Eating disorders are not a new phenomenon. The standards of beauty have put pressure on men and women of all ages to conform to unrealistic physical goals. However, it’s important to understand that eating disorders do not just encompass overeating and starvation. Many common disorders such as binge eating, anorexia, and bulimia affect a large percentage of the population, especially women. However, while anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating affect many, there is still a large population of diagnosed an undiagnosed suffers facing a few uncommon eating disorders. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM) recognizes the following three as a mental illness — they might leave you scratching your head.
1. Selective Eating Disorder (SED)
This can sometimes lead people to thinking that it’s just a case of someone being a “picky eater.” However, many suffering with SED believe that there is only a finite amount of foods that they can eat. "People who are picky aren't doing this just to be stubborn," said eating researcher Nancy Zucker of Duke University, to Live Science. “Extremely picky eaters experience food differently than the rest of us.” Since there is not much data on this disorder, there are not significant findings as to how many people suffer from SED. Zucker sent out a survey in 2010 to better understand how many people consider themselves picky eaters, and approximately 7,500 people responded. Zucker and her team decided to further study the information they received in order to full understand the scope of SED. Many people are often embarrassed of this disorder and don’t want to seem difficult about their eating habits.
Many have heard of people with this disease but have not recognized it by its name. Pica is when people eat non-edible things such as chalk, feces, dirt, sand, and a whole number of items that would make almost anyone else gag. The condition has gained some awareness on TV shows like TLC's My Strange Addiction, where many participants could be seen eating things that could sometimes be dangerous. This is also particularly dangerous because oftentime doctors cannot tell if their patients are consuming things that are not meant for consumption. The numbers for pica have begun to rise. According to Psychology Today, “between 1999 and 2009, the number of hospital stays for patients with pica nearly doubled (from 964 to 1,862), said Dr. Faith Brynie. “Patients with pica and other eating disorders may also be hospitalized for other conditions such as depression, fluid and electrolyte disorders, schizophrenia, or alcohol-related disorders.” Side effects for this can include, poisoning, bowel obstruction, and sometimes even death.
3. Night Eating Syndrome
This is when there are recurrent episodes of night eating after awakening or persistent pattern of late-night binge eating. It’s classified in the DSM as an Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder. Sometimes those with the disorder are overweight. Approximately 28 percent of people suffering from NES ask for gastric bypass surgery, according to a study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders.
While seemingly strange, it’s important to understand that these disorders can affect many people in emotional, mental, and physical ways. It’s hard to fully understand these diseases because of the fact that they have not been studied in depth. Unfortunately, negative views toward mental illnesses leave many suffering in silence.