Eating Disorders are varied and complex illnesses that span a continuum from self-starvation to compulsive overeating. Falling somewhere in the middle of the continuum is a wide variety of food related disorders such as Bulimia. There are also lesser know food related problems such as eating only one type of food for a period of time, and emotional eating turning to food for comfort. All of these disorders have related underlying similarities. All of them are problems that need to be recognized and addressed. The following information on both the development of an eating disorder and the termination of one.
ANDREA - A Case Study
Andrea was a 23-year-old mother of two. Since high school she had considered herself overweight. She joined a weight loss center to help her loose the extra weight. For weeks she stuck strictly to the new regime and was successful at losing most of the weight she had contracted to loose. Her focus was totally on her diet. Soon, her friends praised her for her new, thinner figure. After loosing the weight, she and her husband moved out of state. She needed to get a job to help support the family, which made it difficult to keep up with her exercise routine. Slowly the weight began to creep back. It wasn't until she went in for an "employee physical" that she panicked. At 5'6", and 152 pounds, her doctor wrote on her form the word obese. Shocked, depressed and humiliated, she decided to take the weight off, once and for all.
At first she ate only what she had to, to get by. Then she began increasing the length of her exercise routine. Before long the illness had her in its grasp, as she began to exhibit symptoms of an eating disorder. Within 3 months she was down to 98 pounds and lying in a hospital room with tubes in her nose, in her arm and down her throat. She was yellow from laxative abuse and the associated liver damage. Her skin was wrinkled and pale, and her eyes sunk into her face as if they were trying to hide from the world. Still, she wasn't convinced that she was thin enough. Her thoughts had left reality and settled on her weight.
Andrea's story is not an uncommon one. Not all anorexics are teenagers who fear growing up, and not all of them start out thin. Research has shown that 45% of all people with either anorexia or bulimia are over age 35. Although Andrea's story is dissimilar to the stereotype in many ways, her underlying problems and feelings were the same. She suffered from a low sense of self-worth, she felt a lack of control over her life and her destiny, and she had a history of family problems that she was not equipped to deal with in a healthy way. Andrea was crying for help. Help with her life - not with her weight.
It is estimated that 5% of the American, female, teenage population suffer from an eating disorder. In the female, college population, that estimate rises to 20-25%. Statistics for males are inconclusive, however in clinical settings, approximately 1% have a diagnosable eating disorder. That means that in an average high school classroom, two girls will have an eating disorder. In a high school with a population of 3,000, at least 15 boys will have an eating disorder. At a University with approximately 30,000 students, as many as 3,750 women and 300 men are suffering. These figures don't include closet bulimia, overeating disorders or eating disorders that aren't clinically diagnosable.