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Eating Disorder Myths and Facts

Eating disorders are psychological and physical disturbances in the body during which the affected individual is preoccupied with his or her body weight and is willing to go to extremes to remain skinny. Most patients, although very thin and unhealthy, believe they are fat and could still lose some extra weight. In addition, there are two primary types of eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia. Anorexia nervosa is characterized by avoidance of food, minimal eating, and body image obsession. Bulimic individuals do eat more, but immediately after the meal force themselves to throw up or take laxatives to stimulate the bowel movement and get rid of the food they ate. Many also take diet pills and engage in rigorous physical activities. Further, there are many myths surrounding both disorders. For instance, some people believe anorexics are not hungry and therefore do not consume enough food. On the contrary, individuals suffering from anorexia may feel very hungry but decide not to eat out of fear of gaining additional weight. The affected persons often use anorexia to control at least one aspect of their lives, or in other words, denying themselves food puts them in control of their weight. It should be noted that such behavior does not come as a surprise as eating disorders are usually comorbid with other psychological disturbances including mood disorders such as depression or anxiety. People suffering from mood disorders are generally unhappy with both themselves and the world, and have irrational fears. A predisposed individual who is affected by depression or an anxiety disorder can relatively easily develop an eating disorder when one takes into account the pressure that is placed on young women to be thin. Further, although more frequent among this population, it is untrue that eating disorders only affect girls and young women. Teenagers and women entering adulthood are at the highest risk for developing some form of eating disorder but there are other groups who are also susceptible. Researchers and clinicians believe the numbers of affected men are vastly underestimated. When it comes to the figures in the United Kingdom, just over 1 million people suffer from eating disorders. It is estimated that around 1 in every 10 is male. Experts in the United States believe 1 in every 3 patients could be a man. Most people affected by the disorder try to hide their behavior for as long as possible and men are particularly successful in this endeavor, making it that much more difficult to correctly estimate the prevalence. Similar factors contribute to the development of eating disorders in both genders. Men seem to be just as susceptible to conform to the ideal western body image that the social and cultural pressure is highly to blame for the spreading of the disorders. Others speculate that men used to resort to violence when expressing feelings but now they are starting to internalize their emotions, which can often trigger the disease. In addition, when it comes to dealing with someone who is psychologically disturbed using force to try and make them understand their behavior is detrimental often leads nowhere. It is untrue that the best way to deal with the problem is for the family members or loved ones to make sure the affected individual gets three meals a day. As many people are sensitive about their weight trying to persuade some to gain or lose a few pounds can easily make the situation worse rather than better. Persons suffering from eating disorders need to make the decision to change on their own and forcing them before they are ready can only be counterproductive. On the other hand, family members and friends should be there to offer love and support in order for the individual to ever beat the problem. Letting them know they are not alone and there are people who care and are willing to listen makes the situation better for everyone. Suggesting that the person talks to a professional about their condition can be helpful, and offering to go with them can relieve anxiety and encourage the patient to seek help.

Treatment and Prognosis of Eating Disorders

When it comes to treatment for eating disorders, it depends on the severity and nature of the problem. For those who are mildly affected the treatment can include talk therapy and self-help groups. In extreme situations, individuals who are starving themselves to death can be hospitalized and force fed under the Mental Health Act. Also, it is generally estimated that one third of patients fully recover, one third retain some symptoms, while one third maintain a chronic condition. In the case of anorexia, anywhere between 44 and 75 percent of treated persons can recover over a period of 3 or 4 years. In around 20 percent of cases the consequences of the disorder can be deadly, and are usually brought on by cardiac arrest or suicide. The figures are similar for bulimia.

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