Eating Disorders: The Need-to-Know Series

“I did a lot of soul searching after her death, and I realize now that I did as much as I could have done. All of us who loved her did.”

“But I still can’t believe she’s gone. We spent so much time together…there’s a void now. I miss her more and more each day.”

The words of Karen Carpenter’s brother, Richard. The golden-voiced Karen died from complications of anorexia nervosa on February 4, 1983.

After reading the hard facts just below, you’ll understand why this need-to-know series on the eating disorders is a necessity.

We’ll kick things-off today by learning about what the major eating disorders are, and what they look like…

The Hard Facts

  • Eating disorders affect some 70 million individuals – female and male – worldwide
  • 90% of those enduring an eating disorder are women between the ages of 12 and 25
  • Some 11% of high school students have been diagnosed with an eating disorder
  • Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any of the emotional/mental health disorders
  • A young woman with anorexia is 12 times more likely to die than other women her age without the disease
  • 5-10% of anorexics die within 10 years of onset, 18-20% die within 20 years – only 50% report ever being cured
  • 20% of those enduring anorexia will prematurely die from complications related to their disease disorder (e.g.: Karen Carpenter – heart disease)

What Are the Eating Disorders?

The major eating disorders are…

Anorexia Nervosa (AN)

This is an obsession with food and the concept of being thin. And that obsession can lead to fatal starvation.

Signs and symptoms of AN include…

Refusal to eat and a denial of hunger, an obvious and rapid drop in weight, obsession with calories/fat content, preoccupation with food/recipes/cooking – largely for others, dieting, eating rituals, purging (exercise, laxatives, ipecac syrup, diet pills, water pills), swollen checks (from swollen salivary glands due to frequent vomiting)…

Fear of gaining weight, poor or distorted self-image, flat affect, social withdrawal, thin appearance, dizziness/fainting, lanugo (soft, downy body hair), amenorrhea (menstrual irregularities or loss of menstruation), constipation, frequently feeling cold, irregular heart rhythms, low blood pressure, dehydration

Bulimia Nervosa (BN)

Featured in BN are episodes of bingeing and purging – eating a large amount of food in a short period of time and attempting to rid oneself of the excess calories by vomiting, excessively exercising, using laxatives, etc. Someone enduring BN may be at their ideal body weight, or only slightly above.

Signs and symptoms include…

Chronic gastric reflux after eating, electrolyte imbalances, inflammation of the esophagus, oral trauma (from fingers and objects in the mouth to induce vomiting), constipation, infertility, enlarged glands in the neck just below the jawline, peptic ulcers, constant weight fluctuation, purging, eating to the point of great discomfort (particularly consuming high-fat and sweet foods), unhealthy focus upon body/shape..

Going to the bathroom during or after meals, feelings of inability to control eating behaviors, abnormal bowel functioning, damaged teeth/gums, swollen salivary glands, sores in mouth/throat, dehydration, irregular heartbeat, sores/scars/calluses on the knuckles/hands (from inserting fingers in the mouth), amenorrhea, constant dieting or fasting, possible substance abuse.

Binge Eating Disorder (BED)

BED is the most common eating disorder in the US. With BED, it’s all about regularly eating excessive amounts of food (bingeing). Eating when not hungry and continuing to eat even after being way-to-full are common.

After bingeing, dieting or eating normal meals may be the next order of business. And the cycle continues as on comes a new round of bingeing episodes. Weight may be all over the board, including normal.

Signs and symptoms include…

Periodically losing control over the consumption of food, eating unusually large amounts of food in one sitting, eating far more than the average person in the same amount of time, eating more quickly during an episode than normal, eating until physically uncomfortable or nauseous…

Eating when depressed or bored, eating large amounts of food even when not hungry, eating alone during an episode in an effort not to be discovered, felling disgusted/depressed/guilty after an episode, rapid weight gain and/or sudden onset of obesity.

Until Tomorrow

Well that gets us off to a great start. It’s important to know what the major eating disorders are, and what they look like.

Be sure to come back tomorrow. We’ll chat the complications and causes of anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder.

Not to be missed!

To catch a listing of all chipur articles on the biology of the mood and anxiety disorders, please click here.