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Dying to be Thin

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“Dying to be Thin”

Women First Health Center

Drs. Sylvester, Lo, Youngren and Sansobrino

Created By: Megan Blomeyer, MS-IV, St. George’s University

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An eating disorder is defined as the presence of disturbed eating behaviors combined with an intense preoccupation with body weight and shape. Types of eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder. Eating disorders are very common in occupations that require rigorous control of body shape or body weight such as modeling, ballet, wrestling and jockeys. The cause is thought to be a combination of biological, psychological and societal influences.

This blog post is intended to give you information about the various types of eating disorders, how to identify them and what to do if you or someone you know has an eating disorder.

 

Anorexia Nervosa

The prevalence of anorexia is 1% in women and one tenth of a percent in men. It is most commonly found in individuals in their early teens.

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Common symptoms include:

1. refusal to maintain a body weight that is at or above a minimally normal body weight for age and height

  1. 2.  an intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat
  2. 3.  body image disturbances

4. undue influence of body weight or shape on self-evaluation

5. denial of the seriousness of the current low body weight

Other symptoms:

1. absence of at least three periods in a row

2. thinning of bones

3. dry or yellowish skin

4. severe constipation

5. brittle hair and nails

  1. 6.  organ damage

7. feeling cold all the time

8. sluggishness or feeling tired all the time.

 

People with anorexia tend to eat small amounts of only certain food items and weight themselves constantly. They may also excessively exercise, self-induce vomiting, misuse laxatives, diuretics or enemas and may eat excessive amounts of food followed by extreme dieting.

 

Bulimia

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Bulimia is present in 4% of women and one quarter of a percent of men. It is most common in the late teens and early twenties. People with bulimia are usually able to maintain a “normal” weight for age and height or may even be slightly overweight.

 

Common symptoms:

1. frequent repeated and uncontrollable incidences of eating an unusually large amount of food followed by overcompensation with forced vomiting, excessive laxative or diuretic use, fasting, excessive exercise or a combination of these methods.

2. fear of gaining weight

3. desperately wanting to lose weight

                                              4. extreme unhappiness with body size and shape

 These behaviors occur in secret with intense disgust and shame.

Other symptoms:

1. swollen glands in the neck and jaw

2. tooth decay from repeated exposure to stomach acid

3. acid reflux disease

4. severe dehydration

5. body mineral disturbances that can lead to a heart attack

 

Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating disorder is characterized by a person who eats an unnaturally large amount of food in one sitting but does not compensate with vomiting, excessive exercise or fasting. People with binge eating disorder feel guilty, shameful and distressed about their binge eating which can in turn lead to more episodes of excessive food intake. They tend to be overweight or obese and are at an increased risk of developing heart disease and high blood pressure.

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How is an eating disorder treated?

A combination of both psychological therapy and medication is used to treat eating disorders. Eating disorders may be found in people who also experience depression, substance abuse and/or anxiety disorders; therefore, psychological therapy is important. It is also vital for people to obtain medical treatment for other symptoms they may experience as well as nutritional counseling.

 

What do you do if you or someone you know has an eating disorder?

Beginning the conversation about an eating disorder by remaining supportive and non-judgmental is of utmost importance. Listening openly and reflectively, being patient and explaining the reasons for your concern without specifically mentioning their eating behavior are also vital.  Additionally, reminding him or her that there are other people with the same problems who have been able to overcome them can be helpful. Just remember not to invade someone’s privacy, to demand weight changes, to force him or her to eat or to make eating, food, clothes or appearance the focus of conversation.

 

Should you or someone you know be experiencing any symptoms related to an eating disorder, please contact your doctor.

 

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 National eating disorders awareness week is February 23-March 1, 2014. For more information visit: http://nedawareness.org/.

 

References:

National Eating Disorders Association. About Eating Disorders. 2013. Assessed 12 January 2014.

<http://nedawareness.org/about-eating-disorders>.

 

National Institutes of Health. What is an Eating Disorder? 2013. Assessed 13 January 2014.

<http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/eating-disorders/index.shtml>

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Dr. Sonya Youngren

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