Eating Disorder Awareness: What You Need to Know

Eating Disorder Awareness

Nearly 24 million Americans struggle with an eating disorder. Eating disorders are a form of mental illness that causes extreme discord in an individual’s life and can oftentimes be life-threatening. How much do you know about eating disorders and their consequences?

An unhealthy relationship with food and one’s own physical body are the defining features of eating disorders. The expanding reality of this epidemic is shocking. Over 50% of teenage girls nationwide believe they are overweight and yet, only around 15-20% of them are actually clinically overweight.

Individuals who suffer from these disorders may struggle to wake up each morning, fighting their own reflection in the mirror, and oftentimes, seeing a warped and completely different image of themselves than the rest of the world sees. Almost 40% of girls ages 9 and 10 reports having been on a diet in attempts to lose weight. Although eating disorders are commonly associated with teenage girls and young women, studies show they affect individuals of all ages, genders, races, ethnicities and sexual orientation. We may all joke, occasionally, about having an unhealthy relationship with food but for some people, the reality of this claim is fatal.

Types of Eating Disorders

Identifying and understanding the different types of eating disorders can help determine the right treatment plan for a successful recovery. An individual can be diagnosed with one or more of these disorders. Each one has many possible causes, some genetic, and others triggered by psychological distress, such as social and family problems, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), control issues, and poor coping skills.

There are three categories of eating disorders:

  • Anorexia is defined as the overwhelming fear of becoming fat. Symptoms include extremely restricted eating, emaciation, an intense fear of weight gain, and believing one’s self to be obese when this is not the case. Often, individuals who suffer from anorexia nervosa are, in fact, dangerously underweight. This type of eating disorder has the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder; nearly 86 deaths in 100,000 among 15 – 24-year olds are attributed to anorexia. Death from anorexia is most commonly due to suicide as well as from side effects of starvation.
  • Bulimiais known for eating followed by purging or vomiting. An individual suffering from this eating disorder will normally maintain a relatively “normal weight” as opposed to anorexia. Predominant symptoms include dehydration, chronically swollen throat and neck, gastrointestinal problems (i.e., acid reflux), excessive use of laxatives and/or diuretics, electrolyte imbalance, and damage to tooth enamel. Bulimia nervosa can lead to stroke or heart attack due to extremely low or high levels of sodium, calcium, potassium, and other nutrients.
  • Binge Eating is overeating until the body experiences physical discomfort. Often considered the most common eating disorder in the nation, binge eating affects around 2 million Americans, and this number is growing. Individuals who binge eat are often overweight as they are unable to control their food intake. Symptoms include feeling negative about food and self-image, having obsessive thoughts about food, eating in secret to avoid embarrassment, and eating large amounts of food, quickly.

Obsession with food and/or weight creates poor eating habits and a poor self-image, which can lead to depression, so seeking immediate help can stop emotions and other severe symptoms from snowballing further.

How to Get Help for Eating Disorders

Battling your own body can be exhausting but you are not alone. There are many professional centers and associations that offer affordable help and guidance for individuals who suffer from eating disorders. Advantage Mental Health Center is one of many resources available to help start you on a treatment plan toward a full recovery. We are here to help create a solution and guide your recovery, step by step.

Treatment ranges from one-on-one counseling sessions to group therapy, depending on the needs of the individual. Treatment and therapies offered include:

  • Individual, Group, and/or Family Psychotherapy
  • Nutritional Counseling
  • Medical Care & Monitoring
  • Medications

Self-care and taking ownership of your recovery is important in the process as well and will help you to rebuild a loving relationship with yourself. Support groups can be a great resource for this, too. You deserve a high quality of life and a confident, positive personal self-image.

If you, or someone you know, is suffering from an eating disorder and/or body image issues, get help today. Call (727) 600-8093 to schedule an appointment.