Eating disorders (EDs) are complex mental health conditions that involve unhealthy eating habits, often stemming from emotional and psychological issues. In India, these disorders are becoming increasingly prevalent among the youth due to changing societal norms, pressures, and lifestyles. These disorders, which include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder, can have serious physical and emotional consequences. 

An ED can arise from a combination of genetic, psychological, social, and environmental factors. Some common causes include:

  • Genetic Factors - A family history of disorders or other mental health issues can increase the risk.
  • Psychological Factors - Conditions such as anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem are often associated with eating patterns. Perfectionism and obsessive-compulsive tendencies can also play a role.
  • Social and Cultural Factors - Societal pressure to conform to unrealistic body standards, as perpetuated by media and cultural norms, can contribute to the development of these disorders. The emphasis on academic and professional success also adds to the stress.
  • Environmental Factors - Traumatic experiences, such as bullying or academic failure, as well as significant life changes or stressors, can trigger or exacerbate disorders. The increasing influence of Western culture and lifestyle changes also play a significant role.


EDs involve complex interactions between the brain, body, and behavior. Imbalances in neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, are linked to eating patterns, as these chemicals play crucial roles in regulating mood, appetite, and stress.

Studies have shown that people with EDs may have structural differences in brain regions involved in control and reward, such as the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala, affecting impulse control and emotional regulation. Additionally, hormones like cortisol (a stress hormone) and ghrelin (a hunger hormone) can influence eating behaviors, and stress and hormonal imbalances can disrupt normal appetite regulation, contributing to disordered eating patterns. Here are five effective ways to deal with an ED, incorporating advice from eating disorder therapists and evidence-based practices :


1. Seek Professional Help

The most crucial step is seeking professional help. Eating disorder therapists are specialized professionals trained to help individuals navigate the complexities of these conditions.

  • Find a Qualified Therapist - In your city, look for therapists who specialize in EDs. They can provide individualized treatment plans tailored to your needs. Trauma Informed care (TIC), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and family-based therapy are commonly used approaches in treating these disorders. Your therapist will help determine the best method for you.
  • Nutritional Counselling - Work with a dietitian specializing in eating patterns  to create a balanced eating plan and address nutritional deficiencies. Indian dietary habits and cultural preferences should be considered to make the plan sustainable.


2. Establish a Support System

Building a strong support system is vital for recovery. Surrounding yourself with supportive friends, family, and community members can provide the encouragement and accountability you need.

  • Join Support Groups - In urban areas, there are increasing numbers of support groups and communities dedicated to individuals with EDs. These groups provide a safe space to share experiences and receive support from others who understand what you’re going through.
  • Communicate Openly - Keep open lines of communication with your loved ones. Let them know how they can support you, whether it’s through regular check-ins or accompanying you to therapy sessions. Educate them about disorders to reduce stigma and enhance understanding.


3. Develop Healthy Eating Habits

Creating and maintaining healthy eating habits is a critical part of recovery. As mentioned above, working with a dietitian who specializes in disorders can help you develop a balanced and nutritious eating plan.

  • Create a Meal Plan - A structured meal plan can help regulate eating patterns and reduce anxiety around food. Include traditional Indian foods that are nutritious and comforting.
  • Mindful Eating - Practice mindful eating by paying attention to hunger and fullness cues, and eating without distractions. This can help you develop a healthier relationship with food. Embrace cultural practices like eating meals together as a family, which can support healthier eating habits.


4. Focus on Emotional Health

EDs often stem from underlying emotional issues such as anxiety, depression, or low self-esteem. Addressing these emotional aspects is essential for long-term recovery.

Regular Therapy Sessions - Continue regular sessions with your eating disorder therapist to work through emotional challenges and develop coping strategies. Therapists in India are increasingly adopting holistic approaches that combine traditional practices like yoga and meditation.

Practice Self-Care - Engage in activities that promote well-being, such as exercise, hobbies, and relaxation techniques like meditation and yoga. These practices are deeply rooted in Indian culture and can be particularly effective.


5. Educate Yourself and Others

Understanding your disorder and educating those around you can empower you and foster a supportive environment for your recovery.

Read Up on EDs: Knowledge is power. Educate yourself about the nature of eating patterns and malpractices, their causes, and effective treatment options. Use resources that are specific to the Indian context to understand cultural nuances.

Raise Awareness: Share your knowledge with friends and family to help them understand your experience and how they can support you better. Participate in community awareness programs to reduce stigma and promote mental health education.

Dealing with an eating disorder is a challenging but manageable journey with the right support and strategies. Seeking professional help from specialized therapists, establishing a strong support system, developing healthy eating habits, focusing on emotional health, and educating yourself and others are key steps towards recovery. Remember, recovery is a process, and it’s important to be patient and compassionate with yourself as you work towards healing. In the Indian context, leveraging cultural strengths and community support can play a significant role in overcoming disorders.