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Eating Disorders

Posted Jan 07 2009 4:39pm

According to the National Institute of Mental Health an estimated 0.5 percent to 3.7 percent of females suffer from anorexia, and an estimated 1.1 percent to 4.2 percent suffer from bulimia, and between 2 percent and 5 percent of Americans experience binge-eating disorder. Among females ages 15-24 with eating disorders, the mortality rate is 12 times higher than the annual death rate due to all causes of death in the general population.

In addition to the radically high death rate, eating patterns of people with these disorders cause serious medical complications including those listed here:

Acid Reflux Disorders
Amenorrhea - Loss of Menstrual Cycle
Bad Circulation
Cancer-Throat, Esophogus
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Cramps, Bloating, Constipation, Diarrhea,
Dental Problems, Decalcification of teeth, Erosion of Tooth Enamel, Severe Decay, Gum Disease
Digestive Difficulties
Disruptions in Blood Sugar Levels
Dry Skin and Hair, Brittle Hair and Nails, Hair Loss
Easily Bruising Skin
Electrolyte Imbalances
Gastric Rupture
Gastrointestinal Bleeding
Heart Arrhythmias
High Blood Pressure
Hormone Imbalances/Deficiencies
Impaired Neuromuscular Function
Kidney Infection and Failure
Liver Failure
Low Blood Pressure/Hypotension
Low Platelet Count
Lowered body temperature
Muscle Atrophy
Peptic Ulcers
Swelling in Face and Cheeks (following self-induced vomiting)
Tearing of Esophagus
Transient (or temporary) Paralysis
Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies
Weakness and Fatigue

As stated in publications from the National Eating Disorders Association, eating disorders arise from a variety of causes, including social pressure, emotional imbalance, lack of self-esteem and body chemistry. In fact, scientists continue to research biochemical and biological causes of eating disorders, and have identified imbalances in chemicals that control hunger, appetite, and digestion in the brains of some patients with eating disorders. The meaning of these imbalances continues to be studied.

Regardless of the underlying cause, once started eating disorders create a self-perpetuating cycle of physical and emotional destruction. All eating disorders require professional help.

The information below will help you to determine if you or someone you know has an eating disorder. Because of the serious health consequences and difficulties in treatment, early recognition and treatment improve chances for full recovery.

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia is a pattern of self-imposed starvation. The causes may be psychological, biological or social, but food itself is not the cause. Early detection and treatment are necessary to prevent permanent damage to the heart, reproductive organs, and other internal organs.It can be recognized by the following behavioral, emotional and physical symptoms:


Preoccupation with food and dieting
Excessive physical activity with the goal of burning calories
Withdrawal from friends and family because of focus on weight loss
Overuse of laxatives to lose weight
Refusal to maintain body weight at or above a minimally normal weight
Intense fear of weight gain or being “fat”
Feeling “fat” or overweight despite dramatic weight loss


Lack of self esteem
Thoughts about suicide
Denial of an underweight condition
Desire to still lose more weight


Extreme weight loss
Absence of menstruation
Cavities and gum disease
Extreme sensitivity to cold
Hair, nail and skin problems


Bulimia is characterized by a secretive cycle of eating large amounts of food–more than most people would eat in one meal–in short periods of time, then getting rid of the food and calories through vomiting, laxative abuse, or over-exercising. Some of the same symptoms are present as with anorexia, and many anoretics add symptoms of bulimia as an alternative way of controlling weight. In addition to those listed above, symptoms include :

Purchase of large quantities of food
Repeated episodes of binging and purging
Feeling out of control during a binge
Eating beyond the point of comfortable fullness
Self-induced vomiting
Abuse of laxatives, diet pills and diuretics
Excessive exercise
Frequent dieting
Extreme concern with body shape
Secretive behavior regarding eating habits
Weight fluctuations
Denial of the problem
Fear of discovery
Problem with alcohol and drugs

Binge Eating Disorder (also known as Compulsive Overeating)

Binge eating is characterized by periods of uncontrolled, impulsive, or continuous eating beyond the point of feeling comfortably full. While there is no purging, there may be sporadic fasts or repetitive diets and often feelings of shame or self-hatred after a binge. People who overeat compulsively may struggle with anxiety, depression, and loneliness, which can contribute to their unhealthy episodes of binge eating. Body weight may vary from normal to mild, moderate, or severe obesity.

If any of these descriptions fit you or someone you know, seek professional help. For more information, click on the following links:

National Eating Disorders Association

National Institute of Mental Health

Ana Death

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