by Thomas Corcoran,
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Canada, there are as many as 200,000 people suffering from an
eating disorder. It is believed that between 1 - 2% of Canadians
suffer from Anorexia Nervosa and at least 2% more suffer from
Bulimia. Of this number, 90% are female. It is also believed that
as many as 5% of Canadian women between 14 and 24 are suffering
with some level of eating disorder.
Nervosa is characterized by drastic weight loss to the point of
attaining a skeleton-like appearance. This is usually attained
by severe dieting and large amounts of exercise. As an individual
with anorexia nervosa loses weight, he or she wants to lose more.
It may start as a desire to lose five or ten pounds but it does
not stop there. For people suffering with this disease, the weight
loss is never enough. At extremely low body weight, this person
will still find fat that they want to eliminate from their body.
is an eating disorder characterized by the uncontrollable eating
of a large quantity of food that is followed by attempts to purge
the food from the system. Purging is usually done by self-induced
vomiting but also may involve fasting, the abuse of laxatives
and/or excessive exercise. Bulimia is not as easily detected as
Anorexia Nervosa. Unlike the anorexic, the weight loss of the
bulimic is not usually as drastic. Therefore, the bulimic is not
as noticeable and the condition can be present for a longer period
of time leading to severe consequences. Health problems due to
the self-induced vomiting include tears to the esophagus, erosion
of teeth enamel, chronic sore throat, peptic ulcers, pancreatitis
and ruptures in the gastric system.
risks associated with Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia are numerous
and can be life threatening. Complications can cause heart attacks,
kidney and liver damage, osteoporosis and infertility. It is common
for those with an eating disorder to suffer fatigue, hair loss,
stomach pain, skin problems, cold hands and feet, constipation,
diarrhea, electrolyte imbalance, anemia, loss of menstruation,
dizziness, headaches, depression and insomnia.
The cause of an eating disorder is a complex issue that is difficult
to explain. One extremely important factor is society's pre-occupation
with thinness. A quick glance at any magazine will show examples
of tall slender women and men that have come to embody the "ideal"
body type. There is no cautionary note accompanying these pictures
that explain the tricks of photography, the editors cropping of
legs and hips or the dangerous dieting that may have gone into
the creation of these pictures.
and young women seem to be particularly at risk of becoming victims
of an eating disorder. The biological changes a young girl experiences
when approaching puberty can be confusing and stressful. The teenager
who is faced with issues of dating and sex is often under more
pressure than she should be. Add pressure to perform well, at
school, on the playing field and around home and there is more
than enough stress to make her vulnerable. Often these young girls
feel ineffective and powerless to control most of the things that
are happening around them. Dieting is a way to gain some self-control
and feel effective. If she loses weight, she is successful and
in control. The most common element found among eating disordered
individuals is low self-esteem.
and Symptoms How can you tell if someone you care about is suffering
from an eating disorder? This may not always be easy. People afflicted
with an eating disorder become masterful hiders. Baggy clothes,
white lies about having eaten already or that they are not feeling
well are common. But if someone you know becomes overly concerned
with their weight or shape, feeling fat when their weight is normal,
starts restricting food choices to diet foods, you may have something
to worry about. When someone you know loses a large amount of
weight or their weight seems to fluctuate often there could be
an eating disorder. If someone disappears to the bathroom shortly
after most meals, she may be purging. If you find evidence of
laxative use beyond the occasional, there may be a problem. A
common issue for eating disordered women is irregular or non-existent
menstruation, so this condition may be an indicator. It must be
pointed out that these things could be symptomatic of other things
as well as an eating disorder. But if more than a couple of these
symptoms are present, it should be cause for concern.
to do if you suspect someone you know has an eating disorder.
The first thing that a concerned parent or friend should do is
consult a professional for advice. That advice may include such
things as individual therapy, group therapy, support group, medical
treatment, nutritional counseling, medication and in extreme cases,
hospitalization. When you finally approach the person, do so with
compassion and understanding. Be prepared for denial. You should
avoid making the topic weight loss or appearance, rather focus
on your concerns for the person's health.
further information contact:
The National Eating Disorder Information Centre, 200 Elizabeth
Street, Toronto, Ontario, M5G 2C4,
Corcoran is a Canadian Certified Counsellor who practices in Charlottetown,PEI
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