With media today, our understandings of eating disorders can be skewed.
Chances are, you know someone battling cancer, diabetes, heart disease, or another common illness. However, eating disorders don’t receive such positive public attention. Some INCORRECT assumptions about eating disorders:
-They only affect teenage girls.
-They only include anorexia and bulimia.
-They make you look really skinny.
-They’re all about food.
-They’re the individual’s fault.
To start, an eating disorder is never the sufferer’s fault. Eating disorders aren’t a lifestyle choice or merely about superficial appearance.
Eating disorders are mental illnesses. They cause extreme thoughts and obsessive behaviors that negatively affect a person’s attitudes toward eating habits, expertise, and weight. According to the National Eating Disorder Association, more than 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from some form of eating disorder during their lives… and that’s only ones clinically recorded. Many people live with disorders and don’t even realize it, mistaken under the guise of “healthy” habits. This is one beautifully written post about the “secrets” of eating disorders.
Eating disorders aren’t phases. Full recovery can take years, along with periods of relapses. Treatments include nutritional or diet counseling, psychiatric counseling, medications, and—in extreme cases—hospitalization.
Symptoms range from restriction to binge-eating. Although anorexia and bulimia are the most well-known, eating disorders assume a variety of forms. Just because someone may not exhibit the “defined” behaviors doesn’t mean his or her illness isn’t just as serious.
Here are several eating disorders and their symptoms, according to NEDA and Healthy Place:
-fear or obsession of weight gain
-may include episodes of binging and purging
-compulsive exercise or unusual eating habits
-can include obsessively counting calories
-highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness
-results in: low heart rate and blood pressure, anxiety, osteoporosis, muscle loss, dehydration, fatigue, anemia, dry hair or skin, infertility
-almost 20% of anorexia nervosa sufferers will die due to complications
-binge eating and purging
-may include misuse of laxatives and other medications
-may include excessive exercise
-results in: electrolyte imbalances, tooth decay, esophagus and mouth inflammations, constipation
Binge-Eating Disorder (BED)
-reoccurring episodes of eating a large amount of food within a short time
-unlike bulimia, binge-eaters don’t purge
-feelings of shame during or after a binge
-results in: high blood pressure and cholesterol, diabetes, gallbladder problems, heart disease
-unhealthy obsession with healthy eating
-rigid eating habits and restriction of food deemed unhealthy or impure
-can include attempts to strictly follow the latest diets
-guilt following deviation from diet
-not an official eating disorder, but has behaviors of anorexia and bulimia
Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS)/ Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED)
-eating disorders that either overlap symptoms or do not meet the criteria for a specific illness
-examples: anorexia sufferers who have normal weight, bulimia sufferers whose binging occurs less frequently than twice a week, those who purge but don’t binge eat
-are STILL eating disorders, regardless of having a normal weight or not meeting all criteria of Anorexia or Bulimia
-such eating disorders include: Night Eating Syndrome (eating significant food at night), Pica (eating non-food items), and Rumination Disorder (regurgitation)
But… what do all eating disorders have in common?
-feelings of loss of control and vulnerability
-preoccupation with food and/ or exercise
-low self-esteem and body image
-withdrawal from social circles
-feelings of perfectionism
-often associated with depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and anxiety
Eating disorders, although more common among women, don’t discriminate according gender, race, ethnicity, or background. They wreck havoc on both the mind and body. Even those at a “normal” weight or BMI can still have thoughts or habits reflective of eating disorders.
So, don’t think of eating disorders as some foreign illness. Just like cancer, they can affect anyone. Most importantly, they aren’t any individual’s fault.
Well, I think that’s enough education for one day. Don’t forget to check out the Resources tab for more information!