An eating disorder is a mental illness in which the affected person eats in an unusual and unhealthy way. This ends up affecting health. The diet can be an excessive, insufficient or incorrect diet. Anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are the two most common eating disorders. Anorexic people eat little or nothing, and bulimic people binge heavily and then vomit their food. People with eating disorders sometimes have both disorders.
Most sick people have severe mental depression along with their eating disorder. Orthorexia is also considered an eating disorder. Orthorexia is when a person is too obsessed with what is the “right” food to eat, so they end up eating too much vegan food, raw food, etc., and become nutritionally unbalanced. A strange but not unusual eating disorder is Pica, in which the sick person consumes what is generally not considered food, such as hair, wood, glass, metal, or rubber.
Purging disorder occurs when a person takes laxatives and vomits excessively without bingeing. This person generally wants to maintain a certain amount of weight and not gain more. Scientists suspect that more people have purging disorder than anorexia and bulimia combined.
The physical symptoms of a person with an eating disorder can vary, but they are all equally deadly. Starvation caused by anorexia nervosa can lead to defects in most organ systems. Along with that comes constipation, very low heart rate, dry skin, hypotension, body hair can thin out, and periods can be sparse or just not appear. Anorexia causes cardiovascular problems, anemia, modification of brain structure, juvenile osteoporosis, and kidney dysfunction.
Bulimia and other eating disorders that involve vomiting can cause the salivary glands to swell, tooth enamel to erode, and electrolyte and mineral disturbances. The clearance disorder, along with the abusive use of laxatives, can bring a long period of intestinal dysfunction. Tearing of the esophagus, rupturing of the stomach, and fatal heartbeat irregularities resulting from these disorders are other complications that can result.
It is usually difficult to tell when a person is suffering from an eating disorder just by looking at them. They can be a little overweight, they can be of normal weight, they can be very thin, they can be very obese. Judging by the appearance of someone with an eating disorder can be very misleading, as their physical appearance may not correspond to their actual health.
Treatment of eating disorders, however, can be very effective and the person can return to normal if they follow the treatment to the end. The earlier the patient is found to have an eating disorder, the more effective treatment will be. However, the mental complications of a person with such a mental illness can lead to comprehensive long-term psychological and psychiatric treatment. Treatment of anorexia follows three basic steps: 1) restore lost weight, 2) psychological treatment, 3) achieve long-term remission. Treatment for bulimia deals first and foremost with ending bingeing and purging. For this, nutritional rehabilitation, psychosocial intervention and medication are used.
Although there are many effective ways to treat eating disorders, the hardest step is the first: admitting that you have an eating disorder. If the person with an eating disorder does not recognize their illness, treatment will not be effective because they will resist it. So, the most important thing when approaching an anorexic or bulimic is to maintain personal contact and have an open heart so that they feel as comfortable as possible to talk about their problems.
Written by Michael Russell