Anorexia is a very dangerous eating disorder. One in ten cases ends in death. Anorexia is an eating disorder where people starve themselves. This disease usually begins in young people, usually at the onset of puberty. They avoid high calories foods and exercise constantly. Eventually people with anorexia become very thin. They may become so malnourished that they have to be hospitalized. Most of the time they will still deny that something is wrong with them.
Nine out of ten people diagnosed with anorexia are female. A person technically becomes anorexic when their weight drops below 15% below what their body weight should.
It seems that the anorexic has an intense fear of becoming fat. They tend to become obsessed about food and their weight. They will often develop rituals for eating their food and often will refuse to eat in front of anybody. Often times they will only eat a particular type of food for weeks at a time and will have a ritual for eating that particular food like breaking it up in small exact portions and chew completely until it dissolves, take a few swallows of water and continue. It may take them 30 minutes to eat a piece of toast.
It is very important for the anorexic to have that kind of control. Like other eating disorders, anorexia may be linked to low self esteem about their bodies and often use food to control their feelings. They may feel that their lives may be out of control, but they can control their body and what goes in it. Actually many anorexics care a lot about food. They may cook large amount of food for other people, but they will not touch it themselves, again it is all about control. Their strict exercise regimens come into play as well. They can control what they do. Some experts think that an anorexic is unconsciously trying to come to terms with unresolved conflicts or maybe traumatic childhood experiences. Anorexics tend to be perfectionists. A typical anorexic is a good student and is involved with school activities and the community.
There are many symptoms of anorexia. The problem is that some people may not experience enough symptoms to raise alarm, but the damage is still being done. Anorexics will go to great lengths to disguise their disease. Anorexics weight will be inconsistent with their age. Girls will often lose their periods. If you notice that their previously shiny healthy hair is now thinning and falling out, it could be a sign of anorexia. Their skin may also be dry and flaky. Some experience shortness of breath and are frequently cold. They will exercise religiously and they will be obsessive about their calorie intake.
Anorexia needs to be treated medically. They should be in a clinic designed just for eating disorders. It’s not just changing their eating habits but working on the feelings that trigger their eating problems. They often need counseling for a year or more to completely change the way they feel about food. The anorexic must want the help; you can’t force them because they don’t see what you see. To them, there is always weight to lose.
Anorexia Nervosa Signs
Anorexia Nervosa is a very serious eating disorder which can be potentially life threatening. It’s main characteristic is self starvation and excessive weight loss.
Anorexia Nervosa has four main symptoms and they are as follows:
1. A strong resistance to maintaining a person’s body weight at or above what would be considered a normal minimum body weight for that person’s age, weight and height.
2. A very strong and intense fear of getting fat or being overweight even though to all appearances the person is at a normal or even below normal weight.
3. A strong disturbance by the shape of the person’s body. An obsession with achieving a certain look that, though to all normal appearances, is thin and frail, to the person suffering from this disease looks perfectly normal.
4. A sudden loss of the menstrual cycle in women who are past the age of puberty and in girls who have yet to reach puberty, the cycle never begins.
It is important that to have the best chance of successfully treating a person with Anorexia Nervosa that the disease be diagnosed early and treatment begin immediately.
There are many warning signs that someone is suffering from this disease. They are as follows:
a. A sudden and dramatic loss of weight in a very short period of time.
b. An obsession with counting calories, grams, fat content and a number of other things associated with the food the person eats, reaching the point where they keep daily charts of calorie intake to make sure they don’t go above a certain level.
c. A gradual elimination of certain food groups that the person believes to be fattening such as sweets and eventually reaching the point of eliminating essential foods that contain carbohydrates. Eventually there is very little food the person will eat.
d. A person suffering from Anorexia Nervosa will often make comments about how fat they are even though it is apparent that they are in no way overweight. This is usually one of the earliest warning signs.
e. The person may be very hungry and in need of food intake but will deny that they are hungry at all.
f. The person will start to develop odd food rituals such as eating foods in a particular order and arranging the foods in a certain way on the plate. The person will also begin to excessively chew their food in the hopes that more will be digested and less will turn to fat.
g. The person will start to make excuses for missing meals such as, homework, tired or just not hungry. They will do anything to avoid eating.
h. The person will often begin a rigid exercise routine regardless of weather, fatigue, illness or even injury. The person will push themselves to any length to get their exercise in. This in itself can cause great harm if the person is out of shape.
i. A person suffering from this disease will withdraw from friends and activities. They will eventually become totally reclusive.
