Eating Disorders

Eating Disorders 11-2-01 Eating Disorders Bulimia is an illness characterized by uncontrolled episodes of overeating usually followed by self-induced vomiting or other purging. Alternative names for Bulimia are Bulimia Nervosa, Binge-Purge Behavior, and also Eating Disorders. In bulimia, eating binges may occur as often as several times a day. Induced vomiting known as purging allows the eating to continue without the weight gain; it may continue until interrupted by sleep, abdominal pain, or the presence of another person. The person is usually aware that their eating pattern is abnormal and may experience fear or guilt associated with the binge-purge episodes. The behavior is usually secretive, although clues to this disorder include over activity, peculiar eating habits, eating rituals, and frequent weighing. Body weight is usually normal or low, although the people may perceive themselves as overweight. The exact cause of bulimia is unknown, but factors thought to contribute to its development are family problems, maladaptive behavior, self-identity conflict, and cultural overemphasis on physical appearance.

Bulimia may be associated with depression. The disorder is usually not associated with any underlying physical problem although the behavior may be associated with neurological or endocrine diseases. The disorder occurs most often in females of adolescent or young adult age. The incidence is estimated to be 3% in the general population; but 20% of college women suffers from it. A cultural and family de-emphasis on physical appearance may eventually reduce the incidence of this disorder.

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There are several symptoms associated with bulimia such as: binge eating followed by purging, self induced vomiting, inappropriate use of diuretics and laxatives, menstruation is absent or deceased, and overachieving behavior. Bulimia is characterized by a cycle of binge eating followed by purging to try and rid the body of unwanted calories. A binge is different for all individuals. For one person a binge may range from 1000 to 10000 calories, for another, one cookie may be considered a binge. Purging methods usually involve vomiting and laxative abuse. Other forms of purging can involve excessive exercise, fasting, use of diuretics, diet pills and enemas.

Bulimics are usually people that do not feel secure about their own self worth. They usually strive for the approval of others. They tend to do whatever they can to please others, while hiding their own feelings. Food becomes their only source of comfort. Bulimia also serves as a function for blocking or letting out feelings. Unlike anorexics, bulimics do realize they have a problem and are more likely to seek help.

Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder associated with a distorted body image that may be caused by a mental disorder. Inadequate calorie intake results in severe weight loss. There are a couple of alternative names associated with anorexia such as anorexia nervosa and eating disorder. The exact cause of this disorder is not known, but social attitudes towards body appearance and family factors play a role in its development. The condition affects females more frequently, usually in adolescence or young adulthood.

Gorging followed by vomiting (spontaneous or self-induced) and inappropriate use of laxatives or diuretics are behaviors that may accompany this disorder. Risk factors are being Caucasian, having an upper or middle economic background, being female, and having a goal-oriented family or personality. The incidence is 4 out of 100,000 people. In some cases, prevention may not be possible. Encouraging healthy, realistic attitudes toward weight and diet may be helpful.

Sometimes, counseling can help. There are several symptoms associated with anorexia, such as: weight loss of 25% or greater, cold intolerance, constipation, menstruation is absent, skeletal muscle atrophy, loss of fatty tissue, low blood pressure, dental cavities, increased susceptibility to infection, blotchy or yellow skin, dry hair, hair loss, and also depression. Anorexia is characterized by a significant weight loss resulting from excessive dieting. Most women and an increasing number of men are motivated by the strong desire to be thin and a fear of becoming obese. Anorexics consider themselves to be fat, no matter what their actual weight is.

Often anorexics do not recognize they are underweight and may still feel fat at 80 lbs. Anorexics close to death will show you on their bodies where they feel they need to lose weight. In their attempts to become even thinner, the anorexic will avoid food and taking in calories at all costs, which can result in death. An estimated 10 to 20% will eventually die from complications related to it. Anorexics usually strive for perfection. They set very high standards for themselves and feel they always have to prove their competence. They usually always put the needs of others ahead of their own needs.

A person with anorexia may also feel the only control they have in their lives is in the area of food and weight. If they can’t control what is happening around them, they can control their weight. Each morning the number on the scale will determine whether or not they have succeeded or failed in their goal for thinness. They feel powerful and in control when they can make themselves lose weight. Sometimes focusing on calories and losing weight is their way of blocking out feelings and emotions. For them, it’s easier to diet then it is to deal with their problems directly.

Anorexics usually have low self-esteem and sometimes feel they don’t deserve to eat. The anorexics usually deny that anything is wrong. Hunger is strongly denied. They usually resist any attempts to help them because the idea of therapy is seen only as a way to force them to eat. Once they admit they have a problem and are willing to seek help, they can be treated effectively through a combination of psychological, nutritional and medical care. Uncontrollable eating and consequent weight gain characterize compulsive overeating.

Compulsive overeaters use food as a way to cope with stress, emotional conflicts and daily problems. The food can block out feelings and emotions. Compulsive overeaters usually feel out of control and are aware their eating patterns are abnormal. Like bulimics, compulsive overeaters do recognize they have a problem. Compulsive overeating usually starts in early childhood when eating patterns are formed.

Most people who become compulsive eaters are people who never learned the proper way to deal with stressful situations and used food instead as a way of coping. Fat can also serve as a protective function for them, especially in people that have been victims of sexual abuse. They sometimes feel that being overweight will keep others at a distance and make them less attractive. Unlike anorexia and bulimia, there are a high proportion of male overeaters. The more weight that is gained, the harder they try to diet and dieting is usually what leads to the next binge, which can be followed by feelings of powerlessness, guilt, shame and failure. D …