Eating disorders are more than just dieting too much. Eating disorders are real, treatable medical illnesses. People with eating disorders often also suffer from depression, substance abuse or anxiety disorders. Research is finding that an interaction of genetic, biological, psychological and social factors cause eating disorders.
A person with an eating disorder may start out eating smaller or larger portions of food, but with an eating disorder, the urge to eat less or more may spiral out of control into extreme efforts to control weight or food intake.
An eating disorder can become life-threatening if a person doesn’t receive treatment. The eating disorder, Anorexia Nervosa is associated with the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder.
Who is susceptible to an eating disorder?
Eating disorders affect both genders. However, rates among women and girls are 2½ times greater than among men and boys. About 30 million Americans will suffer from an eating disorder during their lives. That’s more than the combined populations of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan and Indiana.
Eating disorders often appear during the teen or young adult years but can also develop during childhood or later in life.
What are the more common eating disorders?
People with anorexia nervosa often have a distorted body image and self-esteem that is heavily influenced by perceptions of body weight and shape. They see themselves as overweight, even when they’re significantly underweight. They often become obsessed with:
Those with Anorexia Nervosa restricting type may portion food carefully and eat only small quantities of specific foods.
Individuals with Anorexia Nervosa binge-eating/purging type may follow binge eating with excessive dieting, exercise, induced vomiting or misuse of laxatives, diuretics or enemas.
This illness can result in:
People with Bulimia Nervosa often repeatedly and uncontrollably eat large amounts of food. They follow food binges with forced vomiting, excessive use of laxatives or diuretics, fasting, excessive exercise or a combination.
Those with Bulimia Nervosa are usually of normal weight or may be slightly overweight. However, they often fear gaining weight and are very unhappy with their body size and shape.
The binge and purge cycle often takes place multiple times during a day or week and is done in secret — accompanied by feelings of shame or disgust.
This illness can result in:
With this condition, purging does not follow binge eating. So binge eaters are often overweight. They experience guilt and shame, which can result in more binge eating. Obese people with this disorder are at higher risk for developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
How do doctors treat eating disorders?
Check with your health care provider for guidance in treatment options, which may include:
Typical goals of treatment will include:
If you or someone you care about might have an eating disorder, your health care professional can help and provide guidance to a complete recovery and a healthy approach to nutrition.