Monday, April 2, 2012

Eating Disorders: Anorexia & Bulimia

Maintaining a healthy body weight is one of the most effective ways to combat and prevent medical illnesses, including diabetes and high cholesterol. However, when the desire to be "thin" is taken to extremes, and eating disorder can result.

Eating disorders are more common in girls and women. Two of the most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. If not treated, eating disorders can have devastating consequences, including damage to organs and bones.

Anorexia nervosa:
Anorexia is involves individuals who see themselves as overweight, despite being very thin. As a result, these individuals often become malnourished as the desire to lose even more weight is accomplished through deprivation of food. Therefore, the symptoms associated with anorexia often parallel those of individuals experiencing starvation. These include emaciation (extreme loss of fat) and lack of menstruation among women and girls. Anorexic individuals battle an unquenchable fear of gaining weight. For this reason, in addition to restricting eating, excessive exercising and laxatives/diuretics are often used to assist with the drastic weight loss.

Bulimia nervosa:
Bulimia is an eating disorder where the individual undergoes episodes of binge eating (consuming large amounts of food), followed by purging (vomiting, overuse of laxatives/diuretics), fasting, and/or intense exercise. During these binges, control over eating behaviors is lost. The length of time between episodes varies, and can even occur multiple times a day. However, bulimia is often more difficult to recognize than anorexia, since individuals still often maintain a normal weight and participate in the overeating/purging cycles in secret.

Getting Help:
Eating disorders are serious conditions and should be addressed by a health care professional as quickly as possible. Various support groups, including Eating Disorders Anonymous, are also available to assist individuals battling an eating disorder.

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