Anorexia and Bulimia
Anorexia nervosa (anorexia) and bulimia nervosa (bulimia) are perhaps the two most well known eating disorders today. Anorexics are known for their failure to eat, while bulimics display tendencies to overeat and then purge. While these actions are almost directly opposite, the similarity of these disorders is that they blossom from an inability to separate emotions from actions. Instead, anorexics and bulimics allow their emotions to control their eating to such a degree that they only feel comfortable when following their own food "rules." Unfortunately this comfort is extremely detrimental to their health, so anyone suffering from anorexia or bulimia must confront their disorder and seek help immediately.
AnorexiaAnorexia is an eating disorder in which sufferers becomes so afraid of gaining weight that they start to decrease the amount of food they will eat until they literally starve. Though most anorexics are female, there are males suffering from this disorder as well, and even when they are physically wasting away anorexics will perceive themselves as heavy and continue eating as little as possible. Without enough nourishment to sustain them, an anorexic's internal organs will begin to fail. Death can be, and sometimes is, the end result of anorexia.
BulimiaBulimia is an eating disorder in which sufferers often consume far too much food in one sitting and then get rid of it either by vomiting or taking laxatives. This binging and purging becomes a cycle, though bulimics may never experience weight fluctuations obvious enough to make their disorders known. This constant binging and purging can damage the digestive tract, mouth, teeth and salivary glands, and may mean that the bulimic's diet rarely takes in enough vitamins and minerals to remain healthy.
Warning Signs of an Eating DisorderMost anorexics and bulimics are highly secretive about their eating disorders and will deny their behaviour if confronted. However, if you suspect a friend of loved one of disordered eating, it is best to gather "evidence" by observing:
- If they gain or lose a lot of weight in a short amount of time.
- If they talk about food or weight often and/or negatively.
- If they know the calorie content of most foods.
- If they refuse to eat when others are around.
- If they have food rituals or routines when they eat with others.
- If they purchase excessive amounts of food, particularly when emotional.
- If you find an excessive amount of food packing in the rubbish bin.
- If they disappear to the toilet during or after meals.
- If they wear baggy, unflattering clothing.
- If their hair and nails become weak and/or split.
- If they feel faint or dizzy, particularly after being active.
- If they stick to a rigid, and often excessive, exercise schedule.
- If they feel cold often, particularly in their hands and feet.
- If their body produces a layer of fine, thin hair.
- If they experience trouble sleeping.
- If they often seem depressed, moody or lonely.
Confronting Anorexia and BulimiaThose who suffer from eating disorders rarely want to discuss, much less admit to, their unhealthy habits. Though it will be frustrating, remember that confronting an anorexic or bulimic is the necessary first step to getting help. When you confront someone suffering from an eating disorder:
- Know your facts. Research the suspected disorder thoroughly.
- Be gentle, kind and patient.
- Use your evidence and observations to back up your claims.
- Remain calm at all times. Never shout or accuse.
- Have a plan and suggest what you think should happen next.
- Persuade them that professional counselling and medical care is necessary.