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Problems Associated with Eating Disorders and Their Treatments

29 June 2021

Eating disorders are reported to be increasing at a startling rate around the world with a 34% increase in patient admissions in inpatient care since 2006 (Woolf, E.). Today, eating disorders are reported to affect at least 9% of the world’s population. Among the U.S. population, it is also 9% or 28.8 million Americans, will have an eating disorder in their lifetime. 

Eating disorders can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, or social class. They are considered to be mental illnesses that stem from emotional outbursts, depression and anxiety. With eating disorders, there are also problems that accompany them as more people suffer from depression and anxiety, possibly from life experiences, and other negative feelings that some people cannot overcome. They also affect not only the person but the family members as well.

Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and BED (binge-eating disorder) are also associated with other problems such as ;

  • Addiction to drugs and alcohol, overspending, and kleptomania. Emotional factors that trigger these addictions include guilt, hunger, boredom, a need to escape from hard feelings”."Alcohol abuse is specifically risky for those who are malnourished, underweight, frequent vomiting, or drinking on an empty stomach. These may cause alcohol poisoning, memory loss, blackouts, injuries, brain damage, or even death." (Woolf, E.)  
  • Alexithymia - "overall difficulties of putting feelings into words as observed in some individuals with anorexia which may be due to the many clashing emotions they experience about food, eating and their own bodies."

With the belief that the body has the ability to heal itself, some people find options or alternative treatments to deal with physical-emotional issues such as acupuncture, aromatherapy, homeopathy and reflexology, meditation and mindfulness, and massage, among others.

  • Anemia - this is a situation when the body's red blood cell count is lower than normal Iron is needed by the body to produce red blood cells that help store and transport oxygen around the body.

Symptoms of anemia are fatigue, or lethargy, shortness of breath, dizziness, muscle weakness, skin pallor, depression, confusion, and poor memory among others. This is often observed in eating disorders.

Those who are suffering from anemia are often vegetarian or vegan who avoid animal products that are reliable sources of iron. Iron deficiency can be treated in most cases with simple iron supplements. 

  • Anorexia nervosa - literally means in original Greek as "nervous loss of appetite." This is characterized by too much dieting, strict restriction of calories, food avoidance, extreme or rapid loss of weight, and a pathological fear of gaining weight." (Woolf, E.)

"Often diagnosed based on very low body weight, it should be noted that it is a psychiatric disorder. Anorexic individuals find it so hard to respond to their physical needs such as warmth, rest, and food. Strict discipline and self-control, especially around food and exercise, dominate the person's life.”

"The highest average age of onset of anorexia is between 15 and 19 years old and has a strong prevalence among women. Another important note about anorexia is that is not characterized only by the weight of the individual but also how they feel about their bodies, eating patterns, and their behavior."

  • Depression - individuals may have difficulty sleeping, with low mood, poor appetite, and feeling a sense of despair and suicidal thoughts. It is also very common among individuals with eating disorders. Taking antidepressants may be helpful and should lift the depressed mood.  
  • Bigorexia - is a form of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) or an "obsessive mental disorder often classified with eating disorders. This is usually seen in men who spend a lot of time weight training in gyms which becomes increasingly common. It is also referred to as "muscle dysmorphia" or "reverse anorexia."

Signs or symptoms of this disorder include constant visits to the gym or lifting weights at home, becoming angry if they cannot do this; exercising despite injury or illness, extreme focus on appearance, irritability, or mania. This disorder may develop as a result of childhood abuse, trauma, or bullying at school. 

  • Bipolar disorder- associated with bulimia nervosa. It is different from major depression having two poles -hence bipolar. People who have bipolar disorder may go into a deep depression that lasts several days or weeks. They also often have difficulty with eating disorders showing signs of weight problems, poor impulse control, self-destructive habits, and compulsive behaviors."  

"Individuals with bipolar disorder during manic episodes, often have no insight about their condition, may experience unlimited enthusiasm and optimism spending money, socializing and exercising to perilous excess with the belief they can achieve anything and harming themselves in the process."

On the brighter side of eating disorders, they can be treated depending on the kind of disorder that is present that includes “psychotherapy, nutrition, education, and medical monitoring, and medications.” (https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions). The treatment team includes the mental health professional, registered dietician, medical or dental specialists, partners, parents, or other family members.

Aside from these, those having symptoms may also be helped by talking to them concerning their problems, guilt feelings, or difficulties in life that they are going through. Constant communication is, I think, also effective, especially when the person is a family member or close friend of the person who is suffering from an eating disorder. 

As human beings, we need other people to communicate with and share what we think and feel. That gives a little bit of consolation and may possibly lead to treatment and recovery.

Another activity is to have the individual engage in activities and hobbies such as writing, reading, fashion design that the individual may enjoy and appreciate. This could be possible with a drafting table from FlexiSpot

The Height Adjustable Drafting Table ED1B gives freedom to switch between standing and sitting with a press of a button. The tabletop is tiltable from 0 degrees to 40 degrees for ideal angles for a variety of tasks from writing to drawing. It also has a safety ledge stopper that prevents paperwork from sliding off the table surface. The side platform is foldable or could extend for more workspace. The expandable desktop has built-in drawers to store essentials and to maintain a tidy workspace.