intake or exercising. The action of compensating for the food consumed during a binge may bring you temporary relief but this is unlikely to last. Before long, the feelings that caused the binge in the first place will return and cycle will start again.

Bulimic cycles and the emotions associated with them will vary from person to person. You may suffer from bulimic episodes monthly, weekly or several times a day. You may feel that it is not having a great affect on your life or you may feel fearful of your bulimic cycles and be desperate to stop them. However you feel, bulimia is likely to be having a negative affect on your emotional wellbeing. Discussing you concerns and behaviour with a loved one or professional may be hard at first but it will help you to untangle and escape the cycle.

Long-term physical effects

Bulimia can lead to an imbalance or low level of essential minerals that will have a significant affect on the working of vital organs. Repeated vomiting is likely to cause tooth decay and may lead to pain when swallowing, the drying up of salivary glands and rapture of the stomach. Excessive laxative use can cause serious and long-term bowel problems. In the majority of cases, the physical affects of bulimia can be reduced or reversed once the body is receiving the vitamins and minerals it needs regularly and in moderation.

What can you expect during recovery

How you might feel

Admitting that you have a problem and seeking help can be frightening. You may feel ashamed and confused by your behaviour. Sufferers who have broken through these barriers often report feelings of relief to have everything out in the open. Dealing with Bulimia on your own is far more terrifying than dealing with it with the support and help of loved ones and professionals.

Talking about your behaviour and the emotions related to it will help you to unravel and break the bulimic cycle. The urge to binge and purge will not disappear straight away; you will have good days and bad days. But every time you resist the urge you will learn a little bit more about yourself and the ways in which you might cope with life without bulimia.

Physical changes

With regular and balanced meals you will see a decline in the physical symptoms of bulimia such as headaches, poor skin and feelings of lethargy. It will take your body a while to get used to eating regularly and you may find that weight fluctuates until your metabolism settles and your body learns to expect food in certain quantities at certain times.

It can be difficult to know how much to eat and when to eat at first. A profession eating disorders specialist, dietician or you GP can help you with this. Once you have an outline diet, try to stick to it and be patient in waiting for your weight to settle and the physical symptoms of bulimia to subside.  

 

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia (or anorexia nervosa) involves sufferers having an intense fear of weight gain and as a result they are of low weight due to restricting their food intake. It can affect anyone of any age, gender, or background. At times for some, this may be coupled with laxative/diet pill abuse, excessive exercise and induced vomiting. Those suffering with anorexia tend to have very low body weights, and the condition often starts in the teenage years however it can develop at any age and continue into later life stages if support and treatment are not accessed.

Eating disorders, such as Anorexia, may occur after a traumatic 'trigger' event – such as abuse, bereavement, school/work pressure, relationship difficulties/endings. Many sufferers may have personality traits which affect how they respond to certain difficulties such as; perfectionism or rigid thinking styles. The sufferer's size, weight or shape may be seen as a focus of control, deflecting attention from the underlying issues.

How you might behave

  • Restrict your intake of food and drink, count calories, MACROs or avoid certain types of food.
  • Use exercise or purging to get rid of what you perceive as excessive calories.
  • Repetitive or obsessive behaviour around food such as cutting food up into small pieces, eating at specific and exact times of day etc.
  • Restlessness and hyperactivity.
  • Avoid eating food that you have not prepared yourself and avoid eating in company. This may start to have an effect on your social life and relationships.
  • Become defensive and angry when people talk about food, exercise and weight.
  • Deny you have a problem even when those around you express concern.
  • Find excuses to skip meals.

What you might feel

  • Intense fear of gaining weight.
  • Irritable and anxious, especially around food.
  • Increased or obsessive interest in diet and nutrition.
  • Distracted by thoughts of food and eating.
  • Worry that you are Fat or overweight despite being told the contrary by those around you.
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Increased perfectionism/ rigid thinking

How you might be affected physically

  • Severe weight loss.
  • Constipation and abdominal pains.
  • Dizziness and feeling faint.
  • Growth of downy hair on the body.
  • Feeling cold more often.
  • Discomfort while sitting or lying down.
  • Dry, rough, or discoloured skin.
  • Disrupted menstrual cycle in women.
  • Loss of libido.
  • Reduction in bone mass possibly leading to osteoporosis.

Effects on your mood

It is likely that you have developed anorexia as a way of coping with or controlling difficult thoughts and feelings. As time goes by, the eating disorder will start to take control. The chemical changes caused by reduced food intake will start to affect your emotions, distort your thinking and may make it hard for you to always see how much the problem is affecting you. This ambivalence, wanting to be free of the disorder but also being fearful of how life or you might be without it, is this complex and makes make anorexia  difficult to recover from. The added burden of depression affects your decision making even further. The weight loss, which was originally seen as the solution, has now become a problem.

Long-term physical effects

Anorexia can, unfortunately, have serious long-term effects on your physical health. The most common are infertility and osteoporosis. Other serious risks are as a result of starvation and poor nutrition affecting organ function and fertility.   If caught early on in their development, these affects can be reversed with improvements to diet and a gradual increase of food intake.

Like other eating disorders, Anorexia is a serious mental illness, and has the highest mortality rate of any other psychiatric illness, with 20% of people dying every year as a direct consequence of their illness or by taking their own life.

Recovery

Recovering from Anorexia is a not an exact science and often takes a long time level of difficulty but is worth it. Whilst in recovery you may also experience more extreme mood swings and feel more irritable. This is because you will be challenging anorexic thoughts, feelings and changes behaviours, battling to hear the rational voice that knows recovery is the best option. The rational voice will not always win; you will have good days and bad days. This is recovery. For many people staring to recover and access treatment involves looking at what may have triggered the disorder, what emotional and thinking styles you have that may be keeping the disorder going and developing new coping strategies which non-harmful to replace the disorder. And of course changing your relationship with food to move towards a balanced approach that allows you to live a fuller life. Again, ambivalence is key, there will be days when do and then don’t want to recover, this is normal.

 

Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified

Eating disorders are complex illnesses that can be difficult to fit into distinct categories.
 
If you have some, but not all of the diagnostic symptoms of an eating disorder or combine behavioural characteristics of different eating disorders you may be described as having an A-typical eating disorder or an EDNOS.
 
This does not make your condition any less serious and should still seek and receive help and support.