Introduction to Eating Disorders

Did you know that over 30 million people in the United States suffer from an eating disorder? Disordered eating is more than simply being a “picky eater” or nervous about weight gain. Disordered eating is an unhealthy relationship with food that leads to severe disturbances in one’s thoughts and emotions. Eating disorders can lead to disruptions in menstrual cycles for females. It can lead to tooth decay or swollen glands. It can lead to a chronic and severe sore throat. It can lead to dehydration. It can also lead to a loss of calcium resulting in the thinning of bones. It can cause severe brittleness in both hair and nails. It can drop your blood pressure, making it difficult to breathe. It can lower your internal body temperature causing a constant feeling of coldness. It can cause kidney problems. It can lead to extreme fatigue, resulting in depression. Eating disorders are not a joke.

The Facts:

  • A minimum of 1 person dies every hour from an eating disorder. In other words, eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.
  • Over 70% of people with eating disorders do not seek treatment due to lack of education/diagnosis, the negative stigma, or lack of access to care.
  • 71% of people suffering with an eating disorder have also been diagnosed with an anxiety or depressive disorder.
  • Approximately 3% of teenagers are diagnosed with an eating disorder, commonly bulimia nervosa or anorexia nervosa.

The three most common types of eating disorders are:

  1. Anorexia Nervosa
  2. Bulimia Nervosa
  3. Binge Eating Disorder

Many people think that someone with an eating disorder is severely underweight, but although that is a sign of an eating disorder, any body type can be inflicted. Anorexia Nervosa is the eating disorder most people are familiar with. Someone who is 15% less than the normal healthy weight based on their height may be diagnosed with anorexia. These people usually limit their food intake due to a body dysmorphia. Bulimia Nervosa is commonly associated with forcing yourself to throw up. Someone who goes on frequent food binges without control over how much they are eating, and then uses purging or laxatives in fear of weight gain or due to severe stomach pain may be diagnosed with bulimia. Lastly, Binge Eating Disorder is typically not recognized by many people. When someone consumes a large quantity of food without control within a short period of time without following up with purging, laxatives, or fasting, may be diagnosed with binge eating.

It is extremely common for people to make fun of someone’s body size with eating disorder comments. People do not realize that eating disorders are the leading cause of death from mental illnesses. Body dysmorphia and lack of control when eating can lead to severe and deadly consequences. If you or someone you know has a poor relationship with food that sounds familiar to symptoms I mentioned, please reach out to a doctor, nutritionist or therapist for more help on how to stay healthy and improve your relationship with food.

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