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Eating Disorders

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Many people you know may have an eating disorder and you may not realize it. An "eating disorder" occurs when a person eats, or refuses to eat, in order to fulfill a psychic need and not a physical need. Often times, people with eating disorders try to camouflage their problems and deny they are suffering from this illness. Eating disorders are caused by a complex interaction of social, biological and psychological factors which bring about the harmful behaviors. Millions of people suffer from severe problems related to their patterns of eating or dieting. As a result many engage in the unhealthy lifestyles and develop deadly eating habits.

Eating disorders can affect up to five percent of the population of teenage girls.( The results can be tragic: 25 percent -30 percent of women with eating disorders remain chronically ill, and 15 percent will die prematurely ( It is apparently appearing among young males as well. There are a number of eating disorders which many people suffer from, and most people may not even be aware that the way they eat could be classified as an eating disorder. Some of the most common forms of eating disorders are anorexia, bulimia and compulsive eating. Eating disorders are serious problems and need to be diagnosed and treated like any medical disease ( We will review each disease, its effects, and treatments for each disease.


Anorexia nervosa involves intense fear of gaining weight, disturbed body image, refusal to maintain normal weight, and dangerous measures to lose weight.(text) Anorexics, are those who suffer from the disease, or less commonly anorectics.( Ledger) Simply put, anorexia involves extreme measures of self-starvation. If you are at least 15 percent under your normal body weight and you are losing weight through not eating, you may be suffering from anorexia.

Experts estimate that at least 1 in every 200 females between the ages of 12 and 18 suffers from anorexia nervosa, and that the percentage is significantly higher among wealthier families.(Erlanger, 1988) More than nine times out of ten, people with eating disorders are females. The most common times for eating disorders to develop is between the ages of twelve and twenty five. The earlier an eating disorder is identified, the better the chances of recovery.

Anorexia can be categorized in two distinct types: restrictive and the compulsive kind. People who suffer from restrictive anorexia usually have a very low body weight, indulge in acts of self-starvation and also tend to burn the little food they eat through physical exercise, in order to lose weight. Compulsive anorexia also referred to as binge and purge is characterized by the consumption of large amounts of food and then getting ridding if from the body. With compulsive people suffering from it fluctuate between periods of scarce eating or either abstinence from food completely.

Anorexia is characterized by efforts to reach extreme weight loss. To an anorexic, "the thinner, the better." Anorexics do not stop at dieting or even exercising, they become obsessed with weight loss, and do not stop until their lives may become threatened. Anorexics may use other methods of weight loss along with dieting or fasting. They may use excessive exercise, diet pills, laxatives (medications to stimulate bowel movements), diuretics (also known as water pills because they stimulate urination), or vomiting as ways of feeling thinner or controlling calories (Ledger, 1988).

Another major characteristic of anorexia is distorted body image (ledger, 1988). This is how anorexics view their bodies very differently than other people do. The term "body image" has been coined to describe a person's inner sense of satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the physical appearance of her/his body ( Anorexics tend to overestimate their weight and no matter how thin they are they see themselves as fat.

Those who are suffering with this illness have a low self-esteem and often a tremendous need to control their surroundings and emotions ( Anorexics have a unique reaction to a variety of external and internal conflicts, such as stress, anxiety, unhappiness ad feeling like life is out of control. They gain some form of control back by constraining their food consumption.

There can be a number of ways a person suffering from Anorexia can depict their disorder. The inherent trait of a person suffering Anorexia is to attempt to maintain strict control over food intake ( At times the person suffering will seem to eat normal meals with only periods of restriction. Anorexics are sometimes known to eat junk food, particularly candy, to drink a lot of coffee or tea, and smoke. They may deny hunger, make excuses to avoid eating, will often hide food they claim to have eaten, use diet pills to control appetite, or attempt to purge the food away with self-induced vomiting, or by taking laxatives.

Some signs of anorexia are refusal to maintain a body weight which is consistent with their build, age and height. The individual usually experiences an intense and overwhelming fear of gaining weight or becoming fat. Even if the individual's health is suffering and they are near death, they will still try to reach and reach and even lower weight. An individual with the disorder will obsessively check their body size and weight through frequent weighing, measuring, pinching, and viewing themselves in a mirror. For some Anorexics, weight loss is so severe there is a loss of menstruation ( As a result, ovulation in women may become suppressed due to the imbalance of hormones. Severe cases of anorexia can lead to brittle bones that break easily as a result of calcium loss ( Some of the more common potential medical complications include emaciation, hypotension, hypothermia, impaired renal functioning and gastrointestinal problems.

Treatments of Anorexia

Eating disorders are serious problems and need to be diagnosed and treated like any medical disease. In cases where a patient is severely ill and has a relapse from baseline weight, or is below 15 percent of appropriate body weight; OR the patient has other medical problems, inpatient hospitalization may be necessary. Treatments within hospitals include patients eating regular meals, with liquid supplements, but those who refuse eating are fed through a tube. Once a patient reaches a normal body weight and seem medically stable they are moved to outpatient therapy.

For a successful recovery a patient may need to undergo some form of psychotherapy.



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