Tens of millions of people in the US alone struggle with an eating disorder. There are many things that lead people down this dangerous path. No matter the cause, though, what deserves the most focus is the solution.
How can you overcome an eating disorder or the dangerous ideas that lead to one? If you yourself are not struggling with this problem, how can you help others who are? To answer those questions, you need to know the telltale signs of the most common eating disorders, which are anorexia, binge-eating, and bulimia.
About Anorexia Nervosa
Anorexia results when a person doesn’t take in enough calories and, therefore, becomes extremely underweight. This is no accident and not the result of lack of access to food. Anorexia is a product of a persistent behavior that prevents even the slightest weight gain. Often, this is due to a gripping fear of becoming “fat.”
In addition to fear of weight gain, a person with anorexia nervosa may:
- Be in denial as to the seriousness of their current weight
- Be unable to even see how thin they are (e.g. when they look in the mirror, although underweight, they view themselves as fat)
- Rely primarily (or solely) on their weight as the judge of their worth
On the other extreme, binge-eating disorder drives a person to eat what most would consider large amounts of food. During an episode of binging, the person may feel that they have absolutely no self-control over how much they’re eating. Additionally, they may:
- Feel that they have no control over how fast they’re eating and may consume large amounts in a very short time window
- Consume lots of food even when they’re not actually hungry
- Eat until they feel uncomfortably full or sick
- Insist on eating alone because they are ashamed and embarrassed by the issue
As you can imagine, this often leads to deeply-rooted feelings of guilt and depression. Surely, you’d agree that this disorder is quite serious. Yet, it gets even worse than this.
Bulimia takes binge-eating disorder to another level. After an episode of binging follows drastic efforts to counteract the effects of that episode such as weight gain. Because a person with bulimia is so gravely concerned with appearance, they may:
- Force themselves to throw up after eating
- Fast, going without food altogether until they feel they have compensated for binging
- Exercise excessively to burn the extra calories
- Use laxatives or diuretics excessively
Put an End to Eating Disorders
Do you find that you fit the mold of one of these conditions? If so, the best thing you can do is have an open conversation with your doctor.
This is a wise choice even if you identify with only a few of the traits discussed above. You may still have an unhealthy relationship with food or an unbalanced view of your body, both of which are breeding grounds for eating disorders. In either case, your doctor can evaluate you and give you next steps to preserve your health and your life.
Make no mistake about it. Thousands of people in the U.S. die each year as a direct result of eating disorders. This fact should move you to get any help you might need and to encourage others to do the same.
How can you encourage others to seek help to fight these life-threatening disorders? Especially during National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, you should aim to create a more open discussion of this issue. You can do so using social media, by attending or planning an awareness event or even hosting a screening event.
Whether as a fighter yourself or as someone who cares about others, be a part of the crusade against eating disorders!