Over five million men and women in America suffer from some type of eating disorder. Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating disorder are all serious psychiatric illnesses, which without treatment can have life-threatening consequences. An eating disorder is an excessive preoccupation with weight and food issues which result in a loss of self-control, obsession, anxiety and guilt.
The depression, shame and agonizing sense of isolation caused by eating disorders can disrupt families, interrupt schooling and destroy relationships. Most men and women with an eating disorder are aware they have a problem, but are unlikely to seek treatment.
Eating disorders come from a combination of psychological, interpersonal, and social conditions as well as feelings of inadequacy, depression and loneliness. Difficult family issues and personal relationships may also contribute to the development of an eating disorder. The presence of low self-esteem is the common denominator that is inherently present in all eating disorder sufferers.
Symptoms of eating disorders:
- A dramatic increase or decrease in weight
- Abnormal eating habits such as severe dieting, withdrawn behavior at mealtime or secretive bingeing
- An intense preoccupation with weight and body image
- Excessive or compulsive exercising
- Self-induced vomiting, periods of fasting or abuse of laxatives, diet pills or diuretics
- Feelings of isolation, depression, or irritability
- Distorted body image
- Extreme fear of gaining weight and concern with body shape
- Irregular or loss of menstrual periods
- Fast and/or irregular heart rate
- Frequent headaches
- Bingeing and frequent use of the bathroom after meals
- Strong mood swings
- The development of dental problems, swollen cheeks, heartburn and/or bloating
If you suspect that you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms associated with an eating disorder, reach out to your health care provider. It may require making an appointment and accompanying the individual to the doctor.
Visit the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) website to learn more.
Credit: Frontier Behavioral Health. Used with permission.