"Eating Disorders" have become more prevalent in our society during the past two decades. Specifically, eating disorders represent a variety of disturbances in a person's eating habits, such as: An eating or "fasting" style that seems out of control and tends to interfere with responsibilities or interpersonal relationships; a preoccupation with food--pursuit or avoidance; and the appearance of feeling nervous, depressed, guilty or lonely.
Two of the most prevalent eating disorders are, Anorexia Nervosa, the "dieting disease", and Bulimia Nervosa, the "self-stuffing disease." Anorexia occurs in approximately one out of every two hundred females between twelve and eighteen years of age, and is increasing in occurrence among males as well. Primarily, it is characterized by an extremely intense fear of weight gain, and a variety of behaviors that render weight-loss. In particular, dieting, fasting and the abuse of several drugs which induce voiding and loss of fluids. As most anorexics maintain a distorted body image--"feel fat", no matter how much they diet--, they have no criterion for stopping the weight-loss behaviors. Anorexia can seriously threaten the health of the affected individual as well as the emotional stability of the involved family. Consider the following: 1) Has someone you know experienced considerable weight loss without a known medical reason? 2) Have you witnessed a noticeable reduction in that person's food intake? 3) Does she make statements about feeling "fat" or "full", frequently? Or exercise excessively, despite fatigue? 4) Does the individual seem to fear weight-gain? Become more anxious, withdrawn or depressed?
Bulimia, the more common eating disorder, may affect one-fourth of all college women. The most prominent feature of Bulimia is binge (uncontrolled) eating followed by purging (regurgitation after feeling ashamed of one’s uncontrolled eating). Purging helps the bulimic "cleanse" herself in order to restore a sense of well-being. The binge-purge cycle serves as an unhealthy choice for expressing frustration and anger in one’s life. Unlike anorexics who deny their problem, bulimics generally recognize their abnormal eating behavior and try to maintain appropriate weight. Their body images are not as distorted as those of anorexics. However, there are indicators about which concerned family members should be aware: 1) Is there a noticeable binge-purge cycle? 2) Does the person, who seems of normal body weight, frequently discuss "weight maintenance", and attempt to control it through dieting, vomiting or drug abuse? 3) Are there increased concerns for "secrecy?" 4) Are there frequent self-deprecating remarks and a depressive appearance?
What causes eating disorders? There is considerable evidence that they are precipitated by "stressors" in our environment. For example, sudden traumatic changes in one's life such as death, divorce or the severing of intimate ties; and job, school or residence changes. Furthermore, the fear of (or actual) failure at a perceived important activity, commonly at school, work or in a "special" sport or skill. A major contributor is the emphasis society places on outward appearances--shape, style and relationship of weight-consciousness to success. Early detection is important, as eating disorders can have devastating physical consequences: slower heart rate and reflexes, organ damage, hormonal changes, anemia, increased sensitivity to cold; and even death. Once detected, the individual needs to discover a healthier, more adaptive conduit for expressing concerns and seeking desired outcomes. Obtaining help from a qualified therapist is recommended. Additionally, support groups, through which families can share common concerns about eating disorders are also useful. Whatever your choice, let somebody help you...before its too late.