Eating disorders are very mysterious disorders. Doctors and psychologists are still not exactly sure what causes them and how they work, there are many theories. At least part of it is genetically determined; abnormal levels of brain chemicals may cause people to have anxiety, perfectionism and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)- like thoughts. Some personalities are more vulnerable. (ANRED: What causes eating disorders? , 1) Never before in history have females been pressed to be so thin. (ANRED: What causes eating disorders? , 2) Sometimes all they need is an event that affects them enough emotionally to trigger it.
Dieting is the most common trigger, “if there were no dieting, there would be no anorexia nervosa”. (ANRED: What causes Eating Disorders, 3) Eating disorders are basically diets gone terribly wrong. (ANRED: What causes eating disorders? , 3) These victims generally feel that everything is “black or white”, i. e. , success or failure, fat or thin. They are very fearful of sexual situations. They appear in control, but feel weak, powerless, victimized, defeated or resentful. They are angry but don’t know how to express it; they ultimately lose their identity to this disorder. (ANRED: What causes eating disorders? 1) Difficult transition shock, or loss, like marriage, divorce, death, new job, new school, or abuse are known causes. Loneliness, whether isolating themselves from others or actually being lonely is a major trigger. These all cause feelings of no control. These often cause the feeling of wanting to fit in while fearing criticism or rejection because of their flaws. Wrestlers, jockeys, cheerleaders, sorority members, dancers, gymnasts, runners, models, and actresses are at a special risk. (ANRED: What causes eating disorders, 3) They may feel smothered by their families or abandoned, misunderstood or alone.
Their parents may overvalue physical appearance, or make critical comments that contribute to it. Their family may be dysfunctional at solving conflict. They may also be emotionally cold, manipulative, or have high expectations. These kinds of parents can be easily recognized throughout the child’s infancy by using food as a reward/punishment. In addition, the media, like popular TV, movies, and magazines all show the benefits of being thin, for example, goodness, success, power, approval, popularity, admiration, intelligence, friends, romantic relationships, etc.
Obviously, those characteristics are not benefited nor damaged by a person’s weight. (ANRED: What causes eating disorders? , 2) The average anorectic is a bright, attractive young, usually Caucasian, girl, between the ages of 12 and 25. They are usually good children that are conscientious, hard-working, self-disciplined, good students, sometimes they feel compelled to please everyone and are perfectionists that would like to feel noticed. (ANRED: Who’s’ at risk, 1) They often rationalize what they are doing to themselves. ANRED: Who’s at risk, 2) More than half of people with eating disorders have been physically or sexually abused. (ANRED: Who’s at risk? : 1) One in six cases of anorexia nervosa are male. However, clinics and counselors see many more females because males are usually too embarrassed to admit they have a problem that is sometimes viewed as a “teenage-girl problem”. Doctors often misdiagnose them. (ANRED: Males with eating disorders, 1) While men and women are affected by the same disorder, the reasons are quite different.
Males overweight as children often feel they must “make up for lost time”. Athletes in sports, or other jobs and professions that demand thinness are at a high risk. Homosexual men are at the same risk as females because they are judged in the same way. Like females, dieting is still an extensive cause. Men generally encounter this disorder at a later age than females generally because men are stereotyped to be strong and powerful, enough so to defend their skinny female companions. Males have a much higher recovery rate. (ANRED: Males with eating disorders, 2)
In a recent study of male and female athletes 1/3 were preoccupied with food, 1/4 binge ate least once a week, 15% thought they were overweight when they were not, 12% feared losing control, or did, when they ate, 5% ate too much, 6% vomited after binge eating, 4% abused laxatives, and more than 12% fasted for more than 24 hours. Women’s cross-country, gymnastics, swimming, and track and field, in that order from highest to lowest, are the sports that cause the most eating disorders in women. In men the highest percent was in wrestling, second was cross-country. 93% of reported eating disorders, in sports, were in women. ANRED: Athletes’ with eating disorders- overview, 1) The female athlete is at double risk for an eating disorder. She is subject to people that may overvalue performance, low body fat, and an idealized, unrealistic body shape, size, and weight. Her dedication, and discipline required makes hiding an eating disorder easy. In fact, she will probably be praised for her self-control, this makes her believe she is being “good”. She will also believe this will improve her performance: she will become quicker, faster and stronger, causing her to win more, and granting her more glory; even when research shows just the opposite.
