Eating has always been considered an enjoyable social activity. However, in the current situation society is increasingly becoming concerned with body weight, exercise and nutrition. This increased obsession and awareness about body weight and structure has led to an increase in eating disorders amongst people. Eating disorders can simply be defined as extremes in eating behaviors and are highly prevalent amongst people. Eating disorders have been found to have serious effects on the health of the people and have the highest mortality rate when compared to other mental disorders.
Despite the seriousness of the issue and the awareness created about them eating disorders still exist and continue to affect scores of people across the world. Eating Disorders: According to the Renfrew Center Foundation it has been estimated that around 24 million people in the United States suffer from any one type of eating disorder. Eating disorders can’t be ignored as it is a potential life threatening condition and has severe consequences on the physical, mental and emotional well being of an individual.
Eating disorders are often caused by various social, emotional and psychological factors. Studies have revealed that people often mask painful emotions using eating disorder related activities such as extreme dieting, binging and purging. Research has proven that psychological factors such as depression and low self esteem often contribute to eating disorders in a person. Other factors such as troubled child hood, dysfunctional family, sexual abuse, severe teasing in childhood about weight related issues by friends and relatives can also lead to eating disorders in a person.
It is also understood that societal and cultural pressures to maintain a thin body structure may also lead to eating disorders. Heredity factors and biochemical imbalances are some other factors (National Eating Disorders Association, 2004). There are different types of eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia, binge eating and eating disorders not otherwise specified (EDNOS) (which show not all characteristics of a particular eating disorder) (DISORDEREDEATING, 2008) (Herrin & Matsumoto, 2007, p. 43).
There are some tell tale signs of a person who has or is going to develop an eating disorder. These people are constantly worried about their weight and body image have gained or lost weight rapidly, exhibit mood swings, are reluctant to eat and often use the bathroom immediately after eating (DISORDEREDEATING, 2008). Eating disorders should be attended to immediately with proper and adequate health care often lead by a team of physician, nutritionists, psychologists and a psychiatrist. However, patients need to be assessed individually and then a recovery program should be formulated for their needs.
Treatment should address both the problems and the underlying factors. Also nutritional counselling is often required to educate the people with eating disorders to regain normal healthy lifestyle. Generally treatment is administered on an outpatient basis. However, sometimes depending on the health condition of the patient hospitalization is necessary (National Eating Disorders Association, 2004). Anorexia Nervosa: The term anorexia means “lack of appetite” (Herrin & Matsumoto, 2007, p. 31).
The term Anorexia was coined as early as the year 1873 by William Gull (Faulkner, 2007, p. 62). Anorexia is a disorder that generally affects females though males are also affected in some cases. Anorexics live in a constant fear of gaining weight and try to consume very small quantities of food with some even exhibiting bulimic tendencies. Medical experts classify this as a psychological disorder and people are classified as anorexics when 15% or more of the original body weight is lost. Anorexics fall in to two groups: the restricting and bulimic (binge –eating/purging) group.
The former tries to consume as little food as possible while the latter consumes large quantities and then purges it all out (ThinkQuest, 2009). Anorexics generally feel that they have an unattractive body structure though they are very thin and frail. Some anorexics who are still in the adolescent stage may not lose weight while some may not gain adequate weight but keep on increasing in height. Some anorexics may experience stunted growth (Herrin & Matsumoto, 2007, p. 30). Stressful events in life in some cases might trigger anorexia nervosa (Herrin & Matsumoto, 2007, p. 31).