Disordered Eating encompasses two commonly eating disorders, Anorexia and Bulimia.
Anorexia Nervosa is a serious, potentially life-threatening psychiatric diagnosis that describes disordered eating. Anorexia Nervosa is a mixture of neurobiological, psychological, and sociological factors that is characterized by low body weight and a poor body image. Individuals who are anorexic are obsessed with their weight and they are afraid of gaining weight. Individuals with anorexia are known to control body weight commonly through the means of voluntary starvation. Like bulimia patients, they may also purge, exercise excessively or control weight by consuming diet pills or diuretic drugs. While the condition primarily affects adolescent females, approximately 10% of people with the diagnosis are male.
- Changes in brain structure and function.
- Stunting of growth
- Amenorrhea (See Amenorrhea)
- Slow heart rate (bradycardia), hypotension, hypothermia and anemia
- Abnormalities of mineral and electrolyte levels in the body
- Thinning of the hair
- Constantly feeling cold
- Zinc deficiency
- Reduction in white blood cell count
- Reduced immune system function
- Creaking joints and bones
- Collection of fluid in ankles during the day and around eyes during the night
- Tooth decay
- Dry skin
- Dry or chapped lips
- Poor circulation
- Nerve deterioration
- Brittle fingernails
- Bruising easily
Individuals who are bulimic consume large amounts of food at one time. This is known as binge eating. Afterwards, individuals try to get rid of what they consumed by purging. Some individuals use laxatives and or diuretics to lose fluid weight. Some people exercise excessively in order to burn off the extra calories they eat. This behavior may occur occasionally, weekly or several times within a day. Bulimia may be a temporary or sporadic problem, but for some, it becomes a way of life.
What are the health consequences?
Individuals who are bulimic are at risk for malnutrition and dehydration, which results in many other health problems such as:
- Fatigue and lack of energy
- Muscle cramping
- Erratic heartbeat, damage to the heart muscle
- Hair loss
- Amenorrhea (absence of menstrual cycle)
- Osteoporosis (loss of calcium from the bones)
- Increase risk of fractures
Other risk associated with vomiting include:
- Irritation or bleeding of the esophagus
- Tooth decay (from the acid in the stomach)
How can I help a friend?
Express your concern and ask if they are interested in getting help. Offer to help find professional help and go along with them to the first visit. Please remember to not feel guilty if your friend is not willing to acknowledge the problem or change their behaviors. No one can “fix” a behavior until they are ready to help themselves. For a person to be successful in any behavior change, it has to be meaningful, important and to come from within.
Where can I get help?
Students can seek help from the Counseling Center or the Health and Wellness Center on campus or any other professional mental health counselor or physician. Later in the recovery process, individuals may work with dietitians and health educators.