February 27th to March 5th is labeled by Mental Health America as Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Eating disorders are real and serious illnesses that can be life-threatening, but are treatable. They are very common with estimates of more than 5 million Americans affected each year. There are three major types of eating disorders. Approximately 1 to 3 percent of teenage girls and young women may be affected by these disorders.
Anorexia Nervosa is a disorder where people intentionally starve themselves and weigh at least 15 percent below their normal body weight. Those with the disorder constantly exercise and always feel cold or tired. One in 10 cases leads to death, with cardiac and other medical complications present in the remainder.
Bulimia Nervosa is the disorder where those affected consume large amounts of food and then rid their bodies of the excess calories by vomiting, abusing laxatives, diuretics, taking enemas or exercising constantly. Some telltale signs include tooth decay (from stomach acids present when vomiting) to cuts on the backs of hand to induce vomiting.
Binge Eating Disorder resembles bulimia and is characterized by episodes of uncontrolled eating. Binge disorder differs from bulimia in that individuals do not purge excess food from their bodies. Estimates reveal that up to one-third of binge eaters may be males.
Why do teems develop eating disorders? There may be more than one reason a person develops an eating disorder. A person's self image, the need to be perfect, a stressful personal life, social or family pressures, and even the body's own chemistry can influence the development of eating disorders. It is not uncommon for those with eating disorders to be diagnosed and treated for other mental illness at the same time.
Eating disorders are most successfully treated when diagnosed early. The first step is a complete physical examination to rule out any other illness. Once an eating disorder is diagnosed, the doctor will decide if the person is in immediate medical danger and should be treated in a hospital. The tools to treat eating disorders include cognitive behavioral therapy, psychotherapy, nutritional counseling and medication.
For more information on eating disorders you can log onto www.mentalhealthamerica.net or call 1-800-969-6642.