What you need to know:

  • Many people are affected by eating disorders.
  • Better care shoul be taken to ensure people do not suffer from such problems

There is a very thin line between obsession and having a disorder. This is the crossroad where we step into the broad spectrum of eating disorders, explained as the underlying pathological fear of gaining weight. In eating disorders like bulimia nervosa, anorexia, purging, rumination and pica the patients go through a cycle of bingeing or overeating, followed by purging, due to a fear of weight gain, which involves throwing out the food consumed.

There is faulty eating and refusal to eat accompanied with fear of weight gain. In Night-Eating Syndrome the patient might eat a majority of their food during the evening. They eat little or nothing in the morning, and wake up during the night and typically fill up on high-calorie snacks. In Pica there is persistent eating of substances that are not food and do not provide nutritional value.

As soon as the disorder sets in, the process of self-suffering, guilt and abuse of the body begins. One starts inflicting punitive actions like starving and overstuffing. Symptoms like starving oneself, binge eating, obsession with body weight, consuming high calorie junk, and more, are red alerts as all of these may be mistaken as typical of teen years and peer pressure. When in reality, it could be a threatening disorder.

The suffering process and the disease grow leading to hair loss, dizziness, malnutrition, dehydration, heart related problems, electrolyte imbalance and in some cases, even death.

It is extremely essential to recognise and provide professional support to anyone who is suffering. Survivors of the eating disorders are quoted as saying that nothing helped them as much as asking for help from a skilled professional. People should educate themselves about such disorders and identify the stressors, explore the different options available and get the person in question involved. We must track the stages of change and how the individual is coping. Whatever may be the cause of this disorder, what is important to know is that one should not be in denial of the problem. People should share their issues with others in order to get the right help.

- The reader is a special needs professional based in Sharjah.