"It is under the greatest adversity that there exists the greatest potential for doing good, both for oneself and others."
These are some frequently asked questions and answers that might be helpful if you think that you or someone you know might be suffering from an eating disorder.
- Can a person recover from an eating disorder?
- Do Males also get Eating Disorders?
- How are eating disorders treated?
- I heard that people with eating disorders often have other problems and diagnoses. What are they?
- What are some of the medical complications of eating disorders (Anorexia, bulimia)?
- What if I have another condition like Diabetes?
- What is an eating disorder?
- What is anorexia nervosa?
- What is Binge Eating Disorder?
- What is Body Dysmorphic Disorder?
- What is bulimia?
- What medical tests are done for persons with eating disorders?
Please see: Recovered vs. Recovering.
Many sources report that about 5% to 10% of individuals who suffer from anorexia or bulemia are males. Some studies even revealed that one in six cases of anorexia or bulimia are in men and that BED (Binge Eating Disorder) is almost equally present in men and women.
Men are not as likely to seek treatment for an eating disorder, and clinicians are less likely to diagnose a male with an eating disorder.
No single approach to eating disorder treatment will work equally for everyone - the right treatment program depends on an individual's strengths, goals and the nature of their eating disorder. If you or someone you know is suffering from anorexia, bulimia, exercise addiction or an eating disorder not otherwise specified, the first step is to talk about the problem and seek the guidance of an eating disorder therapist and medical professional as soon as possible.
While researching possible treatments, keep the following in mind:
- Treatment often involves a combination of psychotherapy, nutritional counseling, medical and psychiatric management.
- Treatment can take place in an outpatient, partial or day treatment program or 24-hour setting, i.e. residential or hospital setting.
- Treatment can be enhanced by the involvement and participation of family/friends.
- Treatment can be enhanced with the use of recovered professionals or mentors.
- Treatment may require hospitalization, depending upon the severity of the problem.
With any treatment program it is important to explore the behavioral symptoms and any underlying issues that may have caused or serve to perpetuate the eating disorder. Research supports that individuals with eating disorders can become fully recovered.
Often, but not always, individuals with eating disorders have other symptoms and problem that are not part of the diagnostic criteria for their eating disorder. It isn't uncommon to see in bulimia and anorexia symptoms such as:
- Self-harming behaviors
- Body Dysmorphic Disorder
- Personality disorders
- OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)
- Substance abuse disorders
Some medical complications may include:
- Acid Reflux
- Amenorrhea (loss of menstrual cycle)
- Bone density problems (Osteoperosis)
- Bruising of the skin
- Cardiovascular problems
- Dental problems
- Digestive difficulties
- Dry skin, hair, and nails and hair loss
- Edema (Swelling of soft tissues resulting from excess water accumulation from laxative or diuretic abuse)
- Electrolyte Imbalances
- Gastrointestinal complaints (cramps, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, incontinence)
- Hypo- and Hyperglycemia (low/high blood sugar)
- Hyponatremia (low sodium)
- Iron-deficiency anemia
- Ketoacidosis (high level of acids build up when the bosy burns fat instead of sugar/carbs)
- Kidney infection and failure
- Lanugo (soft downy hair on face, back, and arms)
- Liver failure
- Low blood pressure or hypotension
- Low body temperature
- Low platelet count
- Muscle Atrophy
- Parotid gland swelling
- Sleep problems
- Tearing of esophagus
- Weakness and fatigue
Please see the following for more information:
An eating disorder is an illness that manifests itself in a variety of unhealthy eating and weight control habits that become obsessive, compulsive, and/or impulsive in nature.
Eating disorders are not just about food and weight, but also may include suffering from issues of self-worth, depression, anxiety, or some other psychological symptoms.
Anorexia Nervosa is:
- A refusal to maintain body weight at or above a minimally normal weight for age and height (e.g., weight loss leading to maintenance of body weight less than 85% of that expected or failure to make expected weight gain during period of growth, leading to body weight less than 85% of that expected).
- Intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat, even though underweight.
- Disturbance in the way in which one's body weight or shape is experienced, undue influence of body weight or shape on self-evaluation, or denial of the seriousness of the current low body weight.
- In postmenarcheal females, amenorrhea (i.e., the absence of at least three consecutive menstrual cycles). (A woman is considered to have amenorrhea if her periods occurs only after following hormone, e.g., estrogen administration).
Binge Eating Disorder is characterized as recurrent episodes of binge eating that, on average, occurs at least 2 days a week for 6 months. The binge eating is not associated with the regular use of inappropriate compensatory behaviors (e.g., purging, fasting, excessive exercise) and does not occur exclusively during the course of anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa.
Binge eating episodes are associated with three (or more) of the following:
- Eating much more rapidly than normal.
- Eating until feeling uncomfortably full.
- Eating large amounts of food when not feeling physically hungry.
- Eating alone because of being embarassed by how much one is eating.
- Feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed, or very guilty after overeating.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder is a preoccupation with an imagined physical defect in appearance or a vastly exagerrated concern about a minimal defect.
Bulimia is classified as:
- Recurrent episodes of binge eating. An episode of binge eating is characterized by either: Eating an amount of food that is definitely larger than most people would eat during a similar period of time and under similar circumstances, OR a sense of lack of control over eating during the episode.
- Recurrent inappropriate compensatory behavior in order to prevent weight gain, such as self-induced vomiting; misuse of laxatives, diuretics, enemas, or other medications; fasting; or excessive exercise.
- The binge eating and other inappropriate compensatory behaviors both occur, on average, at least twice a week for 3 months.
- Self-evaluation is unduly influenced by body shape and weight.
- The disturbance does not occur exclusively during episodes of anorexia nervosa.
Along with vital signs such as temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, and weight, here are some other tests that are generally recommended:
- Complete Blood Count (CBC)
- Chem-20 panel: Measures electrolyes, liver, kidney, and pancreatic function.
- Sma-7 or electrolytes: Usually done with Chem-20 but sometimes alone.
- Magnesium and phosphorous levels
- Serum amylase: Indicates pancreatic function and possibly purging.
- Thyroid and parathyroid panel: indicates level of metabolic function.
- Hormone levels
- EKG: Measures heart function.
- Chest X-ray
- Lower esophageal sphincter pressure studies for reflux
- Lactose deficiency tests
- Total bowel transit time
- Protein and iron deficiency tests
- Bone mineral density test