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Eating Disorders: What Do You Do?

Eating disorders: Anorexia and Bulimia

eating disordersEating disorders, which are predominantly Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa , are primarily characterized by an individual’s over-emphasis on body image. Some of the more recent surveys indicate that as many as 90 % of American women are dissatisfied with their bodies. Some authorities hypothesize that young girls and women may experience negative self-images and low self-esteem because of the constant bombardment on television, magazines and other media sources of the “perfect image” of beauty and perfection, which is virtually unattainable. It has been suggested that the preoccupation with physical appearance, thinness and dieting, is relatively cultural-specific to the United States and other industrialized countries. In conjunction with the relative abundance of food and resources in these countries, it is very easy to understand why these types of eating disorders have increased significantly in recent years, and why it is primarily predominant in the female population.


Eating Disorders Diagnosis:

The diagnosis of Anorexia nervosa, requires an abnormally low body weight, and amenorrhea for women. Most women with Bulimia Nervosa usually have normal or above normal weight and usually demonstrate a pattern of binge eating and compensatory behaviors to avoid gaining weight. Many individuals with Anorexia Nervosa also binge and purge in a way that would also qualify for a diagnosis of Bulimia Nervosa, but maintain a abnormally low body weight. Because of the overlap in symptoms, these diagnostic categories have been challenged in that many individuals would simply move from one diagnosis to another depending upon fluctuations in body weight and the presence or absence of menses. There are also a significant amount of pure cases of anorexia nervosa (individuals who never binge or purge), and also pure case of Bulimia Nervosa, in which individuals never fall below their normal weight. In all cases of eating disorders however, there is a disturbed perception of an individual’s body weight and an unusually intense fear of gaining weight and becoming fat.

Eating Disorders Treatment:

If proper treatment is initiated at an early enough point in time, eating disorders may be treated and healthy weight restored. The sooner these disorders are diagnosed and treated, the better the prognosis for recovery. Because of the complexity of psychological factors, social issues and medical concerns involved, proper treatment requires a comprehensive treatment plan involving medical care, psychosocial interventions, nutritional counseling and possible medication management. It is always important at the time of diagnosis for the clinician to determine whether the person is in immediate danger requiring hospitalization or would be able to be treated on an outpatient basis.

By Paul Susic Ph.D Licensed Psychologist

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