Anorexia Nervosa Effects
The main assault of this disease is that it focuses on self starvation. Since the body needs food as a basic means for survival, the effects of this disease are numerous to say the least. Because the body is not getting enough nutrition, it is forced to slow down in order to compensate for this. This slowing down can have serious consequences on a person’s body.
There are a number of health consequences from Anorexia Nervosa. The main ones are as follows:
1. People suffering from this disease, after an extended period of time, suffer from an abnormally slow heart rate and very low blood pressure. This causes the heart muscle itself to change. The chance of heart failure rises as heart rate and blood pressure decrease.
2. Because of the lack of calcium in a person’s diet, since they are not getting enough food in general, there is a great risk of reduced bone density, which is known as osteoporosis. This results in very dry and brittle bones which makes them very susceptible to breaking.
3. Again, because of the lack of nutrition, a person suffering from this disease will suffer from muscle weakness and potential muscle loss. This can lead to more serious muscular disorders.
4. Most people who suffer from this disease not only don’t eat enough but also don’t even drink enough water. This can result in severe dehydration which can ultimately lead to kidney failure.
5. Less serious symptoms, but certainly cause for concern, are overall weakness including fatigue and fainting, which in itself can be dangerous when behind the wheel of a car.
6. People suffering from this disease also suffer from thin and dry hair. Hair loss is very common.
7. Because of the overall deterioration of the body, a covering of hair begins to grow over the body in an effort to keep the body warm.
And now a few statistics about this disease that you may or may not be aware of.
a. About 90-95% of the people who suffer from this disease are women, most of them young girls.
b. About 1% of all American women suffer from Anorexia Nervosa.
c. Of all the psychiatric disorders, Anorexia Nervosa is the most common diagnosed in women in general.
d. The mortality rate of people suffering from Anorexia Nervosa is between 5 and 20%. The probability of death increases with the length of time the person has been suffering from the disease.
e. Anorexia Nervosa has one of the highest rates of death of all mental disorders.
f. The disease itself usually shows itself in early to mid adolescence.
The treatments for this disease are similar to the treatments for Bulimia. It is important that immediate psychiatric help is gotten for the sufferer. The quicker the diagnosis and treatment the greater the chance for survival.
Bulimia, or bulimia nervosa, is an eating disorder. It begins as a psychological problem. Over time bulimia can lead to serious physical medical problems and may even be fatal. People who are bulimic have episodes of binge eating. After binge eating they will often use an inappropriate method of weight loss control called purging. Purging can be done by forced vomiting. It can also be achieved by fasting, using enemas. Some bulimics use large quantities of laxatives and diuretics. Bulimics often exercise compulsively.
A bingeing episode is when a bulimic eats a large amount of food than most would eat in a single sitting. Bulimics do not binge because of hunger, they eat to help relieve stress and depression and self esteem problems. Bulimics can consume up to 20,000 calories at a time. They binge on “comfort foods”. Foods like ice cream, cakes, sweet foods, high calories foods and pastries. A bulimic can binge from twice a day to several times a day. These episodes typically happen at least twice a week for at least three months.
During an episode of bingeing, they may experience a loss of control. After the bingeing is done, the loss of control is usually followed by calmness. This is usually short lived and self loathing is often experienced. The overeating and purging is a cycle that can soon become an obsession. Purging after bingeing may serve a couple of purposes to the bulimic. It may prevent weight gain and may temporarily relieve depression and negative feelings, so the bulimic may feel that they have a sense of control over their lives.
