Eating Disorders Fact 1. Eating disorders strike more than 7 million American women each year, and 1,000 of those will die from complications of anorexia nervosa. Up to 80 percent of female college students have reported binge eating, a predecessor to bulimia. Ninety percent of those suffering from eating disorders are women.
Eating disorders begin early — usually during the teenage years — and can develop as early as age 12. Age 17 is the average age they develop. Between five and 10 percent of young women suffer from an eating disorder.
Women with anorexia, though often well-liked and admired for their competence, constantly strive to seek approval, and actually have very low self-esteem and feel inadequate. They use food and dieting as ways of coping with life's stresses.
An eating disorder will not go away without treatment. Eating disorders are mental illnesses that can be deadly if not treated and are difficult to recover from; however, many women have recovered successfully and gone on to live full and satisfying lives.
Treatment for eating disorders encompasses a mixture of strategies, including psychological counseling, nutritional counseling, family therapy and, in some cases, antidepressant medications.
There is a high incidence of depression among women suffering from bulimia, thus the effectiveness of antidepressants can be demonstrated in treatment of the disorder. But antidepressants alone, without cognitive-behavioral therapy, have only an 18 percent success rate.
The self-starvation of anorexia can cause anemia; shrunken organs; low blood pressure; slowed metabolism and reflexes; bone mineral loss, which can lead to osteoporosis; and irregular heartbeat, which can lead to cardiac arrest.
The binging and purging of bulimia can lead to liver, kidney and bowel damage; tooth erosion; a ruptured esophagus; and electrolyte imbalance that can lead to irregular heartbeat, which can lead to cardiac arrest.
The overeating, or binging, of bulimia nervosa can lead to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, gall bladder disease, diabetes, heart disease and certain types of cancer.
You should be aware of how you think about all the components that make up your self-image; if your self-image becomes too reliant on looking thin, you should consider how that may be laying the groundwork for an eating disorder. Examine your own attitude about your body, and make sure that it is one of healthy acceptance.
Copyright 2003 National Women's Health Resource Center, Inc. (NWHRC)
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