Many people associate eating disorders with celebrities, and the connection is understandable as more and more stars are speaking publicly about their battle with bulimia or anorexia. Russell Brand, Lily Collins, Shawn Johnson, Demi Lovato, Hillary Duff, Zayn Malik, Zoe Kravitz, Jane Fonda, Elton John, and Kesha are only a few who have experienced a distorted body image and irregular eating habits. But disordered eating is not just a challenge for the Hollywood culture. As many as 30 million regular people struggle with these disorders.
Some people mischaracterize anorexia and bulimia as picky phases that teens experience and then grow out of. But they are serious psychiatric disorders that can bring severe and long-term harm to a person’s health and possibly even result in death. Even though effective treatments are available, fewer than 10 percent of people receive the professional help they need for their eating disorder. Recognizing their seriousness and asking for help may be the first steps in treatment.
Thriveworks Columbia offers counseling that has helped many people overcome their disordered eating. Our counselors know the medical and psychological risks that bulimia and anorexia bring, and our goal is to provide holistic treatment for each individual who walks through our doors.
Potential Health Problems
People who have bulimia or anorexia may receive compliments on how skinny and healthy they look. While these usually come from well-meaning friends and family members, they can make the disorder worse. Healthy is not the same as skinny, and skinny is not the same as healthy. In fact, sometimes the opposite is true. Anorexia and bulimia often result in a host of health problems.
Anorexia may cause low heart rate, low blood pressure, abnormal heart beat, low white blood cells, heart failure, menstrual cycle disruptions, infertility, anemia, endocrine disruptions, premature osteoporosis, and kidney damage. Anorexia also holds the highest death rate of any psychiatric disorder.
Bulimia may cause gastric rupture, ulcers, tooth decay, gastroesophageal reflux disease, kidney damage, constipation, electrolyte imbalance, and heart failure.
Bulimia and Anorexia: Diagnostics
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) recognizes several kinds of eating disorders, but bulimia and anorexia may be the most recognizable. They have many signs and symptoms in common, but they are two different disorders.
The DSM-5 gives the following diagnostics for anorexia nervosa (more commonly known as simply anorexia):
- Experiencing extreme and irrational fear of gaining weight that leads to interference with normal, healthy weight gain or maintenance.
- Despising one’s body weight or shape with a self-image that perceives one’s body weight and shape are larger/heavier than reality.
- Limiting food intake so that a substantially lower body weight occurs (as related to healthy standards for one’s sex, physical health, developmental trajectory, and age).
The DSM-5 gives the following diagnostics for bulimia nervosa (more commonly known as simply anorexia):
- A self-image that is dominated by body shape and weight.
- Repetitive times of binge eating that include…
- Losing control over food consumption.
- Eating an amount of food that is clearly more than most people would consume in a similar situation and during a similar time period.
- Engaging in compensatory behaviors that attempt to offset the binge and weight gain. Examples of such behaviors include exercising excessively; fasting for too long or too often; misusing medications such as diuretics and laxatives, diuretics; or self-induced vomiting.
Despite their distinguishing characteristics, bulimia and anorexia share many similarities: PTSD or depression often co-occur with them. Men and women can develop these eating disorders, as can very young children or older adults. The specific causes of anorexia or bulimia in an individual’s life are often unique and deeply personal, but mental health professionals often put these causes into two general categories: biological causes and environmental causes.
- Environmental causes include examples such as peer pressure to look a certain way, childhood abuse, living in a culture with unrealistic ideas of beauty, or family trauma.
- Biological causes include examples such as genetics, nutritional deficiencies, or irregular hormone functions.
Getting Help for Anorexia or Bulimia
Do any of the diagnostics for anorexia or bulimia sound familiar to you? Do you or does someone you love wrestle with a distorted body image and irregular eating habits? If so, it may be time to get help. Thriveworks Columbia, SC has counseling appointments available for anorexia and bulimia. We want everyone to receive personalized care that meets their needs.
When you call to schedule counseling at our office, a person will answer and help you. Many first-time clients see their counselor the following day, and we also offer convenient evening and weekend sessions. We do not keep a waitlist, but we do work with most insurance providers.
Do not battle anorexia or bulimia alone. We can work together to restore a healthy self-perception and nutritious eating habits. Call Thriveworks Columbia today.