Top 10 Most Dangerous Eating Disorders
Eating disorders cause people to act in very strange ways that appear confusing to the average onlooker, but these disorders can have life-threatening complications like heart attack, stroke, and kidney failure. One of the most visible and well-known eating disorders is anorexia nervosa, but this affliction is just one of several dangerous eating conditions people suffer from today. The social stigma of eating disorders means millions of people suffer from these conditions, but they don’t seek treatment because of the inherent insecurity that often appears alongside an eating disorder like anorexia or binge eating disorder (BED).
Eating disorders run the gamut from those that make people want to skip as many meals as possible, like anorexia nervosa, to others that might have a sufferer hiding in a bathroom, gorging on massive amounts of food, like bulimia nervosa. According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), around 10 million men and 20 million women in the United States have suffered from a severe eating disorder at some point in their lives. Complicating issues for the people who suffer from eating disorders is that these conditions sometimes develop with various psychiatric disorders like depression and substance abuse.
Anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are just a few of the eating disorders out there, and it’s not just teenage girls who suffer from these disorders. Children, teens, and adults are susceptible to a plethora of eating disorders. Here’s an eye-opening list of the most harmful eating disorders out there and the deadly complications that can develop with these destructive conditions.
Night Eating Syndrome
As one of the lesser-known eating disorders, night eating syndrome was initially diagnosed in the 1950s by Dr. Albert Stunkard, and it’s also listed in the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), which is the American Psychiatric Association’s publication that describes the criteria for various mental disorders. According to the Walden Center in Massachusetts, patients diagnosed with this eating disorder have a habit of consuming food at night, but the amount of food isn’t always a significant amount. People who suffer from night eating syndrome may also suffer from being eating disorder (BED), and the two conditions share a lot of potential complications.
Sufferers of night eating syndrome may hide food to eat while they’re alone, they may be at an obese weight, and they may have suffered from a substance abuse problem at one time. Complications related to night-eating syndrome may include high blood pressure, dangerous cholesterol levels, and diabetes. These conditions sometimes develop because people with night eating syndrome are often overweight or obese. The disease is an “equal opportunity” destroyer in that it affects men and women with equal frequency.
Many people diagnosed with night eating syndrome are also diagnosed with depression and various sleep disorders. People may also suffer from anxiety that worsens their harmful behavior of eating at night. One of the fascinating parts of night eating syndrome is that some people may develop the condition after failing to adhere to a diet. Sufferers restrict their calories all day in an effort to lose weight, but they begin eating at night because their hunger drives them to regain those lost calories at night.
Sleep Related Eating Disorder or “Sleepeating”
Like other eating disorders, sleepeating causes its sufferers to eat whether or not they’re actually hungry. People who suffer from this disorder tend to get up in the middle of the night and eat, often to an excessive degree. The unique feature of this particular eating disorder is that patients can’t remember their sleepeating episodes. Some people do remember their sleepeating episodes, but they’re powerless to control their actions. This disorder is a lot like sleepwalking in that waking people from a sleepeating episode is usually quite difficult.
The way people eat during a sleepeating event is normally quite different than how they might eat while awake. Sufferers may eat foods that normally wouldn’t be eaten alone such as spoonfuls of sugar without any accompaniment. The foods people consume while sleepeating are usually high in calories or very sugary, which means the condition can cause weight gain when a person eats normally during the day and then eats even more at night without being able to control their behavior.
The American Sleep Association (ASA) warns that sleepeating can have dangerous consequences because people might eat non-edible items or combine foods that may cause illness. For example, a person may eat items like cigarettes or cleaning solutions, which can prove deadly. Many people who develop sleep-related eating disorder may suffer from another condition that leads to sleepeating behavior such as anorexia. Treating the condition may involve using medications to suppress the behavior, as well as removing potentially dangerous items from the kitchen like harmful bottles of cleaning solution.
Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)
ARFID was introduced in the most recent Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) and was created as a label for people whose behavior wouldn’t fall neatly into another category of eating disorder. According to The Center for Eating Disorders, people often start showing signs of the eating disorder when they’re still a child, and those issues may continue well into adulthood. There are a number of incidents that may occur during childhood that can cause a person to develop ARFID. For example, children who cannot get enough calories for a medical reason may develop an eating disorder as they grow older.
The DSM-V lists several criteria for ARFID that appear similar to conditions like anorexia nervosa, but which are more general in nature than anorexia. For example, a person with ARFID may experience significant weight loss. In children, the condition may cause a “failure to thrive” where the child doesn’t gain the expected amount of weight for his or her age, gender, and height. People who suffer from ARFID may also experience nutritional deficiencies, have issues with psychological health, and become dependent upon nutritional supplements to maintain health.
What ARFID is not is a condition that develops because someone doesn’t have enough access to food. Children who don’t have enough to eat because of poverty and who aren’t growing as expected wouldn’t receive an ARFID diagnosis. People who suffer from ARFID might have access to food, but they don’t have an interest in eating or they avoid eating because they don’t like the physical sensation of eating.
Muscle Dysmorphia or “Bigorexia”
A variant of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), muscle dysmorphia is often found in males, but some females can develop the condition, too. A person suffering from this disorder will engage in harmful behaviors because they feel their body isn’t muscular enough no matter how large or small their body appears. People who develop Bigorexia may focus on defects that aren’t really there, or they might obsess about their appearance by examining their body in the mirror for several hours. Sufferers may engage in repetitive behavior and rituals designed to increase the size of their muscles.
Although the condition isn’t solely about food, it does usually influence a person’s eating habits as they struggle to create a maintain an unrealistic physique that may require eating specific foods or even using drugs like steroids. According to the International OCD Foundation, people who develop muscle dysmorphia may develop an incredibly picky diet where their eating habits take up a large portion of their time each day. In an attempt to increase muscle mass as much as possible and decrease body fat, people with Bigorexia may go to extremes with their diets.
Incredibly, people who develop this disorder won’t always show off their bodies with revealing clothing like tank tops and shorts. They’ll often wear baggy clothes because they assume their imperfections are too great and shouldn’t be seen by anyone. Tragically, the condition can destroy relationships because the person will abandon their family and friends in favor of working out and engaging in eating rituals. Although it might seem that someone who wants big muscles has an over-inflated ego, people who develop Bigorexia are usually insecure about their bodies.
Anorexia Athletica or Compulsive Exercising
Health professionals, the media, and teachers are often heard extolling the virtues of exercise, and it’s seen as an ideal component of a healthy lifestyle, but some people who start exercising eventually develop a very unhealthy relationship with it. People who suffer from anorexia athletica will exhibit signs of body dysmorphia and low self-esteem. When someone is stressed or anxious, they may turn to exercise to gain some control over their life. In severe cases, that person may develop anorexia athletica, or an addiction to exercise.
The American Council on Exercise shares that the concept of anorexia athletica was first noticed in the 1970s by a man named Dr. William Glasser. Through his work with runners, he noticed that some athletes developed a compulsive need to exercise and weren’t enjoying running. Since Dr. Glasser’s initial observations, researchers have estimated that somewhere between one and seven percent of exercisers have developed an obligation to exercise that results in excessive exercise every day. People suffering from anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa may also develop anorexia athletica in an attempt to bolster weight loss through exercise.
Some people are dedicated to exercising and may participate in activities every day, but everyone who exhibits such behavior isn’t doing so in an unhealthy way. The point at which dedication to exercise turns into something serious occurs when a person feels that they must exercise each day and that injury and fatigue are not excuses for missing a day of exercise. People with anorexia athletica may exercise for hours every single day and increase their risk for permanent injury, digestive problems, and dangerously low blood pressure.