Both men and women suffer from eating disorders. The type of disorder relies heavily upon their different personality characteristics. In the case of anorexia and bulimia, sufferers typically have a very low self-esteem but are perfectionists, leading to them become extremely critical of their diets and their weight. Even if they’re healthy, they feel fat and will consciously put themselves in a state of malnutrition. Sadly, many don’t admit to having a problem until the condition is advanced.
If there’s an eating disorder, it generally can be assumed there’s an underlying issue with panic attacks, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder or drug abuse, since eating disorders are an external way to deal with an internal problem. There’s also recent evidence that suggests family history might play a role in it. Currently, 20 million women and 10 million men have suffered from an eating disorder at some point in their lives. While the average male age for onset is typically later than that of females, what they suffer is equivalent across genders.
Such disorders aren’t always triggered by personal beliefs, family members or peers. In fact, athletes, including body builders, gymnasts, dancers, jockeys, rowers, swimmers, runners and wrestlers, are far more vulnerable due to the weight restrictions with these activities. For instance, in rowing, there are lightweight and heavyweight boats. Many rowers on the cusp of being lightweight will be pressured by the coaches to lose enough pounds to count as lightweight since the lighter the person, the better the boat will move during a race.
Types of Eating Disorders
Anorexia Nervosa – This disorder is clinically defined as a person weighing 15 percent less than the accepted healthy weight for the person’s height. Due to not eating enough, the body begins to digest its muscles and fat, leaving the sufferer a walking skeleton. When the issue grows out of control, menstrual periods stop, early osteoporosis sets in, the hair and nails become brittle, depression increases and there’s severe constipation.
Bulimia Nervosa – Bulimia differs from anorexia in that the person may be skinny, average or overweight and lead an active, healthy life. The individual eats staggering amounts of food in one sitting. This makes her feel full, causing a fear of gaining weight that leads to either self-induced vomiting or using laxatives. Its symptoms include a chronically sore throat, swollen salivary glands, ruined tooth enamel, kidney problems and dehydration.
Binge Eating Disorder – This is the newest of the three and has been brought to attention by the severe increase in the number of people becoming morbidly obese. While specifics are still being determined, the common thread is that the person will go on an eating binge, becoming completely out of control. Unlike bulimia, the individual doesn’t try to purge the body. Constant binge eating leads to obesity, hypertension, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
The Benefits of Eating Disorder Treatment Programs
When it comes to finally facing down the internal demons that cause this, eating disorder treatment is offered at four levels. This gives each patient the ability to choose help that matches what she needs to overcome the struggle. After meeting with a treatment coordinator, patients are matched to what the professional sees as the best fit for the individual’s level of problem.
Inpatient Care – This eating disorder treatment involves 24-hour surveillance and monitoring of the condition. Meal plans, therapy and support all provide a secure environment for the patient to realize that she needs to change. Once the breakthrough of admitting there’s a problem happens, true healing can begin. This is the preferred treatment for those with unstable vital signs, complications or worsening symptoms.
Residential Care – Those who are still medically healthy and won’t need medical assistance are best aided through residential care. In this scenario, the only major issue is dealing with the problem psychologically. With help, the patient is still able to enjoy restaurants, cook and go shopping in a relaxed, calm environment. The main purpose of this treatment is to promote positivity in order to rebuild self-esteem. Psychiatrists also help sufferers define specific goals, develop plans and otherwise learn healthy coping skills.
Partial Hospitalization – More serious cases involve those with a disorder that interrupts daily functioning, even though health isn’t yet severely affected, and those who need daily mental support. Other issues include problems functioning normally in everyday situations and an obsession with performing the disorder on a daily basis. Because it’s focused on mental health, the majority of the time spent here emphases identifying triggers that cause the behavior, learning and practicing new behaviors, and developing interactions with others. It consists mainly of teaching the individual how to deal with day-to-day challenges without succumbing to food. Family members and friends are also called in and taught the best ways to help once the patient is released from eating disorder treatment.
Intensive Outpatient Care – This level of care only happens when the patient is medically stable and mentally healthy enough to properly deal with daily upsets. At this point, the patient is in the final stage of treatment and is currently living at home and either attending school or working. The individual continually works with a team of psychiatrists to stabilize herself through periods of hardship. Keeping in touch with such a group also allows her to connect with others who suffer from the same thing, so they all can support one another through such trying times.
If you know or suspect a loved one is suffering from an eating disorder, don’t allow the self-harm to continue. If left alone, the body quickly begins to fall apart, resulting in serious health issues a simple trip to the doctor cannot fix. Call the helpline at 800-447-9081 today. Specialists can provide the support you need to regain the confidence necessary to break the vicious cycle.