Did you know that 4 in 10 Americans either struggle with an eating disorder, or know someone who has?
While most people associate these disorders with malnourished adolescent females, eating disorders can affect any gender, age, race, or social class. Eating disorders to not discriminate, and occur thanks to a variety of genetic, social, and emotional disturbances that culminate to cause an eating disorder.
The most common eating disorders include Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Binge Eating Disorder. Eating Disorders are serious conditions that are characterized by irregular/unhealthy eating habits and/or a heightened concern with body image.
Anorexia Nervosa is characterized by extreme food restriction, while Bulimia Nervosa is characterized by self-induced vomiting following food consumption. Bulimia Nervosa may follow a “binge and purge” pattern, wherein food is severely restricted, then binged upon, followed by a vomiting “purge”.
Binge Eating Disorder, on the other hand, is characterized by extreme food consumption (binge eating) without the vomiting purge associated with Bulimia Nervosa.
Individuals with these disorders may be overweight, underweight, or normally weighted. However, the consequences of eating disorders go far beyond disturbances in body weight. These disorders can cause a variety of serious and even life-threatening complications, including but not limited to depression, malnourishment, obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and organ failure.
Luckily, recovery is possible, even for those who are severely impacted by their illness.
Treatment may take place in either an inpatient or outpatient setting, and typically involves a mixture of behavioral reprogramming, cognitive behavioral therapy, and medication where applicable. In general, behavioral therapies and psychological counseling are the most effective means to control an eating disorder and rehabilitate the affected individual.
If you or someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder, consulting a licensed psychologist, Registered Dietitian, or other Eating Disorder specialist can begin the healing that gives way to a healthier, happier life.