Hidden Signs of an Eating Disorder
posted by The OB/GYN Team | April 1, 2016
Do you know that only 5 percent of American females have the body type that advertisers portray as ideal? Or that:
• 47 percent of girls in 5th to 12th grade expressed a desire to lose weight because of magazine pictures.
• 81 percent of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat.
Eating disorders are serious and often life-threatening emotional and physical conditions characterized by extreme attitudes, emotions, and behaviors around weight and food issues. As many as 30 million Americans of all ages and genders struggle with an eating disorder, according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders.
Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. The most common manifestations include anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder. As an eating disorder progresses in severity, it takes a dramatic toll on the body’s systems and may eventually result in organ failure, heart failure, malnutrition that leads to starvation, or suicide.
Anorexia nervosa is characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss and is the third most common chronic illness among adolescents.
“Even the models we see in magazines wish they could look like their own images.”—Cheri K. Erdman, author of “Nothing to Lose”
Between 5 to 20 percent of individuals struggling with anorexia nervosa will die, according to the National Eating Disorders Association. Although far more prevalent in females, one in four anorexic children referred to an eating disorders professional is a boy.
• Reduced food intake leading to a dangerously low weight
• Intense fear of weight gain that manifests in an obsession with weight, food types, calories, and dieting
• Restrictive and ritualistic behavior involving certain foods
• Compulsive and rigid exercise routine to “burn off” calories
• Abuse of laxatives, colonics, enemas, diuretics, diet pills, or emetics
• Distorted body perception; feeling fat despite the reality
• Denial when faced with the severity of the situation
• Withdrawal and isolation
• Difficulty concentrating or focusing
• Depression, shame, and guilt: almost 50 percent of people with eating disorders meet the criteria for depression
Often a female with anorexia consults her OB/GYN because she has stopped menstruating. The effect on the endocrine system causes thyroid abnormalities, extreme fatigue, intolerance to cold, and thinning hair. Sometimes a layer of fine hair called lanugo develops on the face and body in an attempt to stay warm.
Bulimia nervosa is characterized by a cycle of bingeing and purging behaviors designed to undo the effects of overeating. People struggling with this condition often have an average body weight.
• Frequent trips to the bathroom after meals
• Signs and/or smells of vomiting
• Swelling of the salivary glands in the cheeks or jaw area from vomiting; sore throat from vomiting
• Enamel erosion or staining of teeth from the acids in vomit
• Calluses on the back of the hands and knuckles from inducing vomiting
• Social withdrawal as more of the schedule is devoted to binge-and-purge sessions
• Continued extreme exercise that often causes overuse injuries
Binge eating disorder is experienced as a loss of control around the amount of food consumed. Body weight varies from normal to mild, moderate, or severe obesity, and binge eaters do not regularly use purging or restriction behaviors. Binge eating is the most common eating disorder in the U.S.
• Eating very fast, even if not hungry, and not stopping even if uncomfortably full
• Eating alone, eating in secret, hiding, hoarding, or stealing food
• Feeling disgusted, depressed, ashamed, and guilty afterward
• Sporadic fasting, extreme restriction, or constant dieting
Many people who suffer with eating disorders hide and deny their conditions. The earlier that help is sought, the greater the chances for physical and emotional recovery.
If you or someone you love is struggling, Revere Health OB/GYN has three locations in Utah County with compassionate, caring physicians ready to help you.
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.
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