National Eating Disorder Awareness week is once again upon us. Beginning February 26th thru March 4th, you may see a heightened level of eating disorder (ED) advertisements throughout several advertisement platforms. In order to try to help someone struggling with ED, it is important to be familiar with the signs of this type of struggle. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders defines these disorders as “a persistent disturbance of eating or eating-related behaviors that result in the altered consumption or absorption of food that significantly impairs physical health or psychosocial functioning” (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Popular among our society today are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder.
If you’re questioning whether you or a loved one is struggling with anorexia nervosa, here are some common signs to look for: restriction of food intake leading to significantly low body weight in the context of age, sex, developmental stage, and physical health. An intense fear of gaining weight accompanied by persistent behaviors that interfere with weight gain are common. A person suffering with anorexia nervosa will also experience a disturbed perception of their own body weight, shape, and/or appearance. If left untreated, anorexia can require hospitalization as a result of malnutrition causing tremendous harm to the body.
Are you questioning whether you or a loved one is suffering from bulimia nervosa, look for the following warning signs: recurrent episodes of binge eating an amount of food that is definitely larger than what most individuals can eat in a 2-hour period of time, recurrent inappropriate behaviors motivated for weight loss (self-induced vomiting, misuse of laxatives, diuretics, fasting, or excessive exercise), and self-evaluation is intensely influenced by one’s body shape and weight. Similar to anorexia, bulimia may also result in physical damage requiring hospitalization. Purging (self-induced vomiting) can lead to esophageal tears, gastric ruptures, cardiac arrhythmias, and dental deterioration.
You may be concerned that you or a loved one struggles with binge-eating disorder, here are some things to look for: binge-eating an amount of food that is larger than what most people can eat in a 2-hour period of time, a sense one lacks control while eating during the binge episode, eating more rapidly than usual, eating large amounts of food when not physically hungry, eating alone because of feeling embarrassed about the amount being eaten, distress regarding binge eating, and feeling disgusted with oneself once the binge is over. Do not get caught up in a person’s outward appearance to distinguish them from having an eating disorder. While weight is the driving force for the ED, it doesn’t mean all those who suffer from this disorder have a low or high weight. ED does not discriminate! It affects any gender, age, or ethnicity.
I hope this has helped you answers some questions you may have regarding ED. There are several resources to help you find what is needed. Organizations such as NEDA (National Eating Disorder Association), and ANAD (National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders) can help you. On their websites are stories of survivors, information on events, and resources for treatment centers. There are also licensed therapists that can help. Maybe it is important to just talk to someone. Olive Branch Counseling Associates Inc. can help you with any of the above struggles. We can also support you if you are a family member who’s loved one is struggling with ED. Please call us at 708-633-8000 to start your journey of healing.