How frequently do we look in the mirror and say “If I could just lose 10 kg, then I would be happy”? Extreme body image disturbances may be part of body dysmorphic disorder, also known as “imagined ugliness”. Individuals with this disorder may have a totally distorted view of what they actually look like. They usually spend hours assessing, attempting to conceal, or obsessing over their perceived flaws. These extreme body image disturbances may lead to eating disorders.
This disorder is indicated by an extreme fear of increasing weight and these individuals essentially perceive their bodies to be bigger or “fat” albeit being grossly underweight.
Anorexia nervosa is nicknamed “Ana” – be wary if you notice your child frequently visiting “pro-ana” online sites, as they promote anorexia nervosa as a “lifestyle”. Other signs to watch out for:
- Extreme weight loss (though, this could also be due to other reasons such as dieting – don’t rush to assume the worst!).
- Picking at food and other distracting habits to hide the fact that she is not eating.
- Insisting on taking meals alone in her room.
- You find uneaten food hidden around the house or discarded in the dustbin.
- She constantly complains about how fat she is, even when she is already very thin.
Individuals with this disorder are also very disappointed with their bodies and have extreme concern with body image. It is an eating disorder characterized by binge eating and engaging in inappropriate ways of counteracting the bingeing (such as using laxatives) in order to prevent weight gain.
Bulimia nervosa is nicknamed “Mia”. Be wary if you notice your child frequenting “pro-mia” sites. Other signs to watch out for:
- She eats only when nobody is around (such as when everyone is asleep), or always goes out to eat alone.
- She eats an unusually large amount of food, but shows no weight gain.
- You find a lot of food going missing around the house, or an unusually large amount of food wrappers left in her waste basket.
- Insists of exercising strenuously after eating.
- Goes off to use the bathroom shortly after every meal (often turning on the taps to hide the sound of vomiting); bathroom often smells of vomit after she uses it.
Eating disorders are complex and often require professional assistance from a team of clinical psychologists, dietitians and other healthcare professionals.
If left unchecked, eating disorders can lead to life-threatening consequences. Therefore, if you suspect that someone in your family has an eating disorder, kindly seek professional assistance and information.