Dying to Be Thin

by on May 12th, 2010 at 7:00 am

The Devastating Consequences of Eating Disorders

You may be surprised to know that eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness. In addition, we tend to stereotype ‘typical’ anorexics, bulimics, or binge eaters to be young, white females, but statistics show that women and men of all races and ages can be victims.

What Triggers an Eating Disorder?

Every individual is different, but genetic, societal, and peer influences tend to be the predominant factors behind disordered eating. Whether it comes from learned familial behavior, pressure to fit in, or personal characteristic traits such as perfectionism and emotional sensitivity, the health consequences can be deadly.

How is the Body Affected by Eating Disorders?

For eating disorders that begin in adolescence, the damaging effects can linger into adulthood- if the sufferer is even fortunate enough to be treated in time.

For anorexics, the most irreversible complication is bone loss, but even more concerning are the life-threatening risks to the heart. With the loss of muscle mass, the heart becomes weaker and smaller, making circulation, pulse, and blood pressure significantly decrease to dangerously low levels.

For bulimics, who often bounce back and forth with bouts of anorexia, it’s not uncommon to suffer many of the same consequences in addition to other damage as a result of purging. Chronic, self-induced vomiting destroys the digestive tract by constant subjection to stomach acid. Even if a sufferer ceases purging, it can be difficult to hold food down, and they may suffer from disorders such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or even Barrett’s esophagus, which may lead to esophageal cancer.

Binge eaters that do not purge are subject to the health hazards of obesity, which has a myriad of consequences from diabetes to heart disease to asthma.

In addition to the physical effects on the body, the psychological effects can be devastating as well. Depression and anxiety often go hand-in-hand with eating disorders, with suicide accounting for part of the mortality rate.

Getting Help – For Yourself or Others

Recovery can be a life-long journey, but starting treatment as early as possible can save a life. Because eating disorders are complex, multi-faceted illnesses, professional help is recommended to handle the underlying issues, from nutritional guidance to restore healthy eating patterns to psychological counseling for emotional issues.

The best approach to combating any eating disorder is a holistic one, incorporating various treatment options with healthy lifestyle changes.

Certain herbs that complement eating disorder treatments include St. John’s Wort, Lemon Balm, Lavender and Passion Flower, all which promote peace to help treat depression, balance serotonin levels and reduce anxiety during the healing process.

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