According to the most recent statistics, twenty million women and ten million men in the United States suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some point in their life. For a variety of reasons, many cases of eating disorder are not likely to be reported. Believe it or not, upwards of 60% of elementary aged girls are concerned about their weight or about becoming too fat.
This concern endures throughout life, but most never address it with their physicians because they are afraid to ask about an eating disorder. Here are the answers to a few questions about eating disorders that many people are afraid to ask.1. Can They Kill Me?
Anorexia is a deadly disorder, but the death rate varies considerably from one study to the next. Recent studies out of Sweden suggest that anorexia increase risk of death by a factor of six compared to the general population. Roughly speaking, 4% of people with anorexia will die in a given year.2. Can They Affect Men?
Eating disorders do not discriminate based on age, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, or any other demographic factor. Anyone can develop an eating disorder. Of the roughly thirty million people suffering from an eating disorder in the United States, one-third are men.3. What Types of Eating Disorders Exist?
Most people are familiar with anorexia and bulimia, which are sometimes referred to as “classic” eating disorders. Any compulsion to engage in extreme eating habits or unhealthy methods of weight control is classified as an eating disorder. Examples of such behavior include excessive fasting, binge eating, excessive exercise, self-induced vomiting, and laxative or diuretic pill abuse. For medical purposes, eating disorders are classified as anorexia, bulimia, binge-eating, or atypical.4. What Are the Signs of an Eating Disorder?
The signs that someone may be exhibit when suffering from an eating disorder can be classified as behavioral, physical, and emotional. Behavioral and emotional signs of an eating disorder include repeatedly avoiding meals, not wanting to eat in the presence of anyone else, being restless after eating, excessive concern with dieting and being thinner, general dissatisfaction with appearance and figure, increasing isolation from social groups, moodiness, low self-esteem, and an over sensitivity to criticism.
Physical signs of an eating disorder include abdominal swelling and swelling of the hands, legs, and feet. Swelling of the salivary glands near the jaw line in the face is commonly seen with vomiting. Individuals suffering from an eating disorder tend to be tired, frequently nauseous, have low exercise capacity, and may complain of dizziness. Excessive dental decay and gum disease may be signs of bingeing on sugary foods or frequent vomiting. Vomiting is also likely to produce low blood sugar, changes in mineral and chemical balances, unexplained bleeding, and lack of typical growth.5. What Causes an Eating Disorder?
There is no clear cause for any particular eating disorder. Though multiple factors are known to contribute to the development of an eating disorder, the absence of these factors does not preclude an eating disorder. Examples of conditions that increase the chances of developing an eating disorder include low self-esteem, being a perfectionist, unresolved anxiety, a family history of depression or alcoholism, family conflict, abuse, glamorization of eating disorders, and social pressures to achieve.6. Can Eating Disorders Be Treated?
Simply put, all eating disorders can be treated. The mainstays of treatment, which are best carried out in specialized eating disorder treatment centers, include medical intervention and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). Medical intervention focuses on correcting physical manifestations of an eating disorder. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is the mainstay of treatment and provides the most reliable means of achieving long-term resolution.
Getting Help Regardless of whether an individual lives in St. Louis, MO or Brattleboro, VT, an eating disorder treatment center can be located. In most cases, health insurance will cover some or all of the costs associated with treatment. Most treatment plans begin with an inpatient stay that may last several weeks and then slowly transition to outpatient modalities. Individuals should understand that treatment is generally a lifelong endeavor, much like treatment for alcohol or drug addiction.