Could You or Someone You Know
Have an Eating Disorder?
In a culture where thinness is too often equated with physical attractiveness, success, and happiness, eating disorder treatment centernearly everyone has dealt with issues regarding the effect their weight and body shape can have on their self-image. However, eating disorders are not about dieting or vanity; they're complex psychological disorders in which an individual's eating patterns are developed--and then habitually maintained--in an attempt to cope with other problems in their life.
Each year, more than 5 million Americans are affected by serious and often life-threatening eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, binge-eating, bulimia nervosa, compulsive eating, obesity, and pica. Left untreated, the emotional, psychological and physical consequences can be devastating, even fatal. Eating disorders know no class, cultural, or gender boundaries and can affect men, women, adolescents, and even children, from all walks of life.
Common Types of Eating Disorders
and Their Symptoms:
Anorexia nervosa is an extremely dangerous, life-threatening eating disorder in which a person intentionally deprives themselves of food and can literally starve to death in an attempt to be what they consider "thin." The disorder involves extreme weight loss--at least 15 percent below the individual's "ideal" weight-and a refusal to maintain body weight that is even minimally normal for their age and height. Even if they become extremely emaciated, an anorexic person's distorted body image convinces them they are "fat." The self-esteem of individuals with this disorder is directly dependent on their body shape and weight. Weight loss for them is viewed as an impressive achievement and an indication of extraordinary self-discipline, whereas weight.
The essential features of binge-eating disorder are recurrent, out-of-control episodes of consuming abnormally large amounts of food. People with this disorder eat whether they are hungry or not and continue eating well past being uncomfortably full. If left untreated, the consequences of binge-eating can be severe. The disorder often leads to obesity, which is responsible for as many as 300,000 deaths year, or other serious and often life-threatening eating disorders such as bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa. Those who suffer from binge-eating disorder are also at high risk of substance-related disorders and serious psychiatric conditions, including depression, panic disorders, anxiety disorders, and personality disorders.
Compulsive Eating Disorder
Compulsive eaters feel incapable of controlling how much or how often they eat. They may feel unable to stop eating, eat very fast, eat when they're not hungry, eat when they're only alone, or eat nearly non-stop throughout the day. Compulsive eaters often over-indulge in sugary foods and use them in an attempt to elevate their mood. When they don't eat the foods they crave, they often experience severe withdrawal symptoms.
People who have bulimia nervosa routinely "binge," consuming large amounts of food in a very short period of time, and immediately "purge," ridding their bodies of the just-eaten food by self-inducing vomiting, taking enemas, or abusing laxatives or other medications. If left untreated, bulimia nervosa can lead to serious and even life-threatening problems, such as depression, anxiety disorders, heart damage, kidney damage, injury to all parts of the digestive system, and severe dental damage. Those with bulimia nervosa are at risk for dangerous impulsive, self-destructive behaviors, such as sexual promiscuity, kleptomania, self-mutilation, and alcohol and/or drug abuse.
The consequences of obesity can be severe. If left untreated, an obese person is at pronounced risk of developing serious mental disorders, such as depression, personality disorders, or anxiety disorders as a direct consequence of their obesity. For many, obesity leads to chronic and often life-threatening eating disorders such as bulimia nervosa or anorexia nervosa. People who are obese are also at much greater risk of developing a variety of serious medical conditions including high blood pressure, stroke, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, breast cancer, gallbladder disease, upper respiratory problems, arthritis, skin disorders, menstrual irregularities, ovarian abnormalities, and complications of pregnancy. Obesity is one of our nation's most critical health problems and is directly responsible for as many as 300,000 deaths each year.