In a society that places excessive values on being slim, many women have a tortured relationship with food and their bodies. Sadly, eating disorders are rife, particularly among teenage girls; however, women and men of all ages can be afflicted by eating disorders.
Official figures talk about one percent of young women being afflicted by anorexia, two percent suffering from bulimia, and two percent suffering from a binge-eating disorder. Of course, figures do not count unreported cases, nor the hidden, nor borderline cases; for instance, women who follow very strict diets by periods of bingeing, for whom this kind of eating pattern is so common that they consider it normal or at least inevitable. Eating disorders are usually onset in adolescence and affect more women than men.
If you want to help yourself or someone who you know and suspect of being afflicted by an eating disorder, identifying the early signs of the condition is very important in order to look for professional help as soon as possible. Early signs of eating disorders may include:
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Increased sensitivity to criticism
- Sudden increased interest in physical activity
- Depressive symptoms.
- Intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat, even though underweight
- Distorted self-image
- Denial of the seriousness of having low body weight
What causes eating disorders?
Pointing at the exact cause of eating disorders is impossible. A person’s obsession with food may start at any time. Obsession with body image can occur at primary school, during adolescence, after pregnancy, and even when aging. The onset of eating disorders in men has more to do with sports performance and body image. Therefore, a man at any age is also a candidate for suffering from an eating disorder.
In general, people who suffer from eating disorders tend to be perfectionists and, at the same time, suffer from low self-esteem.
Eating disorders may be a symptom of other emotional problems or strained relationships, and food might feel like the only thing they can control in their life.
Often women use their bodies as a focus of their unhappiness, and the fact that slim often equals beautiful in our society certainly encourages the problem.
Medical Tests to Diagnose and Eating Disorder
Unfortunately, there are no specific tests to pinpoint eating disorders. No single laboratory test helps with the diagnosis of an eating disorder. However, a group of tests should be performed to rule out medical complications. For example, a general screen that includes checking for levels of electrolytes, glucose, calcium, and phosphate is useful for a diagnosis. Liver and thyroid function tests are also important to discard any other disease.
People afflicted by eating disorders generally have two options for treatment, either as an inpatient or an outpatient.
Inpatient treatment is often reserved for extreme cases where a patient weighs less than 70% of his or her ideal body weight, and outpatient treatment has already failed.
Outpatient treatment usually concentrates on treating the complications of living with an eating disorder. It includes nutritional counseling, behavioral therapy to change patterns of behavior towards food, cognitive therapy to alter anorexic attitudes and improve self-esteem.