Eating disorders are psychiatric conditions characterized by persistent changes in meals or behaviors related to eating habits. When there is a change in the consumption or absorption of food, it affects the physical and mental health of the individual. According to the Brazilian Psychiatric Association, it is estimated that more than 70 million people worldwide are affected by some eating disorder, including anorexia, bulimia, binge eating and others.
Anorexia nervosa and bulimia have a high incidence among young people. Women are the most affected by these disorders, with anorexia having the highest incidence in the public aged between 12 and 17 years and bulimia being more present in early adulthood. Mara Maranhão, a psychiatrist specializing in eating disorders at the Federal University of São Paulo (UNIFESP), highlights that these behaviors “are related to higher mortality rates among mental disorders”.
In anorexia nervosa, the person restricts eating, usually starting with a regular diet, and over time, this limitation intensifies, leading to massive weight loss. Recurrent fasting is also part of the characteristics presented by the disorder. Many cases of anorexia end up leading to malnutrition.
In bulimia, in recurrent situations, the individual ingests a large amount of food in a short space of time and then uses ‘compensatory methods’ to avoid weight gain, which include inducing vomiting and using laxatives. and diuretics.
Eating disorders are directly related to image distortion, according to the psychiatrist. “Excessive fear of gaining weight and a very image-centric self-worth are key factors in the diagnosis,” she explains.
Signals and symptons
Usually those responsible and the closest people are the ones who detect the warning signs. Those who suffer from the disorder will hardly be able to identify changes. Some symptoms deserve attention.
In cases of anorexia:
Diets that become increasingly restrictive over time, constant observation of product packaging and calorie count, isolation to avoid eating with the family, behavior of weighing and measuring the body frequently.
In cases of bulimia:
Episodes of binge eating where the person starts to eat very fast and in large amounts, he goes to the bathroom right after eating these foods to provoke vomiting or after a large intake of food the individual decides to do a long period of fasting, in addition to the purchase large amounts of laxatives and diuretics without a prescription.
Excessive physical activity is a common feature in both anorexia and bulimia cases.
Eating disorders need to be identified, diagnosed and treated as soon as possible, as they can lead to other health problems, leading to death. “Anorexia nervosa is the mental disorder with the highest mortality rate, both due to physical complications, such as cardiovascular changes, psychiatric changes and suicide”, warned the UNIFESP specialist.
Often, patients diagnosed with anorexia nervosa or bulimia also have other related psychiatric illnesses. These conditions favor the development of physical diseases associated with malnutrition and psychiatric diseases, including depression and anxiety.
The Unified Health System (SUS) provides care for people in psychological distress through the services of the Psychosocial Care Network (RAPS). Primary Health Care is the gateway to care and plays a fundamental role in the approach to Mental Disorders, especially mild and moderate ones, not only because of its capillarity, but also for knowing the population, the territory and the social determinants that interfere in behavioral changes, offering better conditions to support care.
Different levels of complexity make up care, and the CAPS – Psychosocial Care Center, in its different modalities, are strategic points of attention for the RAPS. Open and community-based health services, made up of a multiprofessional team that works from an interdisciplinary perspective, can be found.
Ministry of Health
Official content – Fact Check – Verified