EATING DISORDERS - Dying to Be Thin ; Eating Disorders: a Nationwide Epidemic
Thousands of people across the United States spend almost every waking moment thinking about food.
Many ask themselves, "What am I going to eat and how can I eat as little as possible? Should I eat? I can't eat anything for another week. How many laxatives do I need to swallow today? Will they hear me when I go throw up?"
Those afflicted with eating disorders spend ample amounts of time calculating when they can eat and how they can eat in such a manner that those around them won't realize he or she has eaten only a few bites.
According to Eating Disorder Recovery Online, on the outside, a person with an eating disorder frequently seems to be managing life well, although he or she feels they could look better by shedding a couple of pounds. Ultimately, this means anyone could be afflicted and no one would realize something was wrong.
Ten to 15 percent of Americans suffer from some sort of serious eating disorder, and that includes children as well as adults. Eighty-six percent of those battling an eating disorder report the onset before age 20; 10 percent report onset before age 10.
Seventy-six percent of people afflicted with an eating disorder said that the sickness may last from one to 15 years, if not longer. It's been estimated that 6 percent of the eating disordered population dies as a direct result of their warped eating habits.
What is an eating disorder?
Clinical eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating. There are, however, numerous people who don't suffer from a clinical disorder but who struggle with disordered eating on a daily basis.
Anorexia nervosa is primarily characterized by self-starvation and an excessive weight loss.
Bulimia nervosa is characterized by a cycle of eating massive amounts of food in short periods of time and then ridding the body of the food through self-induced vomiting, laxative abuse or over- exercising.
Binge-eating disorder is characterized by uncontrolled, impulsive or continuous eating beyond the point of feeling full. Although there is no vomiting involved, sporadic fasts and repetitive diets may be involved. Feelings of shame or self-hatred are often felt after a binge. Body weight may vary from mild, moderate to severe obesity.
Other disorders may include a combination of the signs and symptoms of clinical eating disorders. Although these may not be considered a full syndrome eating disorder, they are still physically dangerous and require professional help, the same as all other eating disorders.
What causes eating disorders?
Eating disorders are not only physical, but emotional problems that often grow to life-threatening proportions. The majority of people aren't able to comprehend the function of the behaviors associated with eating disorders. It just doesn't make sense to them that a person would literally starve himself or herself to death or eat so much that he or she has to lie down because of the intense stomach pain or force themselves to vomit.
The answers to these questions aren't simple, as eating disorders are very complex and can be caused by numerous contributing factors:
A single traumatic event.
A 2- to 3-year period of unusual stress or pain.
An extended period of emotional or physical pain.
The onset of a mood disorder.
Having been a sensitive child.
A controlling environment.
The common theme among the seven causes is that the person is experiencing emotional pain in such an intense way that he or she doesn't know how to handle it, usually because that was not learned while growing up.
When a person who has not learned how to handle these intense emotions begins to experience them, he/she doesn't have the necessary tools to speak about them. This is where the cycle begins. The person starts looking outside for a solution to the pain rather than inside and ultimately takes one of two paths.
On the first path, this person turns to food for comfort and solace. It is a consistent and reliable source of nurturing that is always there and is something to look forward to. This person is in danger of becoming obese due to compulsive eating.
Along the second path, a person restricts food intake or begins to binge and purge, thus losing weight. Friends and family notice the weight loss and make positive comments on the appearance due to the missing weight. All of a sudden, there is a feeling of well- being as opposed to the pain, and it appears to be within personal control. By focusing on dieting and losing weight, he/she feels that the pain is lessening. This person is vulnerable to developing anorexia or bulimia.
How are eating disorders treated?
Treating eating disorders is a complicated process because each individual requires different sorts of treatment. The treatment of the different disorders also varies.
A therapist and medical doctor are often involved in the healing process to help the patient both physically and mentally in an attempt to rid them of the disease. Although a person may get over the eating disorder, the disorder never leaves the person.
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