There are a lot of illnesses, diseases, and addictions in America today. The one we hear the most about is cancer. Cancer has so many variations and forms. Some are curable and some are fatal. The one disease and addiction we don’t hear and know about is eating disorders. “Eating disorders are a very serious problem”, according to Kathleen Merikangas, Ph.D., senior investigator at the National Institute of Mental Health (Doheny, 2011).
An eating disorder is a condition that causes unhealthy eating habits to form. It starts by skipping meals, eating a large amount of food only to throw it back up. Eating disorders affect teens more so than adults. It starts in school when a teen goes to school and are bullied because they are chubby or not as fit as others. They want to fit in so much that they do things to their bodies just to fit in. Eating disorders can also start at home. It could come from some siblings being smaller than others and they want to gain weight or some being larger and wanting to be smaller. Regardless of the situation it is a very serious mental illness.
There are many eating disorders, Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia, Binge Eating Disorder, Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder, Rumination, and Pica. The three disorders I want to focus on are anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and pica. These are the top three when it comes to eating disorders. Anorexia nervosa is known as a self- starvation issue. It involves a severe and excessive amount of weight loss. Most people who suffer from anorexia often see themselves as being fat or overweight. We may see them in a different light, but when they look in the mirror all they see is a fat person. They have a habit of checking their weight over and over again and they even restrict the amount of food they eat.
Some common symptoms are being seriously underweight, very restricted eating patterns, intense fear of gaining weight, constant unwillingness to maintain a healthy weight, and a distorted body shape despite being underweight (Alina Petre, 2019). Anorexia can have some serious effects on one’s health. Severe thinning of the body, brittle bone due to lack of calcium and vitamin C, thin hair and brittle nails. Anorexia affects women more than men. It usually starts as a young youth or teen.
The next disorder is bulimia. It is the opposite of anorexia. Bulimia involves eating a lot of food at one time known as bingeing. The person will eat a large amount of food and get rid of what they just ate they will purge, known as self- induced vomiting. They may also take things like laxatives, weight loss pills or even go as far as to use an enema. They judge the way they look and always finding flaws to justify their actions. Some signs of bulimia are, being preoccupied with body shape, fearing weight gain, eating large amounts of food at one time, forcing oneself to vomit or extreme exercise and fasting along with calorie restriction (Mayo Clinic, 2018).
Bulimia begins in the late teens. If a relative has an eating disorder, then it can be passed down to other children. Trauma and stress are also contributing factors, as well as depression and substance use. People who suffer from bulimia can develop some serious health complications. They include negative self-esteem, dehydration, severe tooth decay, digestive problems, misuse of alcohol and even suicidal thoughts of suicide (Mayo Clinic, 2018).
There is one more eating disorder to which I would like to discuss. It is a disorder that I didn’t know about until I started my research. This eating disorder is pica. Pica is a disorder where someone craves foods that are not classified as food. These foods include ice, hair, dirt, laundry detergent, dirt, soap or chalk. It occurs in both children and adults. This is a very dangerous disorder as it may cause poisoning, infections and other nutritional deficiencies. When it comes to eating disorders, it is thought that only women suffer from anorexia, bulimia and other eating disorders. Statistics say that “15% of people diagnosed with eating disorders are men” (Varga). The reason this is such a small number, not to be dismissed is that men are less likely to come forward or show signs because of stigmas. Not many people seek help or treatment only about 1 in 10 seek help privately
Some of the factors to help determine if someone has a disorder are genetics which means that if parents or siblings suffer from an eating disorder then it may be passed down from generation to generation. Environment, depending on the environment in which you live, meaning supermodels, bodybuilders, popularity, and success. All of these make life seem like a competition and just trying to fit in could cause someone to develop eating disorders in order to look a certain way and to be accepted. Peer pressure can be a large part of eating disorders for teens. They find themselves being bullied and ridiculed due to their weight and size. Bad relationships and breakups can also lead to these disorders. The eating disorder tends to fill a void when it is felt as if something is not meeting up to certain standards.
All eating disorders are very serious illnesses, but like most illnesses and addictions there is treatment. It may not happen overnight and may not even be cured, but with therapy, it can be controlled. It takes doctors, dieticians, exercise and fitness specialists along with psychologist. With this in mind it takes a whole team to get this sickness under control. Just like with any addiction there has to be an admittance of being an addict. Getting the mind to focus on the problem at hand.
