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Eating Disorders

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Eating Disorders

Anorexia Nervosa: A condition characterized by intense fear of gaining weight or becoming obese, as well as a distorted body image, leading to an excessive weight loss from restricting food intake and excessive exercise.

Bulimia Nervosa: An eating disorder in which persistent overconcern with the body weight and shape leads to repeat episodes of bingeing (consuming large amounts of food in a short time) associated with induced vomiting.

Those are the clinical definitions for eating disorders, the definitions that most people think of when they hear one of the two names. Unfortunately, that's as far as their thoughts go. Almost no one thinks about what causes them, how the disorders are treated, or, most importantly, what it's like to have one. My report is meant to cover all aspects of eating disorders... and that's what it's going to do. Although, I'm going to offer a more in-depth look into the biological, psychological and sociological aspects of these diseases. Needless to say, the physical effects of an eating disorder are nothing to sneeze at... but that's just the tip of the iceburg.

Imagine a thirteen-year-old girl who weighs 60 pounds because she is starving herself. Every time she looks in the mirror, she sees herself as fat. Picture her parents watching their daughter literally disintegrating into thin air. This is the life of a family dealing with an eating disorder. Eating disorders are a major problem with the young people of today's society. While anorexia and bulimia are socio-logical problems plaguing the world's youth, there are also other eating disorders. This "fat phobia", or fear of being over-weight, disturbs people to the point where they are in a way, committing suicide.

Eating disorders have been termed the disease of the 1980's. Even though it has been found that 95% of people who suffer anorexia or bulimia are woman, mostly from white, relatively affluent families, the pre-occupation and obsession with food are not limited to women. Although some men also deal with eating disorders, most research has been done on women. In 1985, 95% of women felt they were overweight, while only 25% were actually considered medically overweight. By the age of thirteen approx-imately 53% of females are unhappy with their bodies, and by the age of eighteen approximately 78% are unhappy.

Our culture could be seen as a narcissist society. Narcissism is a preoccupation with one's self, a concern with how one appears to others, and with living up to an image. It seems that appear-ance is an important factor in our everyday life. While all women want to look as perfect as "Barbie", for some it just isn't possible. For women, being slender is almost synonymous with being successful. It is also thought that 40% of the adult U.S. population is significantly overweight. Some experts feel that eating disorders are reaching epidemic proportions and estimate the national rate to be as high as 12% of women . In fact, according to the Phoenix Gazette on November 7, 1985, "Almost one out of three women diet once a month, and one in six considers herself a perpetual dieter" . It is considered that 54-86% of college women binge eats. They do this and still research shows that most college aged women: 1) widely accept the idea that "guys like thin girls", 2) think being thin is crucial to physical attractiveness, and 3) believe that they are not as thin as men would like them to be. While in fact most college women want to be thinner then most college men say women should be. In the United States alone, our society spends $33 billion on the diet industry, $20 billion on cosmetics, and $300 billion on plastic surgery. This just proves the fetish Americans have with their looks. Unfortunately being thin does play a role in our society. It is a fact that attractive defendants seem to receive more positive courtroom judgements and a company is more likely to hire a tall thin man then a short pudgy man. These factors are just increasing the chance of eating disorders throughout society. The most common eating disorder being experienced in today's youth is anorexia nervosa.

Anorexia is usually defined as: willful starvation-deliberate and obsessive starvation in the pursuit of thinness. This "willful starvation" is seen as the only way to lose weight. Anorexics who are close to their deaths will show you the spots on their body where they feel they need to lose weight. An estimated

10- 20% of anorexics will eventually die from complications related to the disorder. Some signs and symptoms of anorexia are: noticeable weight loss, becoming withdrawn, excessive exercise, fatigue, always being cold, muscle weakness, excuses for not eating, guilt or shame about eating, mood swings, irregular menstruation, evidence of vomiting, laxative abuse, or diet pills, and the frequent checking of body weight on a scale. Some theorists believe that these disorders may be caused by the mass media's presentation of the ideal body. But according to the ABNFV or the Anorexia and Bulimia Nervosa Foundation of Victoria it is over simplification to blame the mass media's presentation of the 'ideal' shape; though western society's increased emphasis on the slim, fit body places pressure on many people. So there is no conclusive evidence on exactly what causes anorexia.

Another common eating disorder seen in society is bulimia. Bulimia involves binge eating accompanied by induced vomiting to inhibit weight gain. The average women in the United States between the ages of 19 and 39 periodically go on food binges where they eat extremely high quantities of high calorie foods in a short space of time. Bingeing varies for all people, for one person a binge may range from 1000 to 10000 calories, for another, one cookie could be considered a binge. Bulimics are usually people that do not feel secure about their own self worth, and

usually strive for the approval of others. Food becomes the only source of comfort for a bulimic, and usually serves as a function for either blocking in or letting out feelings. Unlike anorexics, bulimics do realize they have a problem and are more likely to seek help. The likely hood of a bulimic seeking help decreases the percentage of people who die from this disorder.

A third eating disorder experienced in our society is body

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