People who are bulimic look perfectly normal. They are mostly at an average weight or they can be overweight. Women who are bulimic are usually high achievers. Bulimics tend to indulge their cravings, but not only with food. They may indulge and act on impulse when it comes to sexual encounters and using drugs. They may often do binge buying and shoplifting.
Depending on how often a person binges and purges, their overall health may vary. The consequences are usually due to the purging. The physical consequences may include swelling of the stomach and or pancreas. They may be inflammation in the throat and enlarges salivary glands. Bulimics often have tooth decay and gum disease from frequently vomiting stomach acids. Vomiting often may also deplete the potassium and water in their bodily tissues. This may cause abnormal heart rhythms, paralysis and muscle spasms. Some of these physical problems may lead to death. Another danger for bulimics is an increased risk for suicidal depression.
There is no known cause for bulimia. Some health professionals believe that it begins with dissatisfaction of their body and concern with their body size and shape. Sufferers have unhealthy feelings in regard to themselves. Bulimia affects about 10% of college age women in the United States. About 10% of bulimic patients are men. Of all the individuals suffering form bulimia, about 10% of them will die from cardiac arrest, starvation, other medical complications and suicide.
Bulimia Nervosa Signs
Bulimia Nervosa has three primary symptoms.
1. Regular eating of food in large quantities which is accompanied by a sense of loss of control over one’s eating behavior.
2. Regular use of compensating behavior such as induced vomiting, or use of laxatives, diuretic abuse, fasting, and obsessive or compulsive exercise.
3. Extreme worry over body weight and shape.
Specialists have concluded beyond doubt that the chance of recovering from this horrible disease is directly proportional to how soon the disease is discovered and treated. Therefore it is important to be on the lookout for the warning signs of when someone might be suffering from this disease.
These are the warning signs of someone suffering from Bulimia Nervosa.
a. The disappearance of food from the fridge in a very short period of time. This is usually the first sign of binge eating. Also if you happen to find many wrappers or containers in the trash this is another sign of binge eating.
b. Evidence of purging behaviors, such as if the person makes frequent trips to the bathroom after meals or if there are signs, such as smells, of vomiting. Also check for packages of laxatives.
c. A rigid routine of exercise regardless of weather or how tired the person may be.
d. Unusual swelling of the area around the cheeks or jaw.
e. Also check for calluses on the back of hands or knuckles from induced vomiting.
f. Also check to see if the teeth are stained or discolored.
g. Creation of a very rigid routine in order to make time for bingeing and purging.
h. A person suffering from this disease will usually withdraw from society, especially from friends.
i. In general look for signs that weight loss, dieting and control of food intake has become an obsessive point in the person’s life.
Bulimia Nervosa can be very harmful to a person’s body. The cycle of bingeing and purging can take its toll on the digestive system and can drastically alter how it functions, even to the point of the system being unable to function properly on its own where the person can no longer keep food down. This can lead to terrible chemical imbalances in the body and in turn affect many of the major organ functions, including and especially the heart, which can only take so much stress from the bingeing and purging until eventually it can totally give out.
Bulimia Nervosa Effects
Bulimia nervosa can have devastating effects on a person’s body if the disease goes unchecked for a long period of time.
The most serious of these is electrolyte imbalances which are caused by the constant bingeing and purging. These imbalances can lead to irregular heartbeat. If the problem goes on long enough this can lead to heart failure and death. The actual cause of the electrolyte imbalance is because of loss of potassium and sodium from the body and dehydration because of the constant purging.
Another serious problem is caused by the frequent vomiting. That problem is inflammation of the esophagus, which at best can cause difficulty in breathing and at worst possible rupture.
