Each year, more than 5 million Americans are affected by serious and often life-threatening eating disord ers. Left untreated, the emotional, psychological and physical consequences can be devastating, even fatal. Eating disorders know no class, cultural, or gender boundaries and can affect m en, women, adolescents, and even children, from all walks of life.
*There are three common eating disorders: Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa and Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (including Binge Eating Disorder). The three disorders have in common a preoccupation with food and an over-concern with body size and shape. All represent serious underlying emotional problems that can have life threatening consequences.
ANOREXIA NERVOSA is characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss. People diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa restrict food intake and often develop elaborate rituals and routines to avoid eating. Often they see themselves as “fat” when actually they are underweight.
BULIMIA NERVOSA is a vicious cycle of binge eating (consuming food compulsively in a discreet period of time) and purging by vomiting, laxatives, diuretics, restrictive diets, diet pills, and/or compulsive exercise. People with this disorder use binge eating and purging to manage difficult feelings and are often secretive about their eating behavior.
EATING DISORDER NOT OTHERWISE SPECIFIED
- For females, all of the criteria for Anorexia Nervosa are met except that the individual has regular menses.
- All of the criteria for Anorexia Nervosa are met except that, despite significant weight loss, the individual’s current weight is in the normal range.
- All of the criteria for Bulimia Nervosa are met except that the binge eating and inappropriate compensatory mechanisms occur at a frequency of less than twice a week or for a duration of less than 3 months.
- The regular use of inappropriate compensatory behavior by an individual of normal body weight after eating small amounts of food (e.g. self-induced vomiting after the consumption of two cookies).
- Repeatedly chewing and spitting out, but not swallowing, large amounts of food.
- Binge-eating disorder/compulsive overeating: recurrent episodes of binge eating in the absence of the of the regular use of inappropriate compensatory behaviors characteristic of Bulimia Nervosa. Research criteria for binge-eating disorder includes the following:
- Eating, in a discrete period of time an amount of food that is definitely larger than most people would eat in a similar period of time under similar circumstances.
- A sense of lack of control over eating during the episode (e.g. a feeling that one cannot stop eating or control what or how much one is eating)
INDIVIDUALS WHO SUFFER FROM EATING DISORDERS MAY DISPLAY ONE OR MORE OF THE FOLLOWING SYMPTOMS:
- Preoccupation with food, weight or body image
- Negative thoughts about body shape or size
- Using vomiting, exercise, diet pills, diuretics or laxatives to prevent weight gain
- Having a secret life which revolves around food and weight
- Feeling “fat” even when normal or underweight
- Dramatic changes in eating habits or significant weight loss
- Judging your self-worth by how much you weigh or your body size
- Fasting, refusing to eat, or binge eating
- Feeling out of control with eating
DO’S & DON’TS FOR FAMILY MEMBERS AND FRIENDS OF INDIVIDUALS WITH EATING DISORDERS
DO - Realize there is not a quick and easy solution
DO - Talk to the person about your concerns, ask questions and listen.
DO - Express your feelings honestly with the person; they sense how you are feeling anyway.
DO - Let the person know qualities/characteristics (other than physical) you appreciate about them.
DO - Plan social activities which do not involve food.
DO - Empower the individual to make their own decisions and be accountable for their decisions.
DO - Allow the person to be in charge of their routines of daily life, realizing that by giving up control, you’re setting the stage for the person to develop healthy self-control.
DO - Encourage the person to get a professional assessment, from a practitioner experienced in eating disorders.
DO - Realize the person is ambivalent about getting well, and takes comfort and feels safe in the control and rituals of the disorder.
DO - Express your care and interest in seeing the person get well.
DO - Inform yourself about the disorders and their treatment, attend support groups and read current literature.
DON’T - Ever give up; this is a long-term illness and people recover everyday.
DON’T - Ignore the problem hoping it will go away; talk about it.
DON’T - Panic. Seek the support you need.
DON’T - Assume there isn’t a problem if the individual doesn’t show physical symptoms.
DON’T - Force the person to eat or tell them to “just eat.”
DON’T - Make your love a condition of the individual’s appearance, health, weight, achievements or any other attribute.
DON’T - Comment positively or negatively on appearance or weight.
DON’T - Feel you must walk on “eggshells” so the person with the eating disorder won’t be upset.
DON’T - Let the eating disorder disrupt family routines.
DON’T - Be manipulative. Be direct with feelings and expectations.
DON’T - Try to control the person’s behavior it can intensify the problem.
DON’T - Impose rules except those which are necessary for the individual’s or family’s safety and well-being. Avoid power struggles.
DON’T - Blame yourself, feel guilty or dwell on causes.
DON’T - Tell the anorexic who has gained weight that they look better.
DON’T - Expect yourself to be a perfect parent, family member or friend.
*Information provided to Recovery Television by Eating Disorder Center of Denver www.edcdenver.com
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