Keys To Understanding Eating Disorders

A review of the characteristics of this type of psychological disturbance.

Understand eating disorders

Throughout history, body image has been determined by society and culture. In the Western world, this image has acquired such a fundamental value that a total cult of the body has been practiced since the last decades of the 20th century.

It is in this context that some of the most devastating pathologies of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries have emerged, such as eating disorders (ED).

Eating behavior

Eating behavior is shaped from the beginning of life. It is through the interactions of the child and the food with the environment that certain eating habits are created.

It is important for the child to learn to distinguish the different physiological signals such as hunger, satiety or self-regulation of intake, creating an adequate eating behavior, defined as normal behavior related to eating habits, food eaten, quantities, frequency …

Children tend to integrate eating habits and practices around 5 years of age, creating different ways and preferences of eating. Mothers, fathers and caregivers play a fundamental role in the education of healthy eating patterns, which function as protective factors against future risks.

Eating Disorders (Eating Disorders)

Eating disorders are characterized by pathological behavior related to an abnormal pattern of food intake, on the one hand, and an obsession to keep body weight under control, on the other.

They involve complex mental disorders, affecting mainly adolescents and young women. These pathologies are characterized by the severity of the associated symptoms, high resistance to treatment and risk of relapse.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has placed EDs among the priority mental illnesses for children and adolescents given the health risk they imply.The best known EDs are anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, but there are also others, such as binge eating disorder, or drunkorexia.

Types of TCA

The main types of eating disorders are as follows.

1. Anorexia Nervosa

It is a disorder characterized by a loss of weight induced or maintained by the patient himself. An intense fear of gaining weight or gaining weight appears.

The person perceives an overweight despite having a weight below what is considered normal. The methods used to lose weight are diet manipulation, exercise (75%), and induced vomiting (20%).

2. Bulimia Nervosa

It is characterized by an exaggerated preoccupation with body image and by repeated episodes of excessive food intake ; As a result of this the person adopts drastic measures to compensate for the compulsive eating.

The patient presents recurrent binges, a feeling of loss of control, and inappropriate compensatory behaviors (self-induced vomiting; laxatives, diuretics, enemas or other medications; fasting; excessive exercises…).

3. Binge Eating Disorder

Like bulimia nervosa, this disorder is characterized by compulsive and recurrent eating. The main difference is that the person does not perform compensatory behaviors (laxatives, fasting, vomiting …).

One of the most common consequences is weight gain or obesity, along with the associated risks (diabetes, cholesterol, etc.).

4. Drunkorexia

Drunkorexia or drunkenness arises as a new food problem; people who suffer from it stop eating to try to make up for the calories they ingest with alcohol. To the dangers of anorexia are added those of the consumption of this drug.

The severity of the disorder will depend, on the one hand, on the degree of addiction to alcohol, and on the other, on the severity of the anorexia.

Risk factor’s

Risk factors facilitate the development of any type of disorder, including an ED.

  • Individual factors: family history; Personality traits; low self-esteem; negative body image, etc.
  • Family factors: lack of family structure; controlling and demanding environment; stressful life experiences, etc.
  • Social factors: unrealistic canon of beauty; media demand; sports or activities, etc.

Protection and Treatment Factors

According to Isabel Sánchez Montero, psychologist from the Psychologists Málaga PsicoAbreu cabinet, promoting a positive body image and good self-esteem is one of the main objectives for the prevention and treatment of an eating disorder. Also, there are several factors to consider.

1. The media

The media are an instrument of great influence in aspects related to the health of the population and, especially, with eating disorders.

For this reason, something very important in the prevention of this type of disorder is collaboration with the media in order to promote a realistic and healthy image.

2. Personal empowerment

There are authors who propose that an important point in prevention would be to enhance sociocultural influences and to recognize the importance of self-esteem, self-control and the strength of these people.

3. Teamwork

The treatment that eating disorders require is developed within a multidisciplinary team, made up of different specialists: doctors, psychologists, nurses, educators, etc. The objectives of psychological treatment go through:

  • Help in the normalization of weight.
  • Family counseling.
  • Learn healthy eating habits.
  • Educate in emotions (recognize, regulate and express emotions appropriately).
  • Learn to contact and go through painful private events (thoughts, emotions, physical sensations).
  • Recognize avoidance patterns and develop effective coping guidelines.
  • Prevent relapses.

Seeking Help for Eating Disorders


The team of Psychologists Málaga PsicoAbreu is specialized in the effective psychological treatment of eating disorders. All of its professionals work to provide individualized attention that is adapted to the characteristics of each person, placing special emphasis on the quality of the therapeutic relationship, the accompaniment and the guarantees of the intervention. To see the contact details of this psychology center, click here.


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