Some coaches may even encourage this with the philosophy- “thinner is better”. Most athletes compete very well in spite of it. Many sports demand a low level of body fat. Men, however, have leaner muscle tissue and less fatty tissue than women. They also have a significantly higher metabolic rate because muscle burns more calories than fat. So, women who usually carry more body fat than women, with slower metabolisms, and smaller frames require fewer calories than men. Therefore, women gain weight easier than men and have a harder time losing it and keeping it off. (ANRED: female athletes with anorexia nervosa, 1)
Now you know who gets this disease, but you have no idea of all of the frightening side effects. Anorexia nervosa can affect your every cell, tissue, and organ. It can cause you kidney damage, liver damage, irregular heartbeat, and cardiac arrest, which can all lead to death. It can cause the destruction of your teeth and esophagus. It can cause an irregular menstrual cycle in women, which in turn cause infertility. It gives you a weak immune system and constantly cold feet and hands. It makes all of your major glands swollen. You grow excess hair on you face, arms and body. You get dry, blotchy skin that is yellow or gray.
You could suffer malnutrition, and disruption of fluid and mineral balance. It can cause chronic fainting, disruption of sleeping, and nightmares. (ANRED: Medical/Psychological Complications, 1) You may also have a saliva deficiency mainly in the buffers, the part that protect your teeth from acid made by bacteria in the mouth, it is also found in low-calorie foods and soft drinks. (ANRED: FAQS, 1) You may often be depressed. You may have feeling of helplessness, anxiety, self-doubt, guilt, shame, hyperviligince, scared, obsessive-compulsive disorder, lonely, alienated, or denial. (ANRED: Medical/Psychological complication, 2)
There are many warning signs for this disorder, if you recognize many of these in someone you know you should alert a physician; because the sooner a disorder is treated the easier it is to recover. A person will probably, skip meals often and has many excuses not to eat. Or if eating at all takes only tiny portions, and won’t eat in front of others. They often show strange food obsessions like doing the grocery shopping and exquisite cooking for the family. Some become vegetarian but do not adjust to the protein intake correctly; this can be used as a cover up. They always drinks diet soda and no fat food, and read all food labels.
They will fiercely watch, or eliminate fat intake. They use, with suspected abuse of laxatives, diet pills, water pills, or “natural” products to promote weight loss. The abuse of alcohol or street drugs can lead to the severe emotional damage known to trigger this disorder. Sometimes they will wear baggy clothes, in layers, to hide fat or keep warm. One of the first warning signs is the obsession about clothing size, and complaining he/she is fat even though others truthfully say he/she is not-he/she does not believe them. They may spend immense time in front of the mirror, always criticizing.
Anorectics usually think very simply in terms of what will happen when she loses weight. This includes losing the ability to think logically and see the consequences of their actions, and becoming irrational, arguing with people trying to help, withdrawing, then sulking, and throwing tantrums. They generally become extremely competitive. They usually have trouble expressing emotions, especially anger, and escape stress with anorectic rituals. They become moody, irritable, cross, snappish, or touchy, always avoiding friends and activities because they feel they don’t fit in. Therefore, they become socially isolated.
While appearing needy and dependent they reject help, and try to please, control, and care for everyone. For example, they may try to control what and when their family eats, by selecting low-fat, low-sugar, unappealing foods. She may create superficial relationships, because while craving intimacy, at the same time is terrified of it. She will become very controlling, or rebellious and always craves attention. (ANRED: What causes eating disorders? , 2) Eating disorders are treatable and people do recover. It can take months to years. “It is best when the person seeks counselors to help resolve issues that contribute to the eating disorder”. ANRED: Treatment and Recovery, 1) In order to be fully recovered you must have the maintenance of normal weight, produce regular menstrual cycles-not by medication, eat a diet of normal food, develop good relationships with family and friends, develop age-appropriate romantic relations, have the awareness of the unreasonable cultural demand for thinness, develop good problem solving skills, be involved with fun activities that have nothing to do with food, weight or appearance, understand the choice of your actions and their consequences, and set goals and a realistic plan.
While each person’s treatment is different, here are some general things that might happen during treatment. (ANRED: Treatment and Recovery, 1) First, hospitalization, which prevents death, suicide and other medical problems; this step is not always needed. Second, they will usually be given some sort of anti- depressant to relieve depression and anxiety. Third, dental work to repair damages, if any.
Then, individual counseling to solve all internal problems, particularly those that triggered the disorder. Next, group counseling to learn how to manage relationships. Then, family counseling to change old patterns and create healthier new ones. Next, being educated about nutrition in order to design healthy meals. Finally, support groups to stop the social isolation. (ANRED: Treatment and Recovery, 2)