Nancy Kerrigan is an American Olympic legend. Her grace and beauty on and off the ice are iconic. After surviving an assault, she went on to win a silver medal in figure skating at the 1994 Olympics. While her figuring skating career has been very public, Kerrigan only recently opened up about her private struggle with an eating disorder. She explained that during the height of her athletic career, life felt out of control—the competitions, the training, the media attention.
Eating, according to Kerrigan, was the one thing she could control. However, like so many others who struggle with an eating disorder, Kerrigan’s anorexia began to control her instead. In a documentary she is producing, Kerrigan chronicles her own story and the story of many others who are fighting eating disorders. Why Don’t You Lose Five Pounds? examines eating disorders from the perspective of elite athletes. “There is a lot of shame in eating disorders so that people do not want to admit they have a problem, but in reality, it is killing them inside,” explained one runner. Anyone who has had an eating disorder can resonate with that feeling of shame. Isolation, shame, and blame are hallmarks of eating disorders. Here is a small picture of how they function:
- Eating disorders are not a unified illness. There are a variety of forms, including anorexia nervosa, binge eating disorder, bulimia nervosa, avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder, and diabulimia.
- Both women and men of all ages, ethnicities, and races can develop an eating disorder.
- Eating disorders affect 16 percent of transgender college students.
- Thirty million people in the United States have an eating disorder.
- The highest mortality rate of all psychiatric illnesses belongs to eating disorders.
Far from a picky phase, eating disorders are potentially deadly illnesses. They can rob an individual of their mental and physical health. They can even steal a person’s life. They are also an illness that has treatments. There are no quick-fixes or easy solutions, but many people are finding holistic healing that their mind and body need. That is Thriveworks Counseling in Fort Worth, TX provides therapy for eating disorders. Helping and healing are possible.
Eating Disorders: Signs and Symptoms
In whatever form they may take, all eating disorders have a few things in common. They cause intense anxiety about an individual’s body weight and size so that people become fixated upon that one aspect of their identity. They also involve abnormal and unhealthy eating practices. The unhealthy practices may involve overeating, undereating, or a combination of the two. It is not uncommon for an eating disorder to be accompanied by another psychiatric disorder such as anxiety or depression. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) outlines several specific types of eating disorders, including Bulimia Nervosa and Anorexia Nervosa. The signs and symptoms of these diseases give a fuller picture of what it means to have an eating disorder.
The symptoms of anorexia include…
- Restricting food intake so that a substantially lower body weight is achieved (in comparison to normal standards for an individual’s developmental trajectory, sex, age, and physical health).
- Despising one’s body shape or weight.
- Experiencing terror at the thought of putting on weight.
- Perceiving one’s body shape and weight inaccurately—seeing oneself as larger and heavier than one is in reality.
- Interfering with healthy weight maintenance or gain.
- A host of negative health effects often accompanying eating disorders. Anorexia may cause abnormal heartbeat, risk of heart failure and disease, infertility, disruptions in the menstrual cycle, kidney damage, premature osteoporosis, low white blood cell counts, disruptions in the endocrine system, low heart rate, low blood pressure, anemia, and ultimately death.
The symptoms of bulimia include…
- Iterative incidents of binge eating defined by:
- Lost control over how much food and drink are consumed.
- Ingesting more food in a specific time period than others could eat in the same period and in the same circumstances.
- A self-perception that overly emphasizes body weight and shape while downplaying the importance of other identifying characteristics such as intellect, emotional intelligence, personality, and more.
- Attempting to offset the eating binge through actions such as overusing/misusing laxatives and diuretics, forced vomiting, extreme fasting, extreme exercising.
- Bulimia can cause ulcers, constipation, electrolyte imbalance, gastric rupture, tooth decay, gastroesophageal reflux disease, kidney damage, and heart failure.
Eating Disorders: Causes
What causes an eating disorder and how it develops is often a unique process for each individual. The details are very personal, but there are general patterns. In fact, mental health professionals often speak about two categories of causes for eating disorders:
- Environmental causes: family or childhood trauma; culture fixated upon certain body types, thinness, and narrow ideals of beauty; and peer pressure.
- Biological causes: nutritional deficiencies, irregular hormone functions, and genetics.
Appointments at Thriveworks Counseling in Fort Worth for Eating Disorders
If you or a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder, know that help is available. Eating disorders are the most deadly psychological disorder, but treatments are available. Reaching out for help is important because many people need medical and therapeutic interventions to recover. Consider reaching out to Thriveworks in Fort Worth. We have appointments available, and you may be meeting with your therapist within 24 hours of your first call. We also accept many forms of insurance. Call today.