People with eating disorders usually are preoccupied with weight, food, calories, and dieting.
The following warning signs could indicate that you or someone you love may have an eating disorder:
- Maintaining an excessive, rigid exercise regimen
- Withdrawing or avoiding activities once enjoyable
- Expressing anxiety about being fat
- Inducing vomiting
- Using diet aids, diuretics , laxatives, enemas , or vomiting aids excessively
- Bingeing and purging, with alternate periods of severely restricted dieting and overeating
- For many women, problems with menstrual cycles and fertility.
Anorexia can often be diagnosed by a person's refusal to maintain a normal weight, an intense fear of gaining weight, or an abnormal perception and preoccupation of body weight or shape.
People with anorexia could experience the following symptoms:
- Heart palpitations
- Muscle loss and weakness
- Severe dehydration and electrolyte imbalance
- Weakness and fatigue
- Dry skin
- Hair loss
- Lanugo (downy "peach fuzz" growing on the body).
Persons with bulimia often eat abnormally large portions of food in short bursts. They often feel a sense of shame and lack of control afterward. To compensate for these feelings, they make themselves throw up, misuse laxatives, starve themselves, or exercise excessively. Their feelings of self-worth are often based on their weight and shape.
Bulimia is associated with many of the same dangers found in anorexia, such as:
- Swelling of the face and neck
- Tooth decay and erosion (from vomiting)
- Kidney damage
- Peptic ulcers and pancreatitis
- Inflammation and probable rupture of the esophagus
- Irritable bowel syndrome
In many people, an eating disorder could indicate another psychological problem, including obsessive-compulsive disorder , depression, anxiety, social phobias, substance abuse, borderline personality disorders, and bipolar disorder.
Someone with an eating disorder often has difficulties in other areas of day-to-day living as well. An eating disorder can affect one's ability to perform a job, relate to family and friends, be intimate with a partner, or maintain social contacts.
What Causes Eating Disorders?
People develop eating disorders for a variety of reasons. Some people may feel pressured by society and the media to be thin. Other people may have feelings of low self-esteem or avoid pressing problems, and then establish destructive eating patterns to gain a sense of self-control. For others, there may be an underlying psychological condition. For successful treatment, it's extremely important for the person with an eating disorder to develop a support network of qualified professionals and caring friends and family.