Eating disorders can be life threatening if not treated. If you or someone you love is struggling with binge eating, bulimia, or anorexia,
Michelle, When you have an Addictive personality, you may find yourself changing from one addiction to the next. My personal journey with addictions has been many different addictions over the years. I started out over eating and shopping, to drugs and alcohol, smoking and coffee, finally Anorexia.
Alterations In Weight
Usually marked weight loss. If the person weights less than 85% of their ideal body weight and exhibits other characteristic signs of an eating disorder, this person can be diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa. However, patients can still be close to, at, or even above their ideal body weight and still have an eating disorder, such as binging and purging behaviors seen typically in patients diagnosed with Bulimia Nervosa.
• Preoccupation With Body Image
These persons may spend an inordinate amount of time looking at themselves in the mirror. They might make negative comments on their physical appearance and insist that they are overweight. They may become preoccupied with certain celebrities and models on the internet and magazines and compare themselves unfavorably to them. They may start wearing baggy clothing to hide their body shape.
• Disruptions In Eating Patterns
They may stop eating with the family. They may develop strong dislikes to previously enjoyed foods. They may become preoccupied in counting calories and fat grams. They may develop eating rituals such as chewing for long periods of time before they swallow, cutting food into small portions, not allowing different foods to touch, moving food around on the plate, spending a long time to eat, hiding food into napkins to throw away later. They may eat noticeably smaller portions or refuse to eat at all. They might also start binging on certain foods. They may start drinking excessive amounts of water and caffeine to suppress appetite. They might start going to the bathroom after meals to vomit what they just ate.
• Preoccupation With Nutritional Content Of Foods
They may start classifying foods as good or bad, healthy or unhealthy, safe or unsafe. They might search out organic, low-fat, diet foods. They might frequently visit internet web sites having to deal with nutrition. They may suddenly decide that they are going to become vegetarians.
• Changes In Exercise Patterns
They may become preoccupied in physical fitness and spend hours exercising in a ritualistic, rigid manner. They may talk of the amount of calories that they burned and the time they spent exercising. They may become perturbed if their exercise routine is disrupted and eat even less to compensate.
• Use Of Laxatives, Diuretics, And Diet Pills
Many such products can be purchased over the counter. Certain medications used to treat Attention-Deficit Disorder, like Ritalin and Adderall, can be abused to suppress appetite.
• Mood Fluctuations
Disordered eating is disruptive to brain function and can result in irritability, depression, and anxiety. They may stop socializing and lose interest in previously enjoyed activities. They may speak of having nothing to live for. They may start having panic attacks and develop social anxiety. Before they are treated for depression or anxiety, an eating disorder should be first ruled out.
• Physical Symptoms
They may have fainting spells from malnutrition and dehydration. They may have chapped lips and grey skin. They may have hair loss. Women may have irregular or absent menstrual cycles. They may develop disrupted sleep patterns. They may develop musculoskeletal injuries and pain from excessive exercise. They may have dental erosions from self-induced vomiting. They may develop chronic constipation, gastro-esophageal reflux, and other gastro-intestinal problems. On physical exam, they may have markedly low blood pressure and pulse. They may be prone to upper respiratory infections, complain of low energy, and just not feel well much of the time.
If you or someone you know and love fits a pattern described above, it is important to get help as soon as possible. An eating disorder can quickly take on a life of its own, and lead to a downward spiral of functional disruptions, broken relationships, loss of educational and occupational opportunities, and deterioration in health, possibly leading to premature death. One could get the process of treatment started by contacting the person’s primary care physician for a physical evaluation, including laboratory studies and an EKG, and ask for or initiate finding the appropriate level of treatment for the eating disorder—be it a therapist that is comfortable with working with eating disorders, an outpatient eating-disorder program, or even an in-patient facility that specializes in eating disorders.
Because eating disorders can be successfully treated, especially when they are caught early, little can be gained—and much can be lost—if one takes a wait-and-see attitude toward this problem. Get help as soon as possible.