People with eating disorders are preoccupied with food and/or their weight and body shape and are usually highly dissatisfied with their appearance. The majority of eating disorders involve low self-esteem, shame, secrecy, and denial.
Anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are the major eating disorders. People with anorexia won’t care about education and work, or leisure activities and social engagements, and will isolate themselves from friends and family. Their eating disorder becomes their one and only priority, a full-time occupation. Individuals may be difficult to live with because of their anxiety and frequent, unpredictable fluctuations in temperament and mood.
Implications On Health
People with eating disorders can die as a result of the physical health problems caused by their relationship with food. A quarter of people with eating disorders go on to develop a chronic illness. There are higher death rates among people with anorexia than among people with other psychiatric illnesses as a result of either physical complications or suicide. The risk of death for someone with anorexia is three times higher than for someone with depression, schizophrenia, or alcoholism.
Food deprivation can result in damage to bones, osteoporosis, and fertility problems. Food deprivation and purging can also result in an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, intestinal problems, and kidney damage.
The brain too is affected by starvation: it can lead to long-term changes in metabolic and physiological processes, and changes in thoughts, feelings, and behavior.
Most of the physical problems are reversed with weight gain, or if weight control practices stop.
So, it is probably that the reproductive system will return to normal if there is full recovery from anorexia, though it may take longer than normal to conceive, and in some cases, it may be necessary to have hormonal treatment.
It may take a long time for bones to regain their strength and thickness. Recovery may be incomplete, however, and some sites may be repaired before others. If the bones remain thin, the risk of fracture is increased. If bones in the spinal column are crushed, the spinal curvature and subsequent loss of height are irreversible: this may lead to chronic pain.
Even after recovery from an eating disorder, intestinal problems may remain. Heartburn and stomach ulcers are more common. The bowel can become ‘irritable’ with frequent diarrhea or severe constipation.
Treatment For Eating Disorders
Recovery from an eating disorder is not easy, not short, and not painless: it is a slow, long and arduous struggle full of emotional turmoil. Breaking free of an eating disorder may be the toughest challenge of an individual’s life and they need support and guidance.
Treatment involves establishing a regular and balanced eating pattern and exploring, addressing, and resolving underlying emotional problems. There is a range of treatment approaches to help an individual better understand and process emotions. New forms of treatment are constantly being developed and tested as our understanding of the different factors involved and causes increases.
The initial goal of treatment is to normalize the eating patterns and develop coping strategies to control the bingeing/compensatory behaviors. As soon as the eating habits are normalized the next stage is to work on both negative self-image and weight-related self-evaluation while establishing what function the eating disorder serves for the individual e.g. escapism, stress release, avoidance of painful emotions. The last stage of recovery is to build on self-esteem and to deal with any underlying issues that may have played a role in the development of the eating disorder