Self-esteem disturbance and eating disorders are complex problems that outwardly manifest as abnormal and harmful eating and handling of one’s body, e.g., overeating and vomiting, use of laxatives and diuretics, starvation, and excessive exercise. On a deeper level, however, an eating disorder is always a reflection of some personal distress, dissatisfaction, or suffering.
The EDA (Eating Disorders Association) from England defines eating disorders as:
- an avoidance mechanism, when a person focuses all his energy on feeding to avoid dealing with other painful things in his life,
- a way of dealing with life, which seems full of unsolved problems,
- a way of expressing control over one’s body and life, especially in those situations where the affected person feels that others are controlling them,
- reaction to unresolved stress.
According to the International Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems for Statistical Purposes, eating disorders are covered under the chapter on mental disorders. The three main types of eating disorders are:
- anorexia nervosa,
- bulimia nervosa,
- and forced or compulsive overeating.
But the range of different forms of eating disorders is expanding, and transitions from one to another are common.
It is typical for a person suffering from anorexia nervosa to excessively control their eating. They refuse all types of food or only carbohydrates and other foods that the anorexic person considers to be high in calories. In doing so, she does not lose her appetite but may limit the amount of food she eats until starvation because she is afraid of gaining weight. An anorexic person thinks about food all the time, collects cooking recipes, adds up calories, and prepares food for others while not even touching the food themselves; in frequent cases, in addition to suppressing the feeling of hunger, they also exercise excessively, even for several hours a day. In most cases, the disease appears in the adolescent period, but it is unnecessary. It often follows some triggering event, such as losing a loved one, a long absence from home, etc. It most often appears between the ages of 14 and 18.
Bulimia nervosa is characterized by overeating or bingeing on large amounts of food, which is usually high in calories. Eating food due to internal mental compulsion is followed by extreme weight control methods, such as self-induced vomiting, abuse of laxatives and diuretics, and excessive exercise. Bulimia nervosa most often appears in the period of late adolescence in young women (only about 10% of all sufferers of this disease are men). It occurs most often between the ages of 18 and 25, and the number has been increasing in recent years.
This most common eating disorder is characterized by the fact that the affected person overeats more or less often due to internal compulsion. This alternates between periods of controlled eating in the form of slimming diets and periods of overeating. Over time, food addiction can develop similarly to other forms of addiction. It most often occurs between the ages of 18 and 45.
How to Overcome Self-Esteem Disturbance and Eating Disorders?
- We see events as opportunities and challenges. Every event is an opportunity to learn about ourselves, others, and life. When we think we have a problem or problem in front of us, we prefer to replace it with the word challenge or opportunity.
- We speak and think well of ourselves and others. This also means that we learn to encourage and praise ourselves and others.
- Let’s ask ourselves several times what makes me unique. What we value in ourselves, what we love, what we are proud of, qualities, behaviors, experiences, and what we do well.
- And let’s stop comparing ourselves to others or an ideal image. We can compare ourselves to assess our progress and set goals.