Below is a helpful article on eating disorders from Jasmine, a visitor to this blog, from educatorlabs.org.
Eating disorders affect an estimated 8 million Americans, across many ages and ethnicities. It can affect men or women, and it shows no discrimination when it comes to the lives it destroys. One of the most difficult aspects of these disorders is the fact that such a stigma still surrounds them, making it hard for friends and family members to understand or talk about.
This stigma can cause feelings of isolation, shame, and guilt in the sufferer and can lead to depression or even suicidal thoughts. For this reason, it’s important for the general public to be knowledgeable about eating disorders and what causes them, so that the correct terminology can be used.
Many studies have been done on various eating disorders, and while some scientists believe that certain people are genetically predisposed, there are still many unanswered questions surrounding bulimia, anorexia, and binge eating. Some people might believe that a person with an eating disorder can stop their behavior at any time in order to get healthy, but the truth is, it’s not that simple.
For most sufferers, the disorder becomes something they cannot live without; they may have emotional reasons for their behavior, or they may have been living with it for so long that they cannot imagine any other way of life. It’s extremely important, then, for sufferers to seek help as soon as possible, because the longer a person suffers with an eating disorder, the harder it is to get healthy.
The most common disorders are anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating, although these are complicated issues that can affect every person differently. Symptoms can include obsessive dieting and exercising, vomiting, refraining from eating or eating non-caloric foods only, and eating large amounts in one sitting. Side effects can include discoloration of the skin, loss of hair, brittle bones, muscle weakness, dehydration, and the growth of a fine, downy hair all over the body–nature’s way of trying to keep the individual warm as they lose body mass.
Another common link to these disorders is alcohol or drug abuse, either because the individual is attempting to suppress appetite or because they need an escape from the shame they feel. Adding alcohol or drugs to an already dangerous situation can be life-threatening, particularly if the individual has been battling the eating disorder for a while. The body’s organs can be greatly affected, especially the kidneys, and drugs and alcohol can exacerbate those problems.
It’s estimated that a person suffering with anorexia is 32 times more likely to die by suicide, a troubling statistic that underscores the importance of education on eating disorders and how to talk to someone who is living with one. If you suspect someone you love is living with one of these disorders, don’t hesitate to reach out to them. Let them know you’re listening and that help is available.
It won’t be an easy road; eating disorders take a toll physically, mentally, and emotionally and can sometimes involve other methods of self-harm, such as cutting, as the individual tries to cope with their own behavior and feelings. However, having a strong support system as they attempt to get well is imperative, so it’s important to let them know you’re there for them.