With World Eating Disorder Action Day in June, it seems a great time to raise awareness about eating disorders.
According to the National Eating Disorders Association, at least 30 million people in the United States suffer from a clinically diagnosed eating disorder in their lifetime, including anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Additionally, every 62 minutes at least one person dies as a direct result from an eating disorder. Eating disorders can have serious consequences for health and are often under-reported.
People with eating disorders may look healthy, but may be extremely ill. There are a variety of diagnosable eating disorders. Below are a few of the disorders.
- Anorexia Nervosa: Characterized by an intense fear of gaining weight and a persistent restriction of energy intake, leading to significantly low body weight and forcing the body to slow down its natural functions to conserve energy. A person suffering from anorexia nervosa will likely experience muscle loss and weakness, fatigue, fainting, dry hair and skin, hair loss, osteoporosis, and lanugo (growth of hair all over the body to maintain warmth).
- Bulimia Nervosa: Characterized by binge eating and purging (vomiting, laxative abuse and excessive exercise), which affects the digestive system and can lead to electrolyte imbalances. A person suffering from bulimia nervosa will likely experience tooth decay, peptic ulcers or pancreatitis, chronic constipation or loose stools, inflammation and possible rupture of the esophagus and electrolyte imbalances that can lead to irregular heartbeats and possibly heart failure.
- Binge Eating Disorder: Characterized by recurrent episodes of binge eating with a feeling of a lack of control and feelings of guilt or shame following the binge. A person suffering from binge eating disorder may experience high blood pressure or cholesterol levels, Type II diabetes mellitus and depression.
Full recovery from an eating disorder is possible! Early detection and intervention is key. Additionally, recovery typically occurs over years rather than all at once. Seeking professional help and a solid support system can help with successful recovery. If you think you or someone you know may suffer from an eating disorder, consult your doctor and seek help from loved ones and a recovery program.
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