Facts about Eating disorders
People who intentionally starve themselves suffer from an eating disorder called anorexia nervosa. The disorder, which usually begins in young people around the time of puberty, involves extreme weight loss--at least 15 percent below the individual's normal body weight. Many people with the disorder look emaciated but are convinced they are overweight. Sometimes they must be hospitalized to prevent starvation.
Each year millions of people in the United States are affected by serious and sometimes life-threatening eating disorders. The majority--more than 90 percent--of those afflicted with eating disorders are adolescent and young adult women. One reason that women in this age group are particularly vulnerable to eating disorders is their tendency to go on strict diets to achieve an "ideal" figure. Researchers have found that such stringent dieting can play a key role in triggering eating disorders.
Approximately 1 percent of adolescent girls develop anorexia nervosa, a dangerous condition in which they can literally starve themselves to death. Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder caused by deliberate self-starvation with a weight loss and an intense fear of gaining weight. Some of the symptoms are:
- Refusing to eat, or eating very small portions
- Distorted body image
- Absent or irregular menstruation
- Exercising compulsively
- Excessive facial/body hair; Sensitivity to cold
- Hair loss
Another 2 to 3 percent of young women develop bulimia nervosa, a destructive pattern of excessive overeating followed by vomiting or other "purging" behaviors to control their weight. These eating disorders also occur in men and older women, but much less frequently.
The consequences of eating disorders can be severe. For example, one in ten cases of anorexia nervosa leads to death from starvation, cardiac arrest, other medical complications, or suicide. Fortunately, increasing awareness of the dangers of eating disorders--sparked by medical studies and extensive media coverage of the illness--has led many people to seek help. Nevertheless, some people with eating disorders refuse to admit that they have a problem and do not get treatment.
Family members and friends can help recognize the problem and encourage their “loved one” to seek treatment.
People with bulimia nervosa consume large amounts of food and then rid their bodies of the excess calories by vomiting, abusing laxatives or diuretics, taking enemas, or exercising obsessively. Some use a combination of all these forms of purging. Because many individuals with bulimia "binge and purge" in secret and maintain normal or above normal body weight, they can often successfully hide their problem from others for years.
Bulimia is a preoccupation with food which usually includes binge eating and purging.
- Binge eating(eating a lot at one time in secret)
- Purging after binge(vomiting, using laxatives,
diet pills, diuretics, excessive exercise/fasting)
- Frequent dieting
- Compulsive exercising
- Swollen salivary glands
- Broken blood vessels in the eyes
- Extreme concern with body weight and shape
- Compulsive Overeating - characterized primarily by periods of compulsive gorging or continuous eating. There may be fasts or repetitive diets. Body weight varies.
CAUSES OF EATING DISORDERS
In trying to understand the causes of eating disorders, scientists have studied the personalities, genetics, environments, and biochemistry of people with these illnesses. As is often the case, the more that is learned, the more complex the roots of eating disorders appear.
Most people with eating disorders share certain personality traits: low self-esteem, feelings of helplessness, and a fear of becoming fat. In anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder, eating behaviors seem to develop as a way of handling stress and anxieties.
People with anorexia tend to be "too good to be true." They rarely disobey, keep their feelings to themselves, and tend to be perfectionists, good students, and excellent athletes. Some researchers believe that people with anorexia restrict food--particularly carbohydrates--to gain a sense of control in some area of their lives. Having followed the wishes of others for the most part, they have not learned how to cope with the problems typical of adolescence, growing up, and becoming independent. Controlling their weight appears to offer two advantages, at least initially: they can take control of their bodies and gain approval from others. However, it eventually becomes clear to other that they are out-of-control and dangerously thin.
People who develop bulimia and binge eating disorder typically consume huge amounts of food--often junk food--to reduce stress and relieve anxiety. With binge eating, however, comes guilt and depression. Purging can bring relief, but it is only temporary.
Genetic and environmental factors
Eating disorders appear to run in families--with female relatives most often affected. This finding suggests that genetic factors may predispose some people to eating disorders; however, other influences--both behavioral and environmental--may also play a role.
In an attempt to understand eating disorders, scientists have studied the biochemical on the neuroendocrine system--a combination of the central nervous and hormonal systems. Through complex but carefully balanced feedback mechanisms, the neuroendocrine system regulates sexual function, physical growth and development, appetite and digestion, sleep, heart and kidney function, emotions, thinking, and memory--in other words, multiple functions of the mind and body. Many of these regulatory mechanisms are seriously disturbed in people with eating disorders.
How can we explain the underlying spiritual causes of eating disorders? My underlying thesis is that...“People are disappointed with God and doubt His sovereignty & character (even His existence). They are trying to find life and meaning outside of Christ & God. I believe the answer is found when people surrender to Christ, and seek His will for their lives.” People with eating disorders are driven by fear and perfectionism. They fear that they will not be accepted by others if they don’t look perfect. They fear that they will never measure up unless they are beautiful...having the perfect body shape. Binge eaters use food to experience comfort from stress and anxiety. Their underlying needs for significance, security and belonging can really only be met by God.. Pascal wrote: “there is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man” Other people, status, money, beauty can never fill a void in the heart of man that only God can fill.
