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Eating Disorders - A major health problem but a treatable one

Posted Sep 07 2009 2:39am

Eating Disorders are one of the major health issues facing the world today. Millions of people around the world are suffering from these disorders and statistics show that whilst a large percentage (86%) are aged 20 years and above, 10% of reported cases are in children 10 years and younger in age. Recent studies have indicated that the number of individuals suffering with an eating disorder may be as many as 3 times greater than the number suffering from AIDS.

Many experts also believe that even these figures may not show the full extent of the problem as many men are not accurately diagnosed or not in fact diagnosed at all.


The 3 most common Eating Disorders are, Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia nervosa and Binge Eating disorders.


Anorexia Nervosa.

Common symptoms include exhibiting irritation and becoming easily depressed. In addition to this, withdrawal from social situations and connections and the compulsive carrying out of rituals is common along with unusual eating habits. In physically mature women the menstrual cycle may become erratic or cease and in pre-pubescent females the menstrual cycle can be delayed or fail to commence. In males, the production of testosterone falls in level. Anorexia Nervosa is often a “control” issue. It is not about the food itself but by controlling the amount and type of food being ingested, the individual feels in control of their lives, this, possibly being the only way they have found to create that sense of control. Sufferers will exhibit marked weight loss which is self induced and a refusal to maintain a healthy weight and an attitude toward food and weight that is distorted and can show an intensive fear of gaining weight and becoming overweight.


Bulimia Nervosa.

Is a disorder that is characterized by excessive preoccupation with the body and worrying about weight. It can in some cases follow on from Anorexia nervosa. Sufferers may binge eat and then tries purge the food through dangerous behaviours such as vomiting, excessive exercising, laxatives, diuretics and other medications. In many cases, the individual will maintain a body weight within the normal range for their age, sex and height. Less obvious than anorexia and therefore may go unnoticed for longer. Again, In most cases of Bulimia Nervosa the issues are again not really about food but relate to other areas of the sufferers life. In many cases they suffer from low self esteem   and often feel angry with themselves and the world around them. In addition to this, self destructive or potentially risky behaviour is often exhibited by bulimics and both “person” and substance addictions are common.


Binge Eating Disorders.

Whilst the binging part of Bulimia Nervosa appears the same as the Binge Eating Disorders, the major difference is that in the case of the Binge Eating Disorders, the purging does not take place and there is a marked increase in the weight of the individual leading to obesity. Individuals may become depressed about their behaviours, weight and appearance and “comfort” eat, so exacerbate the cycle of overeating and depression.


Eating Disorder Treatment

Unfortunately, there is much misleading information about Anorexia, Bulimia and other eating disorders and do not fully understand the dangers of the disorders on one hand or the fact that they can be successfully treated by skilled professionals. In addition to this, as many people who have eating disorders feel ashamed of themselves they are reluctant to engage with the services that are available to help them.

There are a variety of interventions and therapies that can be employed in the treatment of eating disorders, from brief interventions through to longer term psychotherapy, individual and group therapies and medical interventions where appropriate.

There have been many advances in all fields of therapy and treatment in recent years, one example being the controlled use of Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI’s), which has shown positive results in the area of weight maintenance. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) has provided successful outcomes and in some cases Psychotherapy is the appropriate course of action.

It cannot be denied that Eating Disorders are serious and in some cases life threatening but it must be remembered that as with all disorders, conditions and illnesses, the sooner they are diagnosed and professionally treated, the better the expected outcome for the sufferer.
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