Eating disorders are a medical issue that people have dealt with for many
Eating disorders are a medical issue that people have dealt with for many, many years. These issues can be considered mental disorders, as the information that affects the individual is merely in their own heads. If not treated, both anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa have the ability to become fatal to those that are affected. The severity of these disorders depends on how quickly they can be resolved and how soon the issues are discovered.
Anorexia nervosa, also known as anorexia, is a condition that mainly affects women (primarily young teenagers) and is described as “simply starving yourself because you are convinced you are overweight” (Grohol 2018). Symptoms of anorexia nervosa include restricting food to the extreme, emaciation, attempting to be unhealthily thin, fear of gaining weight, and body dysmorphism (NIMH 2016). People with anorexia nervosa often weight themselves daily and count every calorie for ever morsel of food they consume. Often times people with this condition may go days without eating and then fret over every bite they take when they do finally consume food. As stated by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), anorexia nervosa “has the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder” (NIMH 2016). This is due to the fact that because those affected are only consuming small quantities of food, their bodies are not able to fully function may die from complications associated with lack of nutrients. Another reason why anorexia nervosa is so deadly is because many people affected feel they have no other way out other than suicide.
Another common eating disorder is bulimia nervosa, also known as simply bulimia. Bulimia is when a person may consume large quantities of food at a time, and then follow up these large meals with “forced vomiting, excessive use of laxatives or diuretics, fasting, excessive exercise, or a combination of these behaviors” (NIMH 2016). Unlike with anorexia nervosa, a person afflicted with bulimia nervosa may appear healthy and at a normal weight for their age/height. However, there are several symptoms to look out for when bulimia nervosa may be suspected. These symptoms include sore throat, enlarged salivary glands, possible enamel erosion, acid reflux, dehydration, and electrolyte imbalance (Grohol 2018). People with bulimia nervosa are often ashamed of their behavior and will try their hardest to purge in secret, which is another reason why bulimia nervosa may be difficult to notice.
According to NIMH, there are several treatment options available for those afflicted with anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. These therapies include psychotherapies (involving friends, families and groups), medical care and monitoring, nutritional counseling, and medication (NIMH 2016). With both of these conditions, the underlying mental and emotional issues must be resolved, along with the physical aspects, in order to be successful. Along with psychotherapies, medications such as antipsychotics and antidepressants have been proven effective in combating these disorders. Many times, people affected with these conditions are not able to get the care they need with just family, friends, and doctors; they occasionally need to be placed in inpatient care in order to be monitored and given proper nutritional counseling in a controlled environment. Given proper treatment and guidance, it is estimated that approximately 60% of all people affected with eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa will recover (ANAD 2018). Those affected with these conditions will more than likely always struggle to some extent over their eating habits and how to not fall back into the patterns that first made them ill.
Statistics show that almost 1% of all people will experience some form of eating disorder in their lifetime; I have been fortunate enough (or unfortunate enough) to see both of these disorders up close when dealing with two of my friends from middle and high school. One of my friends over the summer break, came back to school looking very thin and frail. Upon questioning her, I had come to find out that she seldom ate food and when she did, it was mostly vegetables and small quantities at that. After approximately 2 years of being constantly ill and visually sick looking, her parents intervened, and she was forced to attend an inpatient facility in San Antonio. While there, she was able to get the counseling and guidance needed to maintain and healthy weight and lifestyle.
Another friend of mine, during our high school years, was diagnosed with bulimia nervosa. No one knew that anything was wrong with her; she was a healthy weight, ate huge amounts of food without gaining weight and was never afraid of eating anything. We all envied her ability to eat junk food and no gain an ounce. She often complained about having a sore throat and she lost her voice all the time. One thing we noticed, but never really thought anything about was the fact that she had bite marks on her fingers. After finally being diagnosed with bulimia, we found out the bite marks were from her inducing vomiting and biting down on her fingers in the process. She also attended an inpatient facility where she was able to get the treatment she needed. She no longer feels the need to binge-purge and maintains a healthy weight by eating a balanced diet and running almost every day.