Nearly 8 million Americans suffer from some form of eating disorder, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. One thousand American women die every year because of complications with anorexia.
Anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa may be the most widespread and deadly of the eating disorders.
Both anorexia and bulimia are psychological disorders that are often fueled by societal pressures.
USA Today described an anorexic as someone who is fixated on losing weight. “Dieting becomes an obsession and spirals out of control,” according to USA Today.
A person with anorexia may be hungry, but he or she will eat little or no food for fear of gaining weight, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Preoccupation with food, weight and body, refusal to eat any more than minute portions of food, continued dieting while being extremely thin, abnormal weight loss, weakness, exhaustion and compulsive exercise are some “danger signs” the Tribune listed.
Somethingfishy.org, an eating disorders recovery site, reported that people suffering from anorexia have low self-esteem and an overwhelming need to control their surroundings.
Anorexia may exhibit the following external symptoms: hair loss, growth of fine body hair, dry skin, slow metabolism/reflexes, brittle bones and nails, fainting spells, shortness of breath, cold hands and feet and swollen joints, according to the Tribune. But what’s going on inside the body of an anorexic is far more frightening.
Anorexia can cause dehydration, diminished thyroid activity, irregular heartbeat, which could lead to cardiac arrest, low blood pressure, kidney and liver damage, constipation and loss of menstruation. And 18 percent of anorexics will die prematurely, said Steve Bloomfield, of Eating Disorders Association, in a Cosmopolitan article.
Bulimics are also obsessed with their weight, but they eat in binges, then purge, or vomit, the food from their bodies afterwards.
“Those suffering with bulimia may seek episodes of bingeing and purging to avoid and let out feelings of anger, depression, stress or anxiety,” according to Somethingfishy.org.
Binge eating in secret, frequent trips to the bathroom after meals, abusing laxatives, diet pills or substances that cause urination or vomiting, weakness and compulsive exercise are all warning signs for bulimia.
On the outside, a bulimic may have bloodshot eyes, tooth and gum erosion, a constant sore throat, swollen neck and face glands, bloating, skin rashes and brittle bones, according to the Tribune.
On the inside, a bulimic may experience heartburn, indigestion, dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, which can lead to heart attack, kidney, liver and bowel damage, intestinal ulcers, constipation and irregular menstruation.
Somethingfishy.org pointed out that there are many similarities in these disorders, the most common being the cause. A history of sexual and/or physical and emotional abuse seems to be a common connector along with instances of eating disordered individuals suffering from clinical depression.
The Tribune noted that the psychological effects of these disorders may be evidenced by depression or feelings of guilt and shame, mood swings, low self-esteem, negative thoughts, social withdrawal, perfectionism and an “all-or-nothing” attitude.
Jodi Mathews is BCE’s communications director.