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A Revealing Look at the Hidden World of Eating Disorders

February 23, 2018
Published in: Mental Health, Nutrition

Group huddle

Eating Disorders Awareness Week will take place from February 26th through March 4th this year. The international awareness week focuses on tackling the myths and stereotypes that surround eating disorders, and aims to raise awareness and action by talking about the topics that matter to those that suffer from such disorders.

Even though an estimated 10 million Americans have some form of eating-related disorder, there is still a lot of misunderstanding and miscommunication. In a culture where diet and body image are heavily discussed and scrutinized, this can lead to a negative stigma which can exacerbate eating issues. So many of the ways eating disorders are manifested remain hidden and secretive. By opening dialogues about the disorders, the awareness week hopes to help diminish this stigma from our society.

To get the ball rolling, we're going to briefly discuss some eating disorders and the effects that they can have.

Anorexia

ScaleAnorexia is a psychological illness which can lead to devastating physical consequences. Those with the condition often display a distorted view of personal body weight and an obsessive fear of gaining weight. These characteristics manifest themselves in the deprivation of food intake and can often coincide with an increased amount of exercise.

Anorexia is known to be the most fatal of all psychiatric illnesses and can affect men and women of all ages, despite some preconceptions relating it to just teen girls. But complete recovery is possible, with early treatment leading to the greatest success.

Bulimia

The characterization of Bulimia includes a period of binge eating, quickly followed by an attempt to avoid gaining weight from the food consumed. These attempts can include behaviors such as self-induced vomiting, fasting, over exercising or the misuse of laxatives.

Those who have bulimia are usually attempting to control their weight through diet, but give in to the temptation to binge eat. Afterwards, they experience intense guilt about the binge eating and attempt to purge the food by one of the behaviors mentioned above.

Because Bulimia sufferers do not always display any signs of dramatic weight loss, it can be difficult to detect, but can be successfully treated when it is.

Binge eating

Like Bulimia, binge eating includes frequent bouts of overeating. But those that have binge eating disorders do not attempt to purge the food, although they do experience a similar feeling of guilt and self-loathing after binge eating.

Binge eating often represents a distraction from the real problems and worries that the patient is going through.

The disorders that we have just discussed and outlined are just three of a whole number of eating disorders. And it's important to note that while the overviews may be correct in a general term, exact cases, situations, and signs can be different from person to person.

With over 30 million people in the US with eating disorders and more with food or body image issues, the health consequences of eating disorders in general cannot be ignored. While some health issues can take years to develop, such as dental complications or esophageal rupture, other health problems can develop instantly. These include problems with the heart or electrolytes in the body that can result in death. For these reasons, it is imperative that you understand how hidden eating disorders can and should not be considered harmless.

Getting Help for Eating Disorders

If you are concerned, for yourself or for somebody you know, or would simply like more information on eating disorders, there are a number of great organizations available such as NEDA, The National Eating Disorders Association. NEDA has trained volunteers who can further educate and provide help and support to those who need it.

Finally, don't forget that the Eating Disorders Awareness Week will be taking place from February 26th to March 4th. Do your part to spread awareness for these disorders by sharing information with your friends and family.