Mental illness affects millions of people in the United States, and around the world, every single day. The symptoms of depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and borderline personality disorder are negatively impacting the lives of those around us, and too many people go untreated.
The influence of a mental illness can lead to suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts, substance abuse disorders, and eating disorders, which are all life-threatening.
Eating disorders, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and compulsive overeating, have been found to cause more deaths than any other mental illness.
This eating disorder is the most dangerous overall because our bodies need calories and nutrients to function properly. People suffering from anorexia restrict their food intake, generally to the point of starvation. The body becomes weak and frail, but the disease continues to tell the individual that more weight needs to be lost and more discipline is needed to consume less food.
Anorexia causes major malnutrition and terrible damage to the body. A relentless pursuit of thinness has lead a sufferer to the complete inability to maintain a healthy body weight.
The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, abbreviated ANAD, lists the top 10 signs and symptoms of anorexia. Do you see these in yourself or someone you love?
- Deliberate self-starvation with weight loss
- Intense, persistent fear of gaining weight
- Refusal to eat or highly restrictive eating
- Continuous dieting
- Excessive facial/body hair because of inadequate protein in the diet
- Compulsive exercise
- Abnormal weight loss
- Sensitivity to cold
- Absent or irregular menstruation
- Hair loss
This eating disorder is different from anorexia in that individuals do not starve themselves, but instead feel guilty and full of shame after eating more food than is necessary in one sitting, called bingeing.
This leads them to purge, or get rid of all the calories just consumed, generally in the form of self-induced vomiting. The cycle of binging and purging is the major indicator of bulimia nervosa, but in many cases, the guilt and shame is medicated with laxatives or excessive exercise to rid the body of extra calories, instead of vomiting.
People suffering from the symptoms of bulimia often maintain a healthy body weight, but have the same fear of gaining weight that those with anorexia have, and experience intense unhappiness with their body size and weight.
ANAD lists the following 8 signs and symptoms for Bulimia Nervosa:
- Preoccupation with food
- Binge eating, usually in secret
- Vomiting after bingeing
- Abuse of laxatives, diuretics, diet pills
- Denial of hunger or drugs to induce vomiting
- Compulsive exercise
- Swollen salivary glands
- Broken blood vessels in the eyes
This eating disorder, also referred to as Binge Eating Disorder (BED), is characterized by insatiable cravings for large amounts of food. Rooted in poor body image, low self-esteem, high levels of stress, and dysfunctional thinking, compulsive overeating is usually done in private, secretly, because of intense shame.
This eating disorder has the same binge episodes as bulimia nervosa, but is not following by a purge. As a result, a person with a Binge Eating Disorder tends to gain weight, further perpetuating feelings of shame over body size, weight, and behavioral choices, meaning overeating.
In a majority of cases where a diagnosis of anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or binge eating disorder is appropriate, there is also another disorder at play. An eating disorder may have started when an individual did not know how to handle the symptoms he or she was experiencing each day.
The abuse of cocaine and other stimulants is common among those with anorexia who are trying to lose weight because these drugs suppress appetite. The symptoms of depression can lead a person to seek comfort in substances, like alcohol or prescription painkillers (Vicodin, Percocet, OxyContin) or in food, which can lead to bulimia nervosa or a binge eating disorder.
Treatment for Eating Disorders & Dual Diagnosis
Much like a drug addiction, those with an eating disorder are unable to stop on their own. Treatment is needed to stop the cycle of an eating disorder, and to start the process of healing, making different choices, and viewing oneself in a more positive way.
Eating disorders are taking the lives of way too many sufferers. To find out how you can help yourself, or someone you care about, contact the treatment at Sovereign Health Group of California where eating disorder and dual diagnosis clients are accurately assessed and treated for all symptoms.
Recovery from an eating disorder is possible with the right tools and the acceptance of help. Begin your healing process today by calling 866.819.2948 now!
Blog post by: Marissa Maldonado