People have given up on God providing for their core needs. People are trying to find hope and life in ways that are unhealthy and self-destructive. J. B. Phillips wrote, “God is...the only sure & certain ground for hope, either in this world or the world to come.”
The Bible says in Jeremiah 2:13 "My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water. (NIV)
And Jesus said in Matt 6:31-33" So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (NIV)
Personal dependence on Christ is the key.
You or your friend can find the real answer to meeting your deepest needs in life by discovering a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. He is the answer to your inner longings for significance, connection and happiness.
Eating disorders are most successfully treated when diagnosed early. Unfortunately, even when family members confront the ill person about his or her behavior, or physicians make a diagnosis, individuals with eating disorders may deny that they have a problem. Thus, people with anorexia may not receive medical or psychological attention until they have already become dangerously thin and malnourished. People with bulimia are often normal weight and are able to hide their illness from others for years. Eating disorders in males may be overlooked because anorexia and bulimia are relatively rare in boys and men. Consequently, getting--and keeping--people with these disorders into treatment can be extremely difficult.
Once an eating disorder is suspected, particularly if it involves weight loss, the first step is a complete physical examination to rule out any other illnesses. As a parent or guardian, you need to take the initiative to intervene and get the medical and counseling resources your child/teen needs immediately. Once an eating disorder is diagnosed, the clinician must determine whether the patient is in immediate medical danger and requires hospitalization. While most patients can be treated as outpatients, some need hospital care.
Conditions warranting hospitalization include excessive and rapid weight loss, serious metabolic disturbances, clinical depression or risk of suicide, severe binge eating and purging, or psychosis.
Adddressing spiritual needs are as important because people need hope and a reason to live healthy, productive lives. Jesus Christ is the answer for people in the world today who have lost a sense of direction and purpose for living. He said, "I have to come to give you life and to give it more abundantly." John 10:10
The complex interaction of emotional, spiritual and physiological problems in eating disorders calls for a comprehensive treatment plan, involving a variety of experts and approaches. Ideally, the treatment team includes an internist, a nutritionist, a mental health (Christian) counselor, and a psychopharmacologist--someone who is knowledgeable about psychoactive medications useful in treating these disorders and a pastor.
To help those with eating disorders deal with their illness and underlying emotional issues, some form of psychotherapy is usually needed. A psychiatrist, psychologist, or other mental health professional meets with the patient individually and provides ongoing emotional support, while the patient begins to understand and cope with the illness. Group therapy, in which people share their experiences with others who have similar problems, has been especially effective for individuals with bulimia.
Medical complications can frequently be a result of eating disorders. Individuals with eating disorders who use drugs to stimulate vomiting, bowel movements, or urination may be in considerable danger, as this practice increases the risk of heart failure. In patients with anorexia, starvation can damage vital organs such as the heart and brain. To protect itself, the body shifts into "slow gear": monthly menstrual periods stop, breathing, pulse, and blood pressure rates drop, and thyroid function slows. Nails and hair become brittle; the skin dries, yellows, and becomes covered with soft hair called lanugo. Excessive thirst and frequent urination may occur. Dehydration contributes to constipation, and reduced body fat leads to lowered body temperature and the inability to withstand cold.
Mild anemia, swollen joints, reduced muscle mass, and light-headedness also commonly occur in anorexia. If the disorder becomes severe, patients may lose calcium from their bones, making them brittle and prone to breakage. They may also experience irregular heart rhythms and heart failure. In some patients, the brain shrinks, causing personality changes. Fortunately, this condition can be reversed when normal weight is reestablished.
In NIMH-supported research, scientists have found that many patients with anorexia also suffer from other psychiatric illnesses. While the majority have co-occurring clinical depression, others sufferfrom anxiety, personality or substance abuse disorders, and many are at risk for suicide. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), an illness characterized by repetitive houghts and behaviors, can also accompany anorexia. Individuals with anorexia are typically compliant in personality but may have sudden outbursts of hostility and anger or become socially withdrawn.
Bulimia nervosa patients--even those of normal weight--can severely damage their bodies by frequent binge eating and purging. In rare instances, binge eating causes the stomach to rupture; purging may result in heart failure due to loss of vital minerals, such as potassium. Vomiting causes other less deadly, but serious, problems--the acid in vomit wears down the outer layer of the teeth and can cause scarring on the backs of hands when fingers are pushed down the throat to induce vomiting. Further, the esophagus becomes inflamed and glands near the cheeks become swollen. As in anorexia, bulimia may lead to irregular menstrual periods. Interest in sex may also diminish.
Some individuals with bulimia struggle with addictions, including abuse of drugs and alcohol, and compulsive stealing. Like individuals with anorexia, many people with bulimia suffer from clinical depression, anxiety, OCD, and other psychiatric illnesses. These problems, combined with their impulsive tendencies, place them at increased risk for suicidal behavior.
Anxiety and fear