Eating disorders are more than just a teen trend. They are dangerous and potentially fatal, and they can affect a wide variety of people.
Just like with substance abuse and mental illness, there is usually a complex web of factors that cause an eating disorder. Usually, things like volatile family relationships, social pressures, and media influences can cause an eating disorder. Other factors like stress, depression, and anxiety are often found to be behind the disease. An eating disorder is a mental illness, and requires professional treatment from a group of trained physicians.
Effects of Eating Disorders
There are different types of eating disorders. There is anorexia, where the individual restricts their food intake so much that they starve themselves. There is bulimia, where the person eats in excess, and then throws up or takes laxatives in order to purge themselves of the food. Then there are variations and combinations of the two. Eating disorders dominate a person’s life and they cause an obsession with food and body image. Someone with an eating disorder will take what might start as a healthy consciousness of the body and turn it into a deadly disease of the mind. Nearly 20% of people with an eating disorder die from it, either from starvation or complications because of the unhealthy eating or purging. Organs shut down when not nourished properly, but people with this disease are so wrapped up in it that they can’t see the harm they are doing to themselves. It is very much like substance abuse, in that the individual tries so hard to control something in their life, or deal with stress or anxiety, but they actually ruin their health and life, and are so out of control they can’t help themselves.
Treating Eating Disorders
There are many programs out there that treat people with eating disorders. Usually, these programs incorporate things like medical treatment, weight management, therapy, and nutritional education. Support groups are important for follow up care and to prevent relapse. Researchers have found recently that activities like yoga are beneficial as a supplement to typical treatment for eating disorders. Yoga focuses on reconnecting the body with the mind, and helps individuals cope with stress. Other activities that relieve stress and help focus the mind might prove to be beneficial as well.
Eating disorders are manageable, but often require professional help. Early intervention provides the best chance at full recovery. In order to prevent eating disorders, we should educate the public about these disorders and about healthy exercise and eating. We should also be aware of the super-thin body images portrayed in the media and be wise to the fact that real people have different kinds of body types. Parents should watch for signs that their child has an eating disorder, but be aware that people with these disorders will go to great lengths to conceal them.