Eating disorders are characterized by severe disturbances in eating behavior. The practice of an eating disorder can be viewed as a survival mechanism. Just as an alcoholic uses alcohol to cope, a person with an eating disorder can use eating, purging or restricting to deal with their problems. Some of the underlying issues that are associated with an eating disorder include low self-esteem, depression, feelings of loss of control, feelings of worthlessness, identity concerns, family communication problems and an inability to cope with emotions. The practice of an eating disorder like Anorexia and Bulimia may be an expression of something that the eating disordered individual has found no other way of expressing. Eating disorders are usually divided into two categories: Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa.
Anorexia Nervosa: Anorexia is an eating disorder where the main characteristic is the restriction of food and the refusal to maintain a minimal, normal body weight. Any actual gain or even perceived gain of weight is met with intense fear by the Anorexic. Not only is there a true feeling of fear, but also once in the grasp of the disorder, Anorexics experience body image distortions. For some Anorexics, weight loss is so severe there is a loss of menses (failure to menstruate.) In the obsessive pursuit of thinness, Anorexics participate in restrictive dieting, compulsive exercise, and laxative and diuretic abuse. If Anorexia Nervosa is left untreated, it can be fatal.??
Bulimia Nervosa: Bulimics are caught in the devastating and addictive binge purge cycle. The Bulimic eats compulsively and then purges through self induced vomiting, use of laxatives, diuretics, diet pills, ipecac, strict diets, fasts, chew spitting, vigorous exercise, or other compensatory behaviors to prevent weight gain. Binges usually consist of the consumption of large amounts of food in a short period of time. Binge eating disorders usually occurs in secret. Bulimics, like Anorexics, are also obsessively involved with their body shape and weight. The medical complications of Bulimia Nervosa or the binge purge cycle can be severe, and like Anorexia, can be fatal.
People sometimes use food as a coping mechanism to deal with their feelings and stress. Not as serious as Bulimia, compulsive overeaters are often caught in the vicious cycle of binge eating and depression. Binge eating temporarily relieves the stress of these feelings, but is unfortunately followed by feelings of guilt, shame, disgust, and depression. Binge eating, like Bulimia, often occurs in secret. Similar to Anorexics and Bulimics, compulsive overeaters are constantly struggling and unhappy with their weight. Medical complications can also be severe and even life threatening for compulsive overeaters
Eating disorders require a comprehensive, long-term treatment plan that usually involves individual or family therapy, and that may include medication and even immediate hospitalization. The sooner they are diagnosed and treated, the better the outcomes. Unfortunately, many people with eating disorders will not admit they are ill and refuse treatment.
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