Eating disorders are a group of serious conditions in which the person is preoccupied with their weight in an extremely unhealthy manner. Eating disorders are serious emotional and physical problems for both males and females, which can have life-threatening consequences.
It is estimated that approximately half a million teenagers struggle with eating disorders and/or disordered eating. Furthermore, in the United States alone, 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some point in their life.
There are many factors that can influence the development of an eating disorder such as societal, familial and individual. People who are struggling with their identity or self-image, and those who have experienced a traumatic event may be at risk. Additionally, an eating disorder can be a product of how a person has been raised or taught how to behave. Overall, an eating disorder signals that the individual has deep emotional problems that they are unable to face or resolve on their own.
There are four types of eating disorders: Anorexia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder, Bulimia Nervosa and Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS).
Anorexia nervosa is a serious and potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by self-starvation and extreme weight loss.
❏ Approximately 90-95% of anorexia nervosa sufferers are girls and women
❏ Anorexia nervosa is one of the most common psychiatric diagnoses in adolescent women ❏ Anorexia nervosa has one of the highest death rates of any mental health condition.
Between 5-20% of individuals with anorexia nervosa will die. The probability of fatality increases depending on the length of the condition
❏ Anorexia nervosa typically appears in early to mid-adolescence
❏ Resistance to maintaining body weight at or above the minimum recommended weight for age and height
❏ Increased fear of weight gain, or being “fat”, even though they are underweight
❏ Denial of the seriousness of their low weight
❏ Loss of menstrual periods in girls and women post-puberty
Prompt intensive treatment significantly improves the chances of recovery.
Therefore it is important to be aware of the typical warning signs of anorexia nervosa.
Dramatic weight loss
Preoccupation with weight, food, calories, fat and dieting
Refusal to eat foods and certain food groups (ie: no carbohydrates)
Frequent comments about feeling “fat” despite their weight loss and feelings of anxiety Denial of hunger and excuses to avoid mealtimes
Development of food rituals (ie: excessive chewing and rearranging food on a plate)
Excessive and rigid exercise regimen
Withdrawal from usual friends and activities
With anorexia nervosa, the body is denied the essential nutrients it needs to function normally. Due to this, the body is forced to slow down all processes in order to conserve energy. This “slowing down” can have serious medical consequences such as:
❏ Abnormally slow heartbeat and low blood pressure. Risk of heart failure increases due to this
❏ Reduction in bone density, leading to osteoporosis
❏ Muscle loss and weakness
❏ Severe dehydrations, leading to kidney failure
❏ Fainting, fatigue, and overall weakness
❏ Dry hair and skin
❏ Growth of lanugo all over the body in an effort to keep warm
BINGE EATING DISORDER
Binge eating disorder is characterized by recurrent binge eating without the use of measurement to counter the eating.
❏ Approximately 1-5% of the general population is estimated to have a binge eating disorder ❏ Binge eating disorders affect women a little more than men. It is estimated that 60% of women and 40% of men struggle with BED
❏ Those who struggle with BED are usually normal to heavier than the average weight
❏ It is often associated with depression
❏ Episodes of eating large quantities of food in short periods of time.
❏ Feeling out of control