- Psychological Issues
One of the most important things to remember is that eating disorders are not always about food or weight. They are more often about the pain, anxiety, low self-esteem, or a perceived lack of control in their life. Their weight is one area in their life where they believe they can have control. Unfortunately those with eating disorders create an unrealistic body-image, seeing them self as fat when they are not.
anorexia nervosa is the maintenance of a body weight at least 15% below normal caused by the self-induced avoidance of “fatty” foods and one of the following: 1
Someone who is Anorexic sees himself or herself as fat despite their dangerously low body weight. This body-image distortion persists causing the person to impose ever-stricter dietary limits. The results of this on the health can vary but often include:
If Anorexia strikes before puberty, it can delayed or even stops the growth process itself. In girls, the breasts do not develop and there is a lack of menstruation. In boys, the genitals may remain juvenile. With recovery, puberty is usually completed normally, but the initial menstruation is often delayed. 1
Someone suffering from Anorexia may be described as a “walking skeleton” due to the pallor and frailty caused by their illness. Many other visible signs of the body’s distress often accompany this illness including: 2
The self-starvation will eventually lead to a real loss of appetite as the individual becomes malnourished. This is often when help is finally forced on the individual through hospitalization.
As the illness progresses, the person runs the risk of heart, kidney, or multiple organ failure. It is estimated that between 5 and 20% of all Anorexics die from complications related to their illness. 2
Bulimia is a pattern of Binge-Eating and Purging. The Bulimic person feels they have no control over their appetite and will become angry or guilt after they binge, this anger or guilt causes the purging that completes the circle. Nearly 90% of Bulimics will induce vomiting as a result to “compensate” for their binging. 3
The results of Bulimia on a person’s health can vary, but can include: 4, 5
While the person may not have the skeletal appearance of an Anorexic, many physical symptoms are present including: 5
While the danger may be slightly lower than that of Anorexia, Bulimia can still be life threatening. A deficiency of Potassium or other essential minerals can cause severe damage to the Heart or Kidneys. There are also added dangers of choking or rupturing the esophagus or stomach as a result of binging.
Binge Eating is the consumption of a large amount of food in a limited time period – usually no more than two hours. A Binge may not be limited to a single sitting, and typically includes sweet, high caloric foods and is characterized more by the amount of food consumed than a craving for a specific nutrient such as carbohydrates. 6
The health dangers of Bulimia can vary from person to person, but often include:
The Binge Eater does not regularly purge in the way that someone with Bulimia does, though they may do so once in a while. The Binge Eater may also go through periods of severe dieting that almost approach the level of starvation.
While it is inconceivable to most of the world that anyone would be for something as damaging and life threatening as Anorexia or Bulimia, these people do exist. There are entire websites dedicated to the subject. This not only makes it difficult for those with eating disorders to find help, it has the potential to drive others towards eating disorders.
These websites attempt to treat these illnesses as lifestyles, promoting self-starvation and purging in order to reach their concept of a physical ideal. What they consider ideal, the medical community considers life threatening. These individuals not only carefully avoid discussing the dangers of the disorders, but they treat the disorders as if they are about weight and food.
Anorexia and Bulimia are not about weight and food; they are about a person’s inability to cope with the stress, anxiety, low self-esteem, and lack of control they feel.7
For more on the Pro-Anorexia movement, visit the following links:
For more in depth information about these disorders, please check the websites below.