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Eating Disorders Don't Have To Destroy Lives...

In a culture where thinness is too often equated with physical attractiveness, success, and happiness, nearly everyone has dealt with issues regarding the effect their weight and body shape can have on their self-image. However, eating disorders are not about dieting or vanity; they're complex psychological disorders in which an individual's eating patterns are developed--and then habitually maintained--in an attempt to cope with other problems in their life. Help is available for those who need to restore the balance in their lives.

Common Eating Disorders:

  • Anorexia Nervosa
  • Binge Eating
  • Bulimia Nervosa
  • Compulsive Overeating
  • Obesity
  • Pica
  • Eating Disorders - What Are They?

    Eating disorders are not due to a failure of will or behavior; rather, they are real, treatable medical illnesses in which certain maladaptive patterns of eating take on a life of their own. Eating disorders frequently develop during adolescence or early adulthood, but some reports indicate their onset can occur during childhood or later in adulthood. Eating disorders frequently co-occur with other psychiatric disorders such as depression, substance abuse, and anxiety disorders. In addition, people who suffer from eating disorders can experience a wide range of physical health complications, including serious heart conditions and kidney failure which may lead to death. Recognition of eating disorders as real and treatable diseases, therefore, is critically important. Eating is controlled by many factors, including appetite, food availability, family, peer, and cultural practices, and attempts at voluntary control. Dieting to a body weight leaner than eating disorders and foodneeded for health is highly promoted by current fashion trends, sales campaigns for special foods, and in some activities and professions. Eating disorders involve serious disturbances in eating behavior, such as extreme and unhealthy reduction of food intake or severe overeating, as well as feelings of distress or extreme concern about body shape or weight.
    All eating disorders have health risks associated with them. The nature and types of the health issues vary by the disorder, but here are a few of the more common:

    Health Consequences of Anorexia Nervosa:

    In anorexia nervosa’s cycle of self-starvation, the body is denied the essential nutrients it needs to function normally. Thus, the body is forced to slow down all of its processes to conserve energy, resulting in serious medical consequences.

    • Abnormally slow heart rate and low blood pressure, which mean that the heart muscle is changing. The risk for heart failure rises as the heart rate and blood pressure levels sink lower and lower.
    • Reduction of bone density (osteoporosis), which results in dry, brittle bones.
    • Muscle loss and weakness.
    • Severe dehydration, which can result in kidney failure.
    • Fainting, fatigue, and overall weakness.
    • Dry hair and skin; hair loss is common.
    • Growth of a downy layer of hair called lanugo all over the body, including the face, in an effort to keep the body warm.

    Health Consequences of Bulimia Nervosa:

    The recurrent binge-and-purge cycles of bulimia can affect the entire digestive system and can lead to electrolyte and chemical imbalances in the body that affect the heart and other major organ functions.

    • Electrolyte imbalances that can lead to irregular heartbeats and possibly heart failure and death. Electrolyte imbalance is caused by dehydration and loss of potassium, sodium and chloride from the body as a result of purging behaviors.
    • Potential for gastric rupture during periods of bingeing.
    • Inflammation and possible rupture of the esophagus from frequent vomiting.
    • Tooth decay and staining from stomach acids released during frequent vomiting.
    • Chronic irregular bowel movements and constipation as a result of laxative abuse.
    • Peptic ulcers and pancreatitis.

    Health Consequences of Binge Eating Disorder:

    Binge eating disorder often results in many of the same health risks associated with clinical obesity.

    • High blood pressure.
    • High cholesterol levels.
    • Heart disease as a result of elevated triglyceride levels.
    • Type II diabetes mellitus.
    • Gallbladder disease.
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