Eating disorders have become increasingly common in recent decades, causing significant psychological and health problems. Eating disorders are illnesses that cause severe disruptions in people's eating habits, cognition and emotions.

This rise in eating disorders results from intense societal pressure to diet and conform to unrealistic weight and body size standards. Females are developing eating disorders at a higher rate than males. Often, women between 12-35 years of age are affected.

Eating disorders, notably anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder, were long regarded to be a problem affecting just a small percentage of the population, primarily Western young Caucasian females, but are now affecting people from many countries.

This is alarming for a variety of reasons. The disorder affects 70 million individuals worldwide, with high rates of prevalence in Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea. In Nepal, the fatality of eating disorders for men peaks at 45-49 years whereas women are losing their life at the highest rate at 45-49 years, according to the National Planning Commission.

The most well-known eating disorder is probably anorexia nervosa. It is essentially a mental illness in which the individual continually monitors his or her weight, avoids certain foods and limits calorie intake.

Anorexia nervosa has two subtypes, the restricting type and the binge-eating type. The restricting type achieves weight loss through dieting or exercising, whereas the binge-eating type tries to lose weight by self-induced vomiting and urination, often after bingeeating.

Binge-eating disorder is characterised by compulsive overeating or consuming substantial amounts of food while feeling unable to stop and lose control.

Eating disorders demonstrate the close relationship between emotional and physical health. It is essential to assist patients with binge-eating disorder in interrupting and stopping binges. However, restoring a person's weight or temporarily halting the binge-purge cycle does not address the underlying emotional issues that cause or are exacerbated by the abnormal eating behaviour.

Psychotherapy assists people suffering from binge-eating disorders to understand the thoughts, emotions and behaviours that cause them. Any treatment strategy must include general medical care, nutritional management and nutritional counselling due to the severe physical difficulties produced by illnesses.

We should never forget that the road to recovery is fraught with ups and downs. There is no such thing as a linear life.

A version of this article appears in the print on June 3, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.