Eating disorders are becoming increasingly prevalent and are also classified as types of addictive behavior. It is reported that half of all Americans know someone with an eating disorder and approximately 11 percent of high school students have been diagnosed with an eating disorder. Eating disorder statistics may or may not hit home for some people, but when you are presented with the fact that eating disorders result in the highest mortality of any mental illness, you know that it is something that needs attention and needs to change.
There are a few different kinds of eating disorders. Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that causes people to obsess about their weight and the food they eat. People with anorexia nervosa attempt to maintain a weight that’s far below normal for their age and height. To prevent weight gain or to continue losing weight, people with anorexia nervosa may starve themselves or exercise excessively. Anorexia (an-oh-REK-see-uh) nervosa isn’t really about food. It’s an unhealthy way to try to cope with emotional problems. When you have anorexia nervosa, you often equate thinness with self-worth. Bulimia nervosa is a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder. People with bulimia (bu-LEE-me-uh) nervosa may binge and purge, eating large amounts of food and then trying to get rid of the extra calories in an unhealthy way. For example, someone with bulimia nervosa may force themselves to vomit or do excessive exercise.
What is the cause of eating disorders? Many researchers say that it is partly due to the ultra skinny and fit figures that are seen as the beautiful and successful men and women of our society. According to the MAYO clinic, they list a few possible reasons for causes of eating disorders:
- Biology. There may be genes that make some people more vulnerable to developing eating disorders. People with first-degree relatives — siblings or parents — with an eating disorder may be more likely to develop an eating disorder too, suggesting a possible genetic link. It’s also possible that a deficiency in the brain chemical serotonin may play a role in the development of bulimia.Some people may be genetically vulnerable to developing anorexia. Young women with a biological sister or mother with an eating disorder are at higher risk, for example, suggesting a possible genetic link. Studies of twins also support that idea. However, it’s not clear specifically how genetics may play a role, although researchers have discovered an area on chromosome 1 that appears to be associated with an increased susceptibility to anorexia nervosa.
- Behavior. Certain behaviors, such as dieting or overexercising, can contribute to the development of bulimia. For example, dieting is a primary factor in triggering binge eating. In addition, dieting helps encourage rigid rules about food, which when broken can lead to loss of control and overeating. They may have obsessive-compulsive personality traits that make it easier to stick to strict diets and forgo food despite being hungry. They may have an extreme drive for perfectionism, which means they may never think they’re thin enough.
- Emotional health. People with eating disorders may have psychological and emotional problems that contribute to the disorder. They may have low self-esteem, perfectionism, impulsive behavior, anger management difficulties, family conflicts and troubled relationships, for instance.
- Society. The modern Western cultural environment often cultivates and reinforces a desire for thinness. Success and worth are often equated with being thin in popular culture. Peer pressure and what people see in the media may fuel this desire to be thin, particularly among young women. However, anorexia and other eating disorders existed centuries ago, suggesting that sociocultural values aren’t solely responsible.
- It may also be that some people have a genetic tendency toward perfectionism, sensitivity and perseverance, all traits associated with anorexia. There’s also some evidence that serotonin — one of the brain chemicals involved in depression — may play a role in anorexia.
Here is a short clip about a mother’s story of her daughter that struggled with bulemia and how we can make a difference.
It is a natural tendency for each one of us to wish for adjustments or modifications, whether big or small, too make our appearance more desirable. Unfortunately, society has helped to shift the idea of an innate sense of worth to a largely based appearance- and performance-type of worth. Many feel the pressure to attain and maintain that perfect figure… but do they themselves know what their limit is, or when their perception of “not skinny enough” is actually “too skinny”?
Please visit this site to learn more about the signs and symptoms of someone who may possibly have an eating disorder. It is important to remember that a person does not need to be underweight or even average to have an eating disorder. Most often, food and weight are not the issue, but they are trying to compensate for deep emotional or psychological issues and trying to control that or another aspect of their life through their eating habits. If you know someone who you think may be suffering from an eating disorder, here are some tips on approaching them:
- Avoid talking about food and weight, those are not the real issues
- Assure them that they are not alone and that you love them and want to help in any way that you can
- Encourage them to seek help
- Never try to force them to eat
- Do not comment on their weight or appearance
- Do not blame the individual and do not get angry with them
- Be patient, recovery takes time No Iframes
- Do not make mealtimes a battleground
- Listen to them, do not be quick to give opinions and advice
- Do not take on the role of a therapist
For more information on how to talk to someone with an eating disorder, please read the information listed on this website. Every boy and girl, young and adult man and woman need to understand that their worth or value is not based on their weight or appearance. Below is a small analogy used to illustrate this principle:
A well-known speaker started off his seminar by holding up a $20 bill. In the room of 200, he asked, who would like this $20 bill? Hands started going up. He said, I am going to give this to one of you, but first, let me do this. He proceeded to crumple the bill up. He then asked, who still wants it? Still the hands were up in the air. Well, he replied, what if I do this? He dropped it on the ground, and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe. He picked it up, now crumpled and dirty. Now, who still wants it? Still hands
went into the air. My friends, you all have learned a very valuable lesson. No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it, because, it did not decrease in value. It was still worth 20 dollars. Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way. We feel that we are worthless. But, no matter what has happened or what will happen, you will never lose your value, dirty or clean, crumpled or finely creased, you are still priceless to those who love you. The worth of our lives comes not in what we do, or who we know, but by who we are.
There is hope and there are many resources available for coping and recovery. Here is only one of many resources that may give you additional ideas for someone struggling with an eating disorder. I hope that whoever reads this will understand that worth is not defined by the world, but that each individual is of great worth and value.