Eat to live – don’t live to eat (or not to). This is very hard for a person with an eating disorder to understand since food is their tool for handling the stress and anxiety in their lives. Eating disorders affect millions of Americans each year (Eating Disorders 1). The most common eating disorders are Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Compulsive Overeating. These disorders are serious, and, when taken to extremes, can be life threatening as well.
All eating disorders arise from a combination of long-standing psychological, interpersonal, and social conditions (Gurze 24). Several other factors such as family and personal problems, a low self-esteem, and the desire for the “ideal” body may also contribute to the development of an eating disorder.
Eating disorders have reached epidemic levels. Over seven million women and one million men, children and adolescents have an eating disorder. Eighty-six percent report onset of illness by age 20, and seventy-seven percent report duration of illness from one to fifteen years. Only fifty percent report being cured. The cost of treating an eating disorder is often extremely expensive with the potential to extend over $100,000 (Ratner 17). Once an eating disorder has begun, it becomes a long-term (sometimes lifetime-long) cycle of dieting, bingeing and purging, or excessive eating. A person with an eating disorder becomes trapped in this endless cycle and needs professional physiological and psychological help to break through the chains.
Eating disorders, just as any other addiction, are a reaction to a low self- esteem and a negative means of coping with life and stress. Others may use alcohol, drugs, and even compulsive gambling as a way to cope with their problems. To someone with an eating disorder, their illness is a means of incorporating control into their lives.
Anorexia Nervosa, a disorder of self- starvation, manifests itself in a complete refusal of food and can cause psychological, endocrine, and gynecological problems. An anorexic person will turn to obsessive dieting and starvation as a way to control not only their weight, but also their feelings and actions regarding the emotions attached (Definition of Anorexia Nervosa 1). Some physiological characteristics of Anorexia Nervosa include low body weight, slowed heart rate, reduction in body temperature, a lowered resistance to infection, growth of body hair (lanugo), muscular weakness, and dizziness. Behaviorally, they may frequently weigh themselves, have insomnia, exercise compulsively, layer their clothing, and show increased tension at mealtimes. They may show signs of depression, perfectionism, and irritability. They usually tend to have difficulty thinking clearly, a low sense of worth, a distorted body image, a decreased interest in sex, and an intense fear of becoming fat (Ratner 6). ...