If you’ve ever known someone who has had an eating disorder then you know how scary one of these can be. Eating disorders cause serious emotional and physical problems, and are not a phase someone may be going through. The conditions are real and must be taken seriously.
The main disorders are anorexia nervosa (self-starvation), binge eating disorder (same health risks as clinical obesity) and bulimia nervosa (binge and purge cycles), but there are other types of eating disorders that cause distress and impairment to a lesser degree. It’s important to note that eating disorders do not discriminate. They affect every race, gender, age, socio-economic class, sexual orientation and language. People with eating disorders have difficulty with their behavior, emotions and attitudes regarding food and weight issues. They are struggling and need professional help.
The health consequences of eating disorders can vary depending on the disorder, but sometimes can become fatal. Some of the most extreme include:
· Heart failure due to slow heart rate, irregular heart rate, low blood pressure, electrolyte imbalances
· Osteoporosis due to poor diet
· Muscle loss and weakness
· Kidney failure from dehydration
· Gastric and esophagus rupture
· Bowel issues
· Tooth decay and other dental complications (soft tissues, bone, salivary glands)
Eating disorders have always been a difficult diagnosis for people to understand. Expressing concern without placing shame on the individual can go a long way with trust. Getting someone to a health care professional who is knowledgeable about eating disorders can be a first step. Remain supportive by letting the person know that you care and will continue to be there for them.