Eating disorders are characterized by abnormal eating habits and a particular concern for weight and body shape.

 

Anorexia nervosa is a disorder that implies starving oneself due to the fact that the person in case perceives his/her body as being overweight; the fear of gaining weight is obsessive and because of this, the sufferer will constantly refuse to eat and maintain a healthy weight.

 

Bulimia nervosa is represented by repeated episodes of binge eating (intake of large quantities of food) and followed by a compensatory behavior that consists of self induced vomiting, purging through laxatives, diuretics and cleansers, exercising in excess.

 

Binge eating is different from bulimia nervosa through the fact that after the excessive eating episodes there are no periods of “compensation”; people that suffer from binge eating do not fast, exercise or purge themselves after excesses and are in most cases obese or overweight.

Causes

Eating disorders are complex and generated by a series of different factors of biological, psychological and environmental nature

 

Biological: irregular hormonal functions, nutritional deficiencies and genetic background

 

Psychological: low self-esteem, negative perception of the body

 

Environmental: dysfunctional family life, working in a domain that promotes unrealistic body images (such as modeling), childhood traumas, peer pressure, stressful life changes

Symptoms and signs

Anorexia:

 

Intense fear of gaining weight, extreme thinness

Destructive behavior: intentional starvation up to the point of death

Distorted body image

Lack of menstruation

Anemia, weakness, dry skin and thinned hair

Low blood pressure and body temperature, slow pulse, lethargy

Brain damage and multi-organ failure

 

Bulimia:

 

Unlike anorexia sufferers, people that have bulimia often maintain a normal weight or are even slightly overweight; the purging rituals are usually done in secret because the sufferers are disgusted and ashamed of their body and situation

Inflammation and soreness of the throat; swollen salivary glands; thinned tooth enamel and gum problems due to constant exposure to stomach acid

Gastrointestinal problems; acid reflux

Severe dehydration

Electrolyte imbalance (sodium, calcium, potassium or other minerals)

 

Binge eating:

 

The inability to control oneself when eating

Consuming large quantities of food in short periods of time (2 hours)

Only feeling satisfied, happy or relieved when eating

Continuing to eat even when full

Hypertension

Gastrointestinal difficulties

Advice

Accepting and admitting there is a problem

 

An effective course of treatment has to address the underlying emotions that generate the abnormal eating behavior

 

Psychotherapy is recommended (especially when the emotional problems have as source a trauma – sexual abuse, substance abuse; depression)

 

Cognitive-behavioral therapy – focuses on identifying and modifying dysfunctional thought patterns and attitudes that trigger destructive eating habits

 

Family therapy

 

An eating disorder sufferer should not be afraid to ask for help (from friends, family, specialists). You are not alone in this!

MISCONCEPTIONS
  • Eating disorders are not something serious, they are life choices made out of vanity

     

    Restrictive dieting is something normal. Everyone has to diet at least at some points in their life.

     

    An eating disorder is “a cry for attention” especially in the cases of teenagers

     

    If someone develops an eating disorder, it is usually their family’s fault

Statistics

1.0% to 4.2% of women have suffered from anorexia in their lifetime

 

Up to 4% of the women in the US suffer from bulimia

 

Eating disorders affect around 10 mil people in the US

 

More than 50% teenage girls and 33% boys use restrictive and unhealthy methods to lose weight

 

35% of normal dieters will advance to pathological dieting and ulteriorly develop an eating disorder

Did you know?

Anorexia has the highest fatality rate of any mental illness

 

About 4% of anorexic individuals die from complications generated by the disease

 

27% of college-age women often practice binge eating and purging regularly

 

Demi Lovato, Lady Gaga, Kesha and Jessica Alba are only a few examples of persons that have struggled with an eating disorder