Anorexia/Eating Disorders/feel sick when eating

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QUESTION: hello
I'm 16 years old female and quite recently I've started to feel sick when eating. for example, I can't even finish my breakfast which is just 1 toast; I can barely get through half of it because I feel so sick from eating it, and often go to school feeling hungry and nauseous.
'normal' sized meals now make me feel full, and even my favourite food makes me feel ill.
I don't know why this has happened so suddenly. I don't know if this relates to it but it also seems my sleeping pattern has messed up a bit, for example I keep waking up in the night and have trouble getting back to sleep, which also started just recently.
would you happen to have any theories behind this and how I can get better?
thanks

ANSWER: Hi Nikita,

I am so sorry. That sounds awful. I have a couple of ideas, but need more information from you before I can answer your question.

1) Has anything changed lately in your life? New medication? Change in school? New significant other?

2) How is your stress level these days? Are you under more stress than usual?

3) Why are you waking up at night? Weird dreams? Need to pee? Mind keeps reeling?

Once we identify the possible causes of your eating and sleep issues, we can work to find a solution.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: 1) Has anything changed lately in your life? New medication? Change in school? New significant other?
Nope nothing that I can think of

2) How is your stress level these days? Are you under more stress than usual?
My stress level is at normal I guess, I do have year 10 exams coming up but I don't feel worried.

3) Why are you waking up at night? Weird dreams? Need to pee? Mind keeps reeling?
I'm not too sure - I often have a lot of thoughts on my mind. I wake up feeling sick sometimes, or just randomly for no obvious reason. Once I woke up because my leg was hurting a lot and it took me ages to get back to sleep.

I can't see any obvious reason because I feel like it's happened so suddenly and out of the blue.

Answer
Hi Nikita,

Okay, ruling out pregnancy (which would cause all of these same symptoms), it seems like your eating disturbances are more sleep-deprivation-related.

When we don't get enough sleep, our body enters the stress response, otherwise known as the  General Adaptation Syndrome. Cortisol and adrenaline are released into the bloodstream to meet the perceived threat or danger; blood is rerouted to our arms and legs so we can flight or flee. It's a fabulous system that works well when we actually need to fight or flee. Unfortunately, most of the time we don't.

More importantly - in your case - is what lack of sleep does to our emotions and our digestive system. The fight-or-flight response is diametrically opposed to digestion. So it's quite common for people to get an upset stomach, nausea, bloating, or irritable symptoms when they don't get enough sleep. This can lead to not wanting to eat due to stress. After all, who wants to eat when their stomach hurts?

What to do? Try some relaxation techniques right before you go to bed. Here are a few suggestions:

http://www.helpguide.org/mental/stress_relief_meditation_yoga_relaxation.htm
http://www.webmd.com/balance/guide/blissing-out-10-relaxation-techniques-reduce-
http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/tc/stress-relief-and-relaxation-o
http://annerivendell.hubpages.com/hub/6-Top-Tips-for-relaxation-and-stress-reduc

Good luck! Let me know if there is anything else I can do to help you.

Anorexia/Eating Disorders

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Mary Pritchard

Expertise

I can answer questions about the psychology of eating, disordered eating attitudes and behaviors such as drive for thinness, drive for muscularity, binge eating, body dysmorphia, dieting, excessive/obsessive exercise, and body dissatisfaction. I can also answer questions about anorexia and bulimia.

Experience

I have a PhD in Psychology and teach courses in the Psychology of Health and the Psychology of Eating. I have been conducting research on disordered eating and exercise behaviors for 15 years.

Organizations
Midwestern psychological association, rocky mountain psychological association

Publications
Over 50 peer-reviewed journal articles in journals such as Eating Behaviors, Eating Disorders, and Eating and Weight Disorders

Education/Credentials
PhD in Psychology from the University of Denver

Awards and Honors
30 teaching awards, have received funding to conduct my research from academic institutions and state and local government

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