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Medical Complications Stemming From Eating Disorders

Eating disorders plague millions of adults and adolescents. The three most common eating disorders in Americans are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder.

Eating disorders plague millions of adults and adolescents. The three most common eating disorders in Americans are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder.

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by emaciation and malnutrition. Anorexia sufferers have a distorted image of their body and relentlessly pursue ‘being thin’ even when they are already grossly underweight. They obsess over food and drastically reduce their food intake, resulting in malnutrition. This process of self-starvation and malnutrition can have serious consequences.  An individual suffering with anorexia nervosa is at an increased risk of heart failure, low blood pressure, fainting and dizzy spells, chronic fatigue, hair loss, muscle loss and weakness, brittle and weak bones, dehydration, kidney failure, and in severe cases (medical researchers estimate 10% of cases) death.

Bulimia nervosa is more difficult to readily observe in an individual since bulimia sufferers may not exhibit the same emaciated signs as anorexia sufferers. An individual suffering from bulimia nervosa obsesses over controlling food intake through cycles of binge eating followed by purging through excessive use of laxatives and self-induced vomiting. Medical consequences stemming from bulimia include chemical imbalances and depletion of important electrolytes needing in the body to keep the heart and other major organs functioning properly. Bulimia sufferers are at risk for gastric or esophageal rupture, tooth decay, digestive and bowel irregularity and irritation, ulcers, pancreatitis, heart failure, and death.

Binge eating disorder is somewhat similar to bulimia nervosa but without the excessive purging. Binge eaters consume large amounts of food in short periods of time, hide food so others don’t know how much they are eating, and constantly obsess over food, letting it control their life. Individuals suffering from binge eating disorder often experience the same medical consequences as clinical obesity. These conditions may include but are not limited to high blood pressure and cholesterol, and a proclivity toward developing heart disease, gall bladder disease, or type II diabetes.

It is crucial for individuals suffering from eating disorders to seek careful medical attention from a professionally licensed treatment center experienced in the complex issues surrounding eating disorders. Because eating disorders affect the mental and physical systems of an individual, due care must be attended to both. In order to achieve a full recovery, the symptoms, as well as the disorder, must be treated, and treatment for the physical as well as the psychological elements must be addressed. Eating disorders can have aggressive effects, but with proper treatment at an experienced and professional center, an individual’s disorder can be handled and a full and lasting recovery can be achieved.

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