January 8, 2013
Involving more than food
Eating disorders may begin as an obsession with food and weight control, but the root causes may include social, psychological, emotional, behavioral, biological and interpersonal factors. The affected individual uses food as a form of control over feelings of being out of control or overwhelmed with emotions. Eating disorders may surface at any age and occur in both men and women. While one perceives a food obsession as an attempt to control feelings, the disorder can lead to internal and external conflict, diminished self-esteem, self-destruction, illness and death.
Eating disorders may develop in individuals experiencing family conflict, physical or sexual abuse, bullying or being teased about appearance, low self-image, depression, loneliness, anxiety, inability to express thoughts or feelings, and societal pressure to be thin.
The three most common types of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating. Anorexia is characterized by the need to be excessively thin to the point of starvation. Bulimia is marked by bouts of overeating and vomiting. Binge eating is when one regularly overeats.
Those with anorexia may be emaciated in appearance, while those with bulimia can be slightly overweight, and people who binge eat are often overweight or obese.
Symptoms of anorexia and bulimia can range from dry skin and brittle nails to organ failure and even death. Those who binge eat are at risk for stroke, heart failure, hypertension and death related to obesity.
Extensive medical and psychological treatment often is required for people with eating disorders to stabilize health and change unhealthy habits.
To learn more about eating disorders, visit www.nationaleatingdisorders.org or call the Marshall Women's Health & Education Center at Norton Suburban Hospital at (502) 899-6300.
-Jennifer Stanton, RN, BSN, IBCLC, RLC