A woman stands in front of a full-length mirror and she assesses what she sees. Sometimes what she sees disturbs her; the way a button puckers, a seam bulges. She may or not be happy with what she sees, but has a realistic view of her body, faults and assets alike. Usually the woman can make peace with what she’s seeing and then go on with the day. For someone who has an eating disorder, there is often no peace or acceptance with the image the mirror presents. Eating disorders affect the lives of millions annually; men, women and children risking their health and sometimes their lives in the pursuit an ever elusive, perfect body. Not only are eating disorders tragic for the loss of well being of millions annually, the health costs can be staggering. In fact health issues for anorexics and bulimics can cost up to $30,000 a month to treat. People who have eating disorders are more likely to experience, depression, malnutrition, serious systematic damage to the heart, liver and kidneys, and a host of other serious psychological symptoms.
Eating disorders generally occur in conjunction with a few key notable symptoms. For example, a distorted self image, low self-esteem, and shame and guilt are usually present in people with eating disorders. Eating disorders are apparent whenever eating habits associated with an unrealistic body image. This propensity to have a conflict between actual body size and what the individual sees in their mirror is sometimes called body dysmorphia. Not all people with dysmorphia have eating disorders, but anorexics consistently do. There are different types of eating disorders including anorexia, tularemia, emotional eating, Binge Eating Disorder and Eating Disorder not otherwise Specified. Two of the most damaging are anorexia and bulimia.
Anorexia is one of the most common eating disorders. Anorexics deliberately stop eating, or eat a fraction of daily recommendations in order to loose weight. They may also have a compulsion to exercise well beyond reasonable amounts. The anorexic often loose weight quickly, and exhibit a profound fear of gaining it back. They often may loose their hair and may also stop having their menses. Perhaps most significant is that the anorexic will refuse to eat enough to maintain a healthy weight. Control over food and their bodies become an obsession. Anorexics analysis there food with the precision of a scientist, and they use that knowledge at every opportunity. They know how many calories there are in any serving. They also know exactly how many minutes of cardio exercises it will take to counteract the calories in a sliver of cake. Anorexia is disturbing because of the tragic outcomes in terms of health and that without intervention; anorexics will literally starve themselves to death.
Bulimia Nervosa is a condition that also features a preoccupation with eating and food. Unlike the anorexic, however, the bulimics binges and then purges their food. They may for example, eat a regular dinner, or they may gorged themselves, and then make themselves throw up. They are often consumed with guilt and have poor self-esteem. Often a bulimic will use diuretics, laxatives a diet pills in order to counter the effects (calories) of eating. Like anorexics, bulimics will deny having a problem and protect their secret. Bulimics often are normal sized or better. Like the anorexic, the person who suffers with an eating disorder, their health, well-being and lives are imperiled. Bulimics, can cause damage to the throat, stomach and threaten their vocal cords. They often suffer from malnutrition and most certainly experience psychological suffering.
Eating disorders may be a result of biological, social or personal factors, and the costs to those who have them can be devastating. Intervention and treatment can turn things around for those who have eating disorder before the cost of having an eating disorder becomes too great to bear.