When trying to help someone with an eating disorder it has to be understood that the person will be in denial and may not want help at all. They will get angry and will not want to be bothered about nor will they be willing to talk to anyone. Interventions are sometimes used by family members, but most do not succeed. It is best to try and get them to seek professional medical assistance. Because eating disorders can’t be cured with medicine alone it must be combined with psychological therapy (Mayo Clinic, 2018).
There is help offered on a volunteer basis. A place to start is the National Alliance on Mental Illness. They have a helpline that can answer any questions someone may have pertaining to eating disorders. When trying to overcome eating disorders one of the first things to do is conclude that the disorder is very destructive and hard to control. A good place to start is with a change in lifestyle. Removing themselves from any reminders that may cause negative behavior. Try and identify what may be a trigger to their disorder. It could be friends, or a certain place or even facing the person or thing that is causing the behavior.
Begin to accept themselves the way they are is a good start. Learn to say I love myself and the way I look brings about a positive attitude. Find a role model or mentor who can help to build positive attributes and attitudes. Get involved in new activities that hold their interest to the point that they don’t have time to think of the negative things in your life. Read all of the literature about the disorder to better educate themselves on what caused their disorder and what can be done to overcome it. Find an emotional support group that will support their recovery. A support group will provide someone to share their fears with, without passing judgment. A good family support group is needed as well. The family has to be open to what the person is dealing with. It takes both family and professionals to help to start to heal and overcome this illness.
In conclusion, with the rapid obsession to be fit and all of the new diet fads you never know what a person is going through. There is always a commercial about losing weight and getting in shape. The commercials have the skinniest supermodels with their beautiful bodies and makeup with the perfect smile and hair. Along with this there is always that one person who has been bullied in school talked about on their job or even laughed at by family members just because they are too big.
People who suffer from anorexia and bulimia always see themselves as fat. When they look in the mirror their mind tells them they are fat and then the cycle begins. They lose so much weight until they look like skin and bones. They wear big and baggy clothes just to hide the saggy skin and thin bones. They become very ill with brittle bones due to lack of calcium. Dehydrated due to overeating and then using self-induced vomiting to get rid of what they just ate because they feel guilty for all of the food they just consumed.
Anorexia is said to be the most dangerous of all eating disorders. Eating disorders are not gendered specific. They affect people of all races, ages, sexual orientations, and ethnicities. According to the National Eating Disorder Association more than 20 million women and 10 million men will suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their life (NEDA, 2018).
If you think someone is suffering from an eating disorder don’t ignore them. Don’t put up a façade and thing that they are skinny because that’s the way they are built. Eating disorders are hidden illnesses. Most people are ashamed and don’t want to admit that they have a problem just like anyone with a disorder or addiction would. Never bully anyone because of their appearance simply because you never know what they may be going through. Encouragement goes a long way and could even save a person’s life. Whether it is starving oneself or eating things that are not food and are not to be consumed as in Pica. Eating disorders are very real and deserve more attention than they are given.
- Alina Petre, M. R. (2019, October 30). 6 Common Types of Eating Disorders (and Their Symptoms). Healthline. Retrieved from Healthline: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/common-eating-disorders#anorexia
- Doheny, K. (2011, March 7). Study: Eating Disorders in Teens Are Common. Retrieved from WebMD: https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/eating-disorders/news/20110307/study-eating-disorders-in-teens-are-common#1
- Mayo Clinic. (2018, May 20). Bulimia nervosa. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bulimia/symptoms-causes/syc-20353615
- NEDA. (2018). Retrieved from National Eating Disorder Association: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/
- Varga, L. (n.d.). 10 Different Eating Disorders, How to Spot Them and Why They’re So Dangerous. Retrieved from Healthprep: https://healthprep.com/addictions/10-different-eating-disorders-how-to-spot-them-and-why-theyre-so-dangerous/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=search&utm_campaign=2006873986&utm_content=71392442596&utm_term=eating%20disorders&gclid=CjwKCAiAzuPuBRAIEiwAkkmOSIQ