Eating disorders are illnesses in which people experience severe disturbances in their eating behaviors and related thoughts and emotions.
FACTS ABOUT EATING DISORDERS
- Eating disorders are the most deadly mental health disorders because they cause myriad physical health problems that can lead to death.
- Eating disorders tend to develop in adolescence and young adulthood.
- They are equally prevalent across race and ethnicity.
- Eating disorders may or may not be associated with a distorted body image.
- They disproportionately affect girls and women. Ten to fifteen percent of cases of eating disorders are experienced by boys and men.
Early signs that may lead to the development of an eating disorder include:
- Low self-esteem
- Extreme self-criticism
- Needing to be and do things perfectly
- Obsessive exercising
SIGNS / SYMPTOMS OF ANOREXIA NERVOSA
Because people with anorexia are so good at hiding it, the disease may become severe before anyone around them notices anything wrong. If you think someone you care about has anorexia, it’s important to have them evaluated by a doctor right away. If left untreated, anorexia can lead to serious complications such as malnutrition and organ failure. However, with treatment, most people with anorexia will gain back the weight they lost, and the physical problems they developed as a result of the anorexia will get better.
The following are common signs of anorexia:
- Dramatic weight loss
- Wearing baggy clothing that may help hide weight loss
- Denying that extreme thinness is a problem
- Fear of being “fat”
- Denial of low body weight
- Preoccupation with food, dieting, counting calories, etc.
- Refusal to eat certain foods such as carbs or fats
- Avoiding mealtimes or eating in front of others
- Preparing elaborate meals for others but refusing to eat them
SIGNS / SYMPTOMS OF BULIMIA NERVOSA
People with bulimia nervosa have episodes of eating large amounts of food (called bingeing) followed by purging (vomiting or using laxatives), fasting, or exercising excessively to compensate for the overeating.
Unlike anorexia, people with bulimia are often a normal weight. But they have the same intense fear of gaining weight and may have a distorted body image. They may see themselves as “fat” and desperately want to lose weight. Because they often feel ashamed and disgusted with themselves, people with bulimia become very good at hiding the bulimic behaviors.
If left untreated, bulimia can result in long-term health problems such as abnormal heart rhythms, bleeding from the esophagus due to excessive reflux of stomach acid, dental problems, and kidney problems. However, bulimia can be treated successfully through cognitive-behavioral therapy, certain anticonvulsant medicines, antidepressants, or combinations of these therapies. It’s important to seek help if you think someone you care about has bulimia.
The following are common signs of bulimia:
- Evidence of binge eating, including disappearance of large amounts of food in a short time, or finding lots of empty food wrappers or containers
- Evidence of purging, including trips to the bathroom after meals, sounds or smells of vomiting, or packages of laxatives or diuretics
- Skipping meals or avoiding eating in front of others, or eating very small portions
- Exercising excessively
- Wearing baggy clothes to hide the body
- Complaining about being “fat”
- Using gum, mouthwash, or mints excessively
- Constantly dieting
- Scabbed or scarred knuckles from repeatedly inducing vomiting
IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW FEEL(S) SUICIDAL, go to the emergency room, call a mental health professional who can talk to you NOW, or call the police and say you have a mental health crisis, not a criminal situation!
In the US, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Text HOME to The Crisis Textline at 741741. They are available 24/7 in the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom, and Ireland.
See Also: HELPING SOMEONE WHO IS SUICIDAL