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February 22, 2016 | Behavioral Health • Family Medicine
During National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, February 22-28, it is a good time to become more familiar with this highly destructive disorder. It is particularly important for you to know more about the signs and what to look out for when you have an adolescent daughter or son. However, eating disorders do not discriminate based on age, gender, background or body type, so everyone can benefit from understanding more about this disorder and who is susceptible to its grasp. Medical Daily notes that “thirty million people — men and women of all different backgrounds, ages and sizes — will be impacted by an eating disorder at some point in their life.”
The National Institute of Mental Health defines an eating disorder as an illness that creates havoc in the sufferer’s everyday diet. The person with the eating disorder will either eat far too little or will severely overeat to the point of “binge eating.” Further, those who binge eat sometimes, though not always, become engaged in “bingeing and purging” to rid their bodies of the excess food once they complete their binge, usually causing themselves to throw up the food or doing prolonged and intensive exercise sessions to try to burn away extra calories. Medical professionals and scientists only know that eating disorders develop due to a complex blend of psychological, behavioral, biological, social and genetic factors.
As the scientific and medical communities continue to work toward coming to a better understanding of this complex condition, people with this distressing disorder continue to silently suffer. Since eating disorders cause such a disconnect between the sufferer’s perception of their appearance versus how they truly look, they need help from others, such as family and friends, to help them understand that they need help. And since those suffering from an eating disorder often do not want help, for a complex array of reasons associated with the disorder, you sometimes have to step in and make decisions on their behalf.
If you know someone who exhibits any signs that they may suffer from an eating disorder, it is important that you watch carefully for some of the main hallmarks of the illness. The National Association for Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD) notes that eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, so your attention to their well-being can make all the difference toward getting better and building a healthy life.
Below are some of the signs for eating disorders you should look for during National Eating Disorder Awareness Week:
According to ANAD and WebMD, depression is often a component involved with eating disorders. Per a 2008 study by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, 24 percent of bipolar patients met criteria for eating disorders while nearly half the patients diagnosed with binge eating disorder had a history of depression. Watch for some amalgamation of depression and unusual eating patterns in your loved one.
Some indicators seem almost stereotypical; however, this is a case where many of the stereotypes are often right on the mark. Pay attention to unhealthy emerging eating habits set to control their weight, especially if they do not have any visible weight issues. Some of the most common indicators of an eating disorder include vomiting, excessive exercising, abstaining from meals, eating tiny portions, fasting, smoking cigarettes and taking laxatives.
If you note that a potential sufferer from anorexia, already at a normal weight, suddenly loses a dramatic amount of weight, it is worth exploring. Those battling bulimia may not exhibit much weight change, outside of minor fluctuations, since they often engage in purging practices that help them manage to keep their disorder somewhat less physically apparent.
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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.