Anorexia and bulimia: importance of early detection

Eating disorders also called eating disorders by their acronym eating behavior disorders, affect around 4% of the population, with a greater incidence in women between 12 and 21 years of age. However, in recent years, the incidence has increased in the male population. Anorexia and-bulimia are the most common eating disorders and require a multidisciplinary approach, given their complexity. Severe disturbances in eating behavior characterize eating disorders.

Patients suffering from these disorders present psychological alterations that range from the distortion of their body image to self-destructive behaviors such as causing themselves to vomit, ingesting laxatives, etc.

Likewise, eating behavior disorders are always accompanied by different degrees of medical deterioration: changes in weight and blood count. Along with anorexia and bulimia, we must consider the binge eating disorder and the TANE (Non-specific eating disorders).

What are the characteristics of anorexia and bulimia?

In anorexia, the person restricts food intake and has a severe fear of gaining weight. This leads to weight well below what you should have in terms of your physical complexion and to alter the way you perceive your own body.

Among the most frequent eating disorders, bulimia is characterized by periods of excessive food intake and the consequent behaviors to compensate for the input, which may be vomiting or laxative or diuretic products.

Binge eating disorders and night eating syndrome (included within TANE) are the ones that predominate in obese patients.

Obesity, as a symptom, can also be included within eating disorders since, on many occasions, the person tries to alleviate their discomfort with food.

What are the causes of anorexia and bulimia?

Eating disorders do not have a single-cause but can be multifactorial. These causes include biological, social, family, interpersonal, and personality factors that can influence the development of eating disorders.

  • Biological factors: There are scientific studies that indicate that genetics contributes to eating behavior disorders, which links them to alterations in some hormones such as the thyroid or pituitary.
  • Family factors: Type of family relationship and conflictive family environment.
  • Social factors: Social pressure for thinness and the canons of beauty and influence of the media.
  • Interpersonal factors: Troubled relationships, difficulty expressing feelings and emotions, and history of physical or sexual abuse.
  • Psychological factors: Low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, perfectionism, need for control, or feeling of loss of control in your life and loneliness.

How to detect eating disorders?

The most frequent eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, usually present a series of behaviors that can help detect a possible eating disorder. Some of them are:

  • Go on restrictive diets
  • Excessive concern about food, such as caloric intake or fat
  • Guilt after eating food
  • Use of laxative or diuretic products
  • induce vomiting
  • Weightless
  • Fear of gaining weight
  • Altered body perception
  • Excess physical exercise
  • Humor changes
  • Social isolation, rejection of social meals
  • Difficult to focus
  • Denial of feelings of hunger, thirst, tiredness
  • Excessive consumption of sugar-free gum
  • Strange behaviors related to eating
  • Increase in study hours
  • Decreased sleep hours

In anorexia and bulimia, and other eating behavior disorders, early detection by the family and social environment is essential to carry out the early treatment. Whenever any of these signs are observed suddenly and without apparent prior cause, you should consult a professional who will evaluate the case.

What is the evaluation process for eating disorders?

Eating disorders show a more profound emotional discomfort through eating behavior. Therefore a specialized medical intervention is necessary to evaluate, diagnose and resort to the corresponding treatment.

The steps to follow in the evaluation of these disorders are as follows:

  • Clinical history
  • For the review of eating disorders, a detailed account of the patient will be taken and possible family history. The symptomatology that it presents, the duration time, the collaboration of the patient and the family environment will be evaluated. The state of health will also be assessed, proceeding to carry out physical examinations if necessary.
  • Physical
  • review In some cases of eating disorders, a physical exam will be performed at the doctor’s discretion. This exam may include a blood test to monitor nutritional status and an assessment of body mass or degree of hydration.
  • Psychological and behavioral
  • evaluation Specialized psychological evaluation allows eating disorders to be determined in more detail and assesses the existence of other emotional, cognitive and behavioral alterations. For this evaluation and the clinical interview, some tests are usually used to obtain more information on the patient’s personality, family and social environment, and behaviors associated with eating disorders.
  • Family
  • assessment Family assessment is critical in the treatment process for eating disorders, both to analyze the environment and establish a nucleus of support for the patient. This evaluation will assess aspects such as family relationships and dynamics, the family’s knowledge of eating disorders, or the level of family communication.

What treatments exist for eating disorders?

There are several treatments for eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia. Depending on the case of each patient and depending on the severity of the case, the treatment can range from behavioral, psychological therapy with a periodicity established by the professional, the combination of psychological therapy with pharmacological treatments, multidisciplinary treatment in a day hospital, until the admission of the patient in the most severe cases.

Early detection of eating disorders is key to successfully resolving them and preventing them from escalating.

The seriousness of these pathologies means that the affected person puts their physical integrity at risk on some occasions. Intensive and early care for anorexia and bulimia can improve their prognosis, so it is necessary to act soon. In this sense, IMQ-AMSA develops a specific program that includes outpatient, hospital, medical, and psychiatric, psychological care.