According to the EDC (Eating Disorders Coalition), roughly half of the US population can now say that they personally know someone that suffers from an eating disorder. An eating disorder can manifest itself in many ways; one individual might eat extremely minimal amounts of food per day, while another might continue eating well past the point of full and on to the point of nausea or unpreventable vomiting.
While anyone is susceptible to developing an eating disorder, they are significantly more common among women. An eating disorder is also more likely to develop during adolescence or young adulthood than any other part of a person’s life. There are many different types of eating disorders, but those affected generally fall under one of three categories.
Anorexia (Anorexia Nervosa) – Anorexia nervosa is described on MNT (Medical News Today) as a disorder characterized by an extremely low appetite or a strong and complete avoidance of eating. This condition is typically coupled with a distorted sense of personal appearance. People that suffer from anorexia nervosa have intense fears of gaining weight. Therefore, they spend the a significant amount of time micro-managing their weight.
Bulimia (Bulimia Nervosa) – Bulimia nervosa is arguably the most common eating disorder. The South Carolina Department of Health has reported that two to three women out of 100 in America suffer from bulimia nervosa. This eating disorder in particular is characterized by two phases of eating. The first phase is binge eating, and the second is compensatory, self-induced vomiting. A person suffering from bulimia nervosa will take whatever means necessary to vomit their meal in an effort to avoid the consequences of binge eating.
Binge Eating Disorder – A binge eating disorder is characterized by temporary periods of extreme overeating. A individual struggling with a binge eating disorder will often feel compelled to eat significant amounts of food, regardless of whether or not they are hungry. This disorder often leaves victims under the impression that the amount of food they’re eating is completely out of their control. Periods of binge eating are typically followed by immense feelings of guilt, shame, and disgust.
There are other, more rare types of eating disorders, but they can all collectively be described as conditions that cause people to undertake abnormal and detrimental dietary changes.
NEDA (the National Eating Disorders Association) outlines many health consequences that are often irreversible. Anorexia nervosa often puts victims at a high risk for slowed heart rates, lowered blood pressure, higher risk for heart failure, and reduced bone density, a condition that can often lead to osteoporosis. Other possible consequences include muscle weakness and/or loss, kidney failure, lanugo (the growth of hair to keep the body warm), fainting, and death.
Bulimia nervosa can lead to gastric rupture, esophageal inflammation and rupture, tooth decay from frequent contact with stomach acids, constipation, ulcers, pancreatitis, irregular heartbeat, heart failure, and death.
Binge eating is also not one without serious consequences. Frequent periods of severe overating can lead to elevated blood pressure, problems with cholesterol, heart disease, type II diabetes, and gallbladder disease.
Any disorderly eating habit will almost always result in negative consequences to a person’s health, and in most cases, their mortality is at stake.
While each eating disorder is characterized by different rituals and eating habits, there are overall signs that are consistently indicative of a problem. MayoClinic describes various symptoms such as possessing a powerful fear of weight gain, excessive exercise and activity, irritability, visiting the bathroom immediately after eating to either attempt excreting bodily waste or vomit, a thin appearance, a time-consuming preoccupation with thinking about one’s weight and/or actually weighing oneself several times throughout the day, chills and feelings of being cold, low blood pressure, frequent use of laxatives and/or diet pills, eating in secret, food hoarding, etc.
Because eating disorders are more rampant than ever before on society, many treatment options have been developed to help victims work through their conditions. MayoClinic explains that any viable treatment option generally begins with psychological counseling to target the source or root of the eating disorder. No eating disorder begins out of thin air, and for each action, there is a cause. Various types of psychological counseling include cognitive behavioral therapy (individual or group), interpersonal psychotherapy, or family-based therapy.
After psychotherapy takes place, nutrition education generally follows. This type of treatment is administered by healthcare professionals, such as nutritionists and dieticians, to help victims reestablish health relationships with food. Nutrition education generally helps individuals learn more about the way food interacts with the body, how to plan meals, how to reenter a healthy pattern of eating, and learning how to avoid dieting. In some cases, medication is also administered to aid the process.
Treatment can also take place in a number of settings. Certain individuals might be hospitalized in certain situations, others might be receive day treatment from their hospital, and others might undergo residential treatment. Once an eating disorder has been identified, there are many options available for take an active role and addressing the problem.
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