Another problem people with Bulimia Nervosa suffer from, while maybe not as serious as the ones mentioned already, is tooth decay from the frequent vomiting. This decay can eventually lead to tooth loss. While that may not sound all that terrible, it has been shown in studies that people who have their own teeth live longer than people who wear dentures. So this is something to be concerned about.
Because of the constant laxative use a person suffering from this disease will eventually have infrequent and irregular bowel movements and most likely end up suffering from chronic constipation. This can cause more serious problems down the road if this condition persists for any length of time.
And finally there is the possibility of gastric rupture because of the binge eating. This particular problem is very rare, even in the worst cases of Bulimia Nervosa, but nevertheless the possibility still exists, especially if the disease goes untreated for any length of time.
And now, some facts and statistics about the disease itself.
Bulimia Nervosa affects between 1 and 2% of all teenage or young women. The reason for this is mostly psychological because girls at this age are very self conscious about their looks and when they develop this irrational fear that they are too heavy, resulting in a poor social life and low esteem, they are likely to fall pray to this disease because of those fears.
About 80% of all patients suffering from this disease are female. Again, this all goes back to society, especially TV commercials, convincing young women that they have to be skinny as rails and look like fashion models if they are going to be accepted.
The truth is, the majority of people who suffer from this disease will appear to be of average body weight and will not at all appear to be fat.
Oddly, many people with Bulimia Nervosa do recognize that they have a problem. They know that the habits they have picked up of bingeing and purging are not normal. Yet they are unable to stop themselves, much like a person who knows smoking is harmful but can’t quit.
Psychiatrists have determined that the onset of the disease is usually associated with depression, which is usually brought on by the person feeling inadequate as far as his or her appearance.
Bulimia Nervosa Treatment
These treatments actually apply to most eating disorders as they are more or less caused by the same emotional problems.
While eating disorders stem from emotional issues in a person’s life they are nevertheless still serious health conditions that can do great physical harm to the person as well as the emotional harm that has come before it and will continue long after. Early diagnosis gives a person suffering from an eating disorder a better chance for recovery. Eating disorders can become chronic, debilitating, and even life-threatening. Early treatment is critical.
The only really effective and long lasting treatment for an eating disorder like Bulimia Nervosa is some kind of psychotherapy or counseling. This along with attention to both medical and nutritional treatments proves effective in getting a person through this terrible disease. Of course the treatment is going to vary from individual to individual because of the emotional nature of the disease and the severity to which each person is suffering.
Treatment usually involves some form of psychological counseling where the therapist must not only address the eating disorder itself but the underlying reasons for why the person is behaving in this manner. This behavior is usually caused by psychological, interpersonal, and cultural influences and forces. Peer pressure is one of the most common causes of this kind of behavior; the feeling that one has to be thin to fit in with the crowd. That is why this disease targets mostly young girls. The person performing the actual counseling can be a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, nutritionist or even a primary care physician. However in extreme cases a psychiatrist will most likely be needed. Whoever does provide the care should be experienced with treating eating disorders or greater harm than good can be done.
Nutritional counseling is also needed to make sure that the person suffering from this disease is getting a well balanced diet and that the person’s progress is monitored such as weekly weighing. Charts should be kept to make sure the person does not backslide.
Many people with eating disorders respond very well to outpatient therapy where they are allowed to go home after each session. This gives them a feeling of security being in a home environment for most of their treatment. Of course with this type of program it is important that the family carefully monitor the person while they are at home to make sure there is no bingeing and purging. Knowing what to look out for now, this becomes a lot easier.
However, in extreme cases inpatient therapy is required. This is usually necessary when the person is in the later stages of the disease and is already showing serious physical symptoms that are on the verge of becoming life threatening or when the psychological factor has become so strong that the person can no longer rationally function in a home environment. Inpatient therapy usually needs to be followed by a period of outpatient therapy as well until the person is able to function on their own.
Just like with alcoholism and drug addiction there is no cure. It is a daily battle fighting an eating disorder like Bulimia Nervosa. But with early detection and proper care and person can go on to lead a normal and healthy life.