There are many different types of eating disorder and those who are affected by them will suffer in various ways. But the question of which eating disorder is worse often crops up when the subject is discussed. There are varying opinions about which is the worst eating disorder though, and because of this many experts are unable to agree. The reality is that all eating disorders can have devastating consequences for the individual as well as affecting the lives of those closest to them.
What Is an Eating Disorder?
An eating disorder is a mental health illness and is similar to addiction in that the person has no control over his or her behaviour. And like with many addictions to substances such as drugs or alcohol, those affected have no choice over their illness.
Eating disorders are often misunderstood in the same way that addiction is. Most people believe that eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder are a lifestyle choice rather than an illness. They believe that the person who suffers from an eating disorder has chosen to live this way and could easily stop what they are doing if they wanted to.
It is not that simple – an eating disorder is a serious mental health illness that, if left untreated, could develop into a life-threatening condition. It is important that those who are affected get the help they need to recover as soon as possible.
As these illnesses all have distinct characteristics, it is hard to say which eating disorder is worse. Each of them can cause life threatening consequences for the affected individual.
Types of Eating Disorders
The three most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder, but there are many others. For the purposes of this article however, we will concentrate on the three mentioned here to see how these affect the individual.
Anorexia nervosa, or simply anorexia as it is commonly known, is one of the most recognised eating disorders in the world. Those who suffer from it will deliberately try to keep their body weight as low as possible and are usually unable to see their body in the same way that others do. They will do this by restricting the number of calories they consume or by exercising to excess and taking laxatives.
While others may suggest that these individuals need to put weight on, the affected person will fiercely challenge this because they will still be unhappy with their weight, no matter how low it gets. Anorexics often have a distorted idea of what they look like. While others will see them as painfully thin, anorexics will believe they are fat and will try to do more to lose what they see as excess pounds.
For most anorexics, weight loss is something that they can control. Whenever they lose weight, they will see it as an achievement. Nevertheless, tied in with this is the fact that many suffer from a lack of confidence and have a very low self-esteem because of it.
Negative Consequences of Anorexia
As you might imagine, anorexics often suffer with extremely low body weights. They will lose muscle mass because of their severe calorie restriction, which can leave them feeling weak and fatigued. Females who suffer from anorexia may develop reduced bone strength and problems with menstruation. In men it can cause a loss of libido and even impotency.
As most anorexics try to hide their illness from family members and friends, they may become withdrawn and isolated; they will often become guarded in case anyone discovers their secret. In the early days, family members and friends will be confused as to the changing behaviour of the affected person. However, as time goes by, they will spot the signs and start to worry, soon discovering that there is very little they can do to change the mindset of the person, who is convinced he or she is fat when far from it.
Bulimia nervosa, or bulimia as it is known, is another type of eating disorder that can have devastating consequences for the individual. Bulimia sufferers tend to go through cycles of binge eating and then purging to keep their body weight constant. This can make it very difficult for family members and friends to spot the signs, particularly in the early days.
Bulimia sufferers usually eat copious amounts of food but will then make themselves sick or take laxatives to purge themselves of the calories they have consumed. This cycle of eating and purging can dominate their life and lead to many problems socially. Since weight tends to stay constant, bulimia sufferers often go under the radar. It is only when others notice other signs, such as going to the bathroom immediately after every meal, that the condition is discovered.
Negative Consequences of Bulimia
Those who develop bulimia often suffer physical health problems. Constant vomiting can lead to oral issues and the heart can be damaged by excessive laxative use. Other problems include constipation, stomach pain, fatigue, and bloating.
As with anorexia, relationships between bulimia sufferers and their family often suffer. Bulimics tend to be secretive about their purging and will suffer low self-esteem. This can affect how they act with others. The person may feel guilty about purging themselves and will go on to suffer depression or anxiety. Some will self-harm or even turn to substances such as alcohol or drugs to make them feel better.
Binge Eating Disorder
Binge eating disorder is a mental health problem that causes people to regularly overeat. Those who suffer from this disorder will gorge on substantial amounts of food in a short period, often in secret. Some will eat and eat until they make themselves sick because they have no control over their ability to stop.
After an episode of binge eating, it is not uncommon for sufferers to feel guilty or remorseful about what they have eaten. Some will be disgusted with themselves, and this can affect their mental wellbeing. A common symptom of binge eating disorder is to continue eating when full.
Negative Consequences of Binge Eating Disorder
As those who suffer from binge eating disorder do not purge themselves, the most obvious consequence of this condition is obesity. Moreover, with obesity comes many other problems including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and heart disease.
Binge eating disorder sufferers also usually suffer from a lack of confidence and low self-esteem because of their weight, which can then lead to mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.
Which Eating Disorder is Worse
Although all eating disorders can cause serious health problems that increase the risk of premature death, studies have shown that those with anorexia are more likely to die prematurely due to the effects of their illness or through suicide. Mortality rates in those with eating disorders are quite high, but appear to be the highest among those with anorexia.
Can You Get Help for Eating Disorders?
The good news for those who suffer from eating disorders is that help is available. Although an eating disorder is a complex mental health problem, with the right care and support, it is possible to learn healthy eating habits.
A good programme of rehabilitation can assist with getting to the root cause of the illness and teaching the patient to recognise triggers to his or her unhealthy eating habits. The most important part of the process is in teaching the individual to develop a healthy attitude to food; this is done through various counselling and therapies.
If you would like help overcoming an addiction, please get in touch with us here at Recovery Lighthouse. We specialise in treating various eating disorders and addictions and have a proven record of success. Our clinic is designed to the highest standards to ensure the comfort and safety of patients at all times. For more information, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us today.