"Officially recognized by the medical Community only since 1980, Eating disorders were first brought to the public's attention when pop singer Karen Carpenter (1953-1983) died from complications resulting from anorexia. People suffering from eating disorders battle life-threatening obsessions with food and unhealthy thoughts about their body weight and shape. If untreated, these disorders can lead to death. Researchers have found many factors that are probable causes of eating disorders. Recovery for an eating disorder is possible, though it is a difficult process that should not be done alone. The first steps toward recovery are for the sufferer to accept that there is a problem and to show a willingness to focus on his or her feelings rather than on food and weight (Levchuck, Kosek, and Drohan, 2000)." Easting disorders, specifically anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, are dangerous psychological illnesses that affect millions of people.
In order to begin to overcome these diseases and fight the ravaging effects that they have on millions of young women and girls three aspects must first be analyzed. It must be discussed the types of eating disorders that exist, the causes, the consequences of these disorders and the treatment and prevention of these disorders. Anorexia Nervosa is a condition in which a person refuses to maintain a healthy body weight. "The term anorexia nervosa means literally 'nervous lack of appetite' (Levchuck, Kosek, and Drohan, 2000)." However, it must be understood that this disorder does not mean that anorexic individuals do not lack appetite, rather battle hunger every day. Instead anorexics are extremely terrified of gaining weight, or being perceived as over weight.
This perception of abnormal body weight may not be accompanied with actual body weight, rather may be derived from a targeted area of the body such as the thighs or the stomach. An anorexic's view point of their body is often skewed and tied closely to their self-esteem. "Continued weight loss is considered by anorectics to be a sign of an achievement and self-discipline while any weight gain, even if it brings them closer to a healthy body weight, is considered a sign of weakness or a lack of self-control (Levchuck, Kosek, and Drohan, 2000)." Because the secretive nature of anorexia, it is often hare to diagnose and treat. Anorexic individuals are usually good at concealing their self-starvation and may even engage in purging if forced to consume food.
Anorectics wear cloths that conceal the drastic weight losses that have occurred, and despite the lack of food intake they may exhibit high levels of energy. In addition Anorectics may develop oral habits such as chewing gum, drinking excessive amounts of coffee, or chain smoking. While anorectics are unwilling to consume food, it is likely that they obsession that they may experience towards food will be extreme. (Levchuck, Kosek, and Drohan, 2000) Anorexia nervosa and Bulimia nervosa are both similar and different in many ways. Anorexia and Bulimia share the obsession with food as a commonality, however while anorectics center around the starvation, bulimics rely on a binging and purging mechanism. Both are highly secretive, and include starvation.
Bulimia, however, often involves binge eating and then purging by vomiting, excessive amounts of laxatives, diuretics, enemas, or excessive exercise. (Levchuck, Kosek, and Drohan, 2000) Bulimics use binge eating as a coping mechanism to deal with depression or anxiety. After and episode of binge eating, they then are overcome with a great sense of disappointment and self-loathing. Similar to anorexia, bulimia is often triggered by a lack of control sensation. Many times when individuals feel as if they are not in control of various aspects of life eating disorders may develop. This "lack of control" often spurs feelings of low self-esteem or insecurity.
To cope with these feelings many try to cope by control weight loss. Eating disorders are prone to exist in the lives of individuals who are perfectionist, or those trying to win the approval of those around them. Often these eating disorders exist as a mechanism of achievement and accomplishment. Those with eating disorders often want to be the smartest, the best, and the slimmest. The effects of these disorders can be devastating both physically and psychologically. Binge-eating can cause obesity, which can lead to further complications of diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension.
Starvation can be extremely dangerous as well. When the body is denied access to fats and proteins for extended periods of time, the body can often turn to internal sources such as bones and internal organs for these necessary elements. This can eventually lead to kidney or liver disease, as well osteoporosis and many other complications. In addition to physical complications that can develop with eating disorders, the psychological ramifications are also great.
Because eating disorders are hard to overcome and often triggered by feelings of depression and insecurity, further addiction to this behavior can be triggered whenever the individual finds themselves in a particular stressful situation. Also, because the body is deprived to necessary nutrients, certain chemical changes can take place the make it difficult for individuals with an eating disorder to perceive things normally. In addition and eating disorder can often lead to further psychological disorders such as depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, and anxiety and panic disorders. (Levchuck, Kosek, and Drohan, 2000) The treatment of these diseases is often complicated and difficult due to the secretive nature of these disorders. Because the disorder is so secretive and leads most of those who suffer from them into recluse, it will be necessary for these individuals to find a program that allows them to once again build relationships with family and friends.
To begin recovery, it is important to find a treatment program that is right for him or her. This program may be either inpatient or outpatient based on the severity of the condition. In patient programs are often reserved for individuals who are at a critical point in the stage of the illness physically, or are entertaining thoughts that may be suicidal in nature. It is necessary the recovery process for these diseases to be part physical and part psychological. Most usually a recovery process will include involvement of a support group where sufferers are surrounded by other who have battle the same disorder, and can lend advice and suggestions derived from personal experience. This allows suffers to not feel so alone, and also to begin building relationships with others.
The most integral portion of recovery is the process of regaining self-esteem and a sense of worthiness. Because many sufferers of these disorders do not feel as if they are worthy of being loved, it is necessary to change the self-perception that accompanies these disorders in order to enable these individuals to recover successfully. In addition, it is also necessary for these individuals to overcome their fear of food, and to begin to develop eating habits that include healthful foods and maintain a healthy body weight. Bulimia and Anorexia, as well as other eating disorders are symptomatically physical, but are derived from psychological factors. These diseases stem from issues that develop early in life and sometimes treatment may last a lifetime. It is important to understand not only the symptoms and consequence, but also the causes in order to apply treatment and preventative measures.
(Levchuck, Kosek, and Drohan, 2000) References "Eating Disorders." Caroline M. Levchuck, Jane Kelly Kosek, and Michele Drohan. Healthy Living. Allison McNeill, Editor.
Farmington Hills, Mich. : URL, 2000.