Eating Disorders in Brief
According to the National Eating Disorders Association, 10 million females and 1 million males in the United States are struggling with an eating disorder. Eating disorders are complex conditions that can have a serious long term impact on a person’s health, productivity, and relationships.
For people with an eating disorder, the act of eating brings about strong feelings such as guilt, shame and anxiety. They become obsessed with thoughts of eating and have an intense fear of gaining weight. These thoughts are so powerful that they disrupt daily activities. Individuals may have some, but not all, of the characteristics of an eating disorder. There are different kinds of eating disorders. 10% of those with anorexia and 1% of those with bulimia will die. This is a serious illness. No one chooses to have an eating disorder.
Not just a national problem....
In 1997, the Los Angeles times re- ported how more and more women in
South Korea and other parts of Asia were suffering (and even dying) from eating disorders in the pursuit of an ideal figure.
--“Women’s Eating Disorders Go Global” By Sonni Efron, The Los Angeles Times Saturday, October 18, 1997
What is Anorexia Nervosa?
By definition, Anorexia Nervosa is self-starvation to at least 15% below appropriate weight. It is important to keep in mind that anorexia is the result of long term malnutrition not due to poor parenting. These patterns are often set in children while in upper elementary and middle school. Even if they are not reaching a medical crises level during this period, chance of recovery is greater if stopped before the child begins suffering physical damage or impaired thinking due to starvation and/or malnutrition.
Through early detection and quick response time it is possible to minimize the negative impact the illness will have on the child’s academic and social development. However, it is important to note that the symptoms in younger children may be quite different from the symptoms in young adults.
Body image disturbances may not yet be present. Therefore, we need to seek out anxieties directly or indirectly related to food and weight loss.
- Steady loss of weight (it may take several months or more before the child begins to show dramatic physical changes).
- Aversion to types/categories of food. Focus on calorie counting.
- Anxiety and/or obsessive-compulsive behavior.
What is Bulimia Nervosa?
Bulimia Nervosa is a treatable eating disorder that can strike males or females as young as 7 or 8. According to the National Eating Disorder Association, a person who "binges on food an average of twice weekly in a three-month time period, followed by" behavior that is meant to prevent weight gain has Bulimia Nervosa. This type of compensatory behavior could be in the form of excessive vomiting, or the use of medications and aids to expel "excess" mass from the body. With early diagnoses and treatment a person has a greater chance of regaining a long-term healthier relationship with food.
Due to the vomiting associated with Bulimia Nervosa, individuals suffering from the eating disorder can end up suffering from a number of ailments particular to this eating disorder, including...
- erosion of tooth enamel,
- inflammation or swelling of the esophagus,
- damaged stomach, and
- an appearance of swollen cheeks due to enlarged glands.
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What is Binge Eating Disorder?
According to NEDA (National Eating Disorders Association) Binge Eating (also Bingeing) is “consuming an amount of food that is considered much larger than the amount that most individuals would eat under similar circumstances within a discrete period of time. While not yet recognized in the eating disorder literature, it appears to be the most common disorder.
Overeating is not the same as binge eating. A person that binge eats consumes more food than others would in the same amount of time and may feel a lack of control over their eating habits. The food consumption may occur when others are not around.
While a person with this disorder, that is still not in check, is likely to be obese, this may not be the case. That will depend on a number of factors including how long they have been struggling with this disorder and how much is it consuming them.
Just as with the other eating disorders, there are long term physical, emotional, physiological, and social consequences. It is important that this people receive assistance to regain control of their own body and self-image.
What About Other EDs?
Click here to read about other specified Feeding or Eating Disorders from the NEDA website.