If you think a lot about food and weight, and your self-esteem is tightly bound up with how satisfied you feel with your body, you may have an eating disorder. Eating disorders are most common in young women, but you may develop an eating disorder regardless of your age, body type or gender. All eating disorders damage the body and are destructive to your self-esteem and mental health.
How do I know that I have an eating disorder?
If you have an eating disorder you are often strict and judgemental towards yourself. It is common to feel ashamed about how you eat or how you look. You avoid eating with other people, often skip meals and think a great deal about food, weight and appearance. The thoughts about what you have to do every minute can become difficult and may consume a great deal of energy. You may experience anxiety and feel extremely lonely.
It may feel as though most of your life is based around food, shame and control. Maybe you think that you have to do things a certain way, or else you experience anxiety. It’s common for you to have difficulty concentrating and sleeping. Over time you may become down or depressed.
Different types of eating disorders
Binge eating, bulimia and anorexia are the three most common forms of eating disorder.
- Anorexia means that you want to keep your weight as low as possible, and therefore you limit yourself to such a low energy intake that your body begins to starve.
- A binge eating disorder means that you binge eat extremely large quantities of foods that you ordinarily avoid. Binge eating proceeds for a short time. Afterwards you suffer from strong feelings of guilt and shame.
- Bulimia also means that you binge eat, but with the difference that you try to get rid of what you ate afterwards, usually by vomiting, taking laxatives or exercising vigorously.
You may also have a variant of one of these eating disorders, for example anorexia, but be within the normal weight range. It’s also common to move from one type of eating disorder to another.
When do I need to seek help?
If you believe you have an eating disorder, you should not wait — seek help immediately. The earlier you seek help the better. Treatment is available that can help people with eating disorders.
May be associated with high demands
There are many different reasons for developing an eating disorder. It may be associated with personal issues such as how you manage feelings such as grief or anger or relationships with other people, but it may also be a reaction to how food, control and appearance are valued by society.
The demand to have a perfect appearance and spotless life, while we are at the same time surrounded by consumer excess and expected to control our needs and feelings, can feel impossible to live up to. If may begin as a need for control, where you try to control your eating. But over time the need for control begins to control you.
Help is available
It is possible to become free from eating disorders with the help of treatment. There are many different types of treatments, such as talk therapy and medication. Sometimes both therapy and antidepressants may be needed.
Where can I seek help?
If you believe you have an eating disorder, you should seek help from the healthcare system. You can also contact föreningen Frisk och Fri. If it seems difficult to seek care on your own, you can ask someone to come with you. If you feel so bad that you are thinking of taking your life, don’t wait — seek care immediately at a psychiatric emergency ward or call 112.
You are not alone
Many people have had an eating disorder and recovered. Acknowledging that you are not well and seeking help is not a sign of weakness or failure, quite the opposite. It’s a way to give yourself a chance to feel better.