Monday, January 18, 2016

Mental Health Series - Eating Disorders

Having an Eating Disorder is a serious illness that causes abnormal disruptions to a person’s every day nutrition intake to the detriment of a person’s physical or mental health.  These disruptions could be anything from eating small amounts of food to severely overeating. A person with an Eating Disorder can be concerned about body weight or shape to the point of it causing severe distress. The most common Eating Disorders are: anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder.

In the United States, 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from some type of eating disorder in their lifetime. [1]

Eating disorders can be deadly. Up to 20 percent of people with anorexia die from their disorder, making it the deadliest mental illness there is. [2]

What Causes an Eating Disorder?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “Researchers are finding that Eating Disorders are caused by a complex interaction of genetic, biological, behavioral, psychological, and social factors.” [3]

Many people with eating disorders also suffer from body dysmorphic disorder, which alters the way people see themself. [4]

Social idealisms of thinness and youthfulness have contributed to eating disorders affecting various people. One study showed that girls with ADHD have a greater chance of getting an eating disorder than those not affected by ADHD. [5]

Types of Eating Disorders

Anorexia Nervosa (AN)
Not maintaining a healthy body weight, an obsessive fear of gaining weight or refusal to do so, and an unrealistic perception, or non-recognition of the seriousness, of current low body weight, characterizes this disorder. Anorexia can cause menstruation to stop, and often leads to bone loss, loss of skin integrity, etc. It greatly stresses the heart, increasing the risk of heart attacks and related heart problems. The risk of death is very high in individuals with this disease.

Typical Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa [6]
·      Extreme thinness (emaciation)
·      A relentless pursuit of thinness and unwillingness to maintain a normal or healthy weight
·      Intense fear of gaining weight
·      Distorted body image, a self-esteem that is heavily influenced by perceptions of body weight and shape, or a denial of the seriousness of low body weight
·      Lack of menstruation among girls and women
·      Extremely restricted eating

Severe Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa [7]
·      Thinning of the bones (osteopenia or osteoporosis)
·      Brittle hair and nails
·      Dry and yellowish skin
·      Growth of fine hair all over the body (lanugo)
·      Mild anemia and muscle wasting and weakness
·      Severe constipation
·      Low blood pressure, slowed breathing and pulse
·      Damage to the structure and function of the heart
·      Brain damage
·      Multi-organ failure
·      Drop on internal body temperature, causing a person to feel cold all the time
·      Lethargy, sluggishness, or feeling tired all the time
·      Infertility

Bulimia Nervosa (BN)
Recurrent or frequent binge eating followed by compensating behaviors such as purging (self-induced vomiting, excessive use of laxatives/diuretics, or excessive exercise) characterizes this disorder. Fasting and / or excessive exercise may also be used as a method of purging following a binge-eating episode.

Typical Symptoms of Bulimia Nervosa [8]
·      Chronically inflamed and sore throat
·      Swollen salivary glands in the neck and jaw area
·      Worn tooth enamel, increasingly sensitive and decaying teeth as a result of exposure to stomach acid
·      Acid reflux disorder and other gastrointestinal problems
·      Intestinal distress and irritation from laxative abuse
·      Severe dehydration from purging of fluids
·      Electrolyte imbalance (too low or too high levels of sodium, calcium, potassium and other minerals) which can lead to heart attack

Binge Eating Disorder (BED)
More common than either Bulimia or Anorexia, Binge eating at least 2-3 times a week without compensating behavior characterizes this disorder. The disorder can develop within people of a wide range of ages and social and economic classes. People with Binge Eating Disorder are often overweight or obese.

Typical Symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder [9]
·      Frequent episodes of consuming very large amount of food but without behaviors to prevent weight gain, such as self-induced vomiting
·      A feeling of being out of control during the binge eating episodes
·      Feelings of strong shame or guilt regarding the binge eating
·      Indications that the binge eating is out of control, such as eating when not hungry, eating to the point of discomfort, or eating alone because of shame about the behavior

Consequences of Binge Eating [10]
·      High blood pressure
·      High cholesterol levels
·      Heart disease
·      Type II diabetes mellitus
·      Gallbladder disease

Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED)
An eating or feeding disorder that does not meet the DSM-5 criteria for AN, BN, or BED characterizes this disorder. Examples of otherwise-specified eating disorders include individuals with atypical anorexia nervosa, who meet all criteria for AN except being underweight, despite substantial weight loss; atypical bulimia nervosa, who meet all criteria for BN except that bulimic behaviors are less frequent or have not been ongoing for long enough; purging disorder; and night eating syndrome.

Treatment Options
The fundamentals of treatment are adequate nutrition, reducing excessive exercise and stopping purging behaviors.

Some forms of psychotherapy or talk therapy and medications have been known to be effective with eating disorders. Usually treatment plans are modified to the person’s needs and may include one or more of the following:[11]

·      Individual, group, and / or family psychotherapy
·      Medical care and monitoring
·      Nutritional counseling
·      Medications

Recovery from an eating disorder is difficult and it takes a lot of time and hard work. It takes professional help, including medical care, psychotherapy, and nutritional counseling, as well as support from friends, family members, and other people with eating disorders. [12]

[1]National Eating Disorders Association www.nation
[2]  Mirror Mirror Eating Disorders
[4]Eating Disorder - Wikipedia
[5]Eating Disorder - Wikipedia

[9]National Eating Disorders Association
[10]National Eating Disorders Association
[12]Mirror Mirror Eating Disorders

Image courtesy of Simple Reminders


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