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Are eating disorders more common in women than men? Dietitian shares all about illness health news

Different health problems can manifest differently in men. For example, men may have a heart attack with chest pain, while women may experience more subtle symptoms such as fatigue or nausea. Men are also more prone to certain conditions, such as prostate cancer, which often show no symptoms in the early stages. Similarly, women are more often at risk of developing disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder, highlighting the complex interplay of biological, psychological, and sociocultural factors.

What is an eating disorder?

Eating disorders are serious mental health conditions characterized by abnormal eating habits that can have serious physical and emotional consequences. They often involve extreme emotions, attitudes, and behaviors surrounding food and weight.

Dr. Vedika Premnani, Clinical Dietitian, Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital, Mumbai says, “Eating disorders represent a spectrum of mental conditions characterized by disordered eating patterns, which profoundly affect both physical and mental health. Primary classifications include anorexia nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder.”

Types of eating disorders

  • Anorexia nervosa is associated with a fear of weight gain and a distorted body image, causing individuals to severely limit their food intake, resulting in significant weight loss.
  • Bulimia nervosa is characterized by repeated episodes of eating followed by purging behaviors such as self-induced vomiting or laxative abuse, often accompanied by a distorted body image.
  • Binge-eating disorder is the regular eating of large amounts of food in a short period of time, with a sense of loss of control over eating habits, but without compensatory purging behavior.

Prevalence of eating disorders in women

Dr. Bedica highlights, “Studies consistently show a higher prevalence of these disorders in women, with approximately 0.5 to 1 percent suffering from anorexia, 2 to 3 percent from bulimia, and 3.5 percent from binge-eating disorder. Although symptoms may differ by gender, common indicators include excess Eating, loss of control, binge eating, self-induced vomiting, fasting, laxative abuse and excessive exercise.”

What are the causes of eating disorders?

“The development of eating disorders is complex and influenced by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, psychological, and social factors. Social stress, family dynamics, traumatic experiences, and cultural ideals of beauty all contribute to their onset. Symptoms may include significant weight loss, fixation on calorie counting, , obsessive thoughts about food and weight, purging behaviors, and withdrawal from social interactions,” shares Dr. Vedika.

Treatment for eating disorders

Treatment usually takes a holistic approach, including psychotherapy, medical supervision and nutritional guidance. According to Dr. Vedika, lifestyle changes play an important role in the recovery process:

– Encouraging balanced eating habits to establish a healthy relationship with food.

– Promoting regular exercise for overall wellness rather than just weight management.

– Teaching effective stress management techniques to deal with emotional triggers without resorting to disordered eating behaviors.

– Building body positivity and self-esteem by embracing different body shapes and sizes.

– Establishing a strong support network consisting of friends, family and healthcare professionals to provide encouragement and support throughout the recovery journey.

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