When I think of eating disorders, the only thing that comes to my mind is how one of the main characters from Centerstage, Maureen, was bulimic. Seeing someone living with an eating disorder and being able to vividly diagnose the problem has only been recognizable when it’s blatantly in my face on “television.” Ironic, isn’t it?
What I didn’t know and what isn’t common knowledge to most are the many different warning signs of eating disorders.
A person with an eating disorder comes in all shapes and sizes. They can be underweight, overweight or normal weight. Most individuals have distortions in thoughts and emotions relating to body image that can cause them to change exercise or eating habits. Often, people living with an eating disorder also experience depression, anxiety and/or substance use challenges.
The most common eating disorders like anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder affect up to 30 million people in the United States no matter the age or gender. Despite eating disorders having the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, most people can’t tell when someone close to them is living with one.
Anorexia nervosa encompasses behaviors like dieting, fasting, over exercising, taking slimming pills, diuretics, laxatives and vomiting. Women outnumber the number men affected by anorexia, drastically.
Characteristics of anorexia nervosa include:
Bulimia nervosa affects those that have recurrent and frequent episodes of eating unusually large amount of foods followed by purging (throwing up), fasting, and/or excessive exercise. Unlike anorexia, when an individual is bulimic they can physically appear to be slightly underweight, normal weight or overweight.
Characteristics of bulimia nervosa include:
Binge Eating Disorder
Binge eating disorder occurs when an individual repeatedly eats unusually large amounts of food in a short period of time. This behavior happens two times a week over six months or more. Each individual living with binge eating disorder does not try to purge (throw up) or use extreme weight loss strategies. Their depression becomes worse because after eating they feel disgusted, distressed, ashamed or guilty over their behavior and/or physical appearance.
Characteristics of binge eating disorder include:
There are many ways to decipher if someone is living with an eating disorder in your life, but you have to be informed. Take a Mental Health First Aid course today to learn how to #BeTheDifference and connect your loved ones with the appropriate care and support they may need.