In the world where exterior looks and image has an increasing importance on people’s life quality and social opinion, eating disorders are one of the increasing psychological problems. There are various types of eating disorders, most common of which are anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, generally used as anorexia and bulimia. There are a huge number of women and an increasing number of men suffering from either of these diseases. Although anorexia and bulimia might sound to some to be unserious illness, many people die each year because of either of these diseases.
Self-image distortion, low self-esteem, a fight for perfection and a strong will to control one’s feelings and emotions usually lead to development of anorexia or bulimia. Although these two eating disorders are different in manner, they are similar in some ways. Both of these disorders result from psychological problems a person has and not from problems with food. Usually anorexia and bulimia develops after a longer or shorter period of dieting, bulimia occurring even after anorexia.
The term anorexia nervosa was first described by a French psychiatrist in the 19th century. Anorexia is now defined by a significant weight loss from excessive dieting. Such people usually have a craving for becoming thinner and thinner but even when their image is close to that of the skeleton they still feel too fat. Patients suffering from anorexia decrease the amount of food day by day. They like to eat alone and eating becomes a ritual to them until the phase when the amounts of food they eat become ridiculously small. For example, an anorexic may consume and feel full only with a piece of lettuce and a glass of water.
The lack of calories in diet of course leads to important weight loss. The paradox is that they do not feel hungry at all. At first, when their body starts changing other people compliment on how beautiful they look and this only cause an increased wish to lose more weight. Patients start lowering their diet and exercise a lot. But as they are able to control their body and emotions, they feel very energetic, are active in social life and good students or workers. Later on their body starts becoming exhausted due to excessive dieting and exercise. Only then anorexics start to have problems at work or school. Their social relations are weak and they enjoy more staying alone and focused on persistent control on weight.
Anorexics usually live in socially normal families with a dominant father and a weak mother. Family members may not notice a patient’s body and behavior changes — anorexics are perfect in hiding uneaten food and usually think of an excuse not to eat together with the rest of the family. Another quite usual sign is that anorexics love to prepare meals for others; they may spend hours in the kitchen without actually eating anything themselves only cooking.
Risk of anorexia
Once somebody notices that there is something wrong with an anorexic he or she usually denies to have a problem. They resist the attempts to help them. Once an anorexic admits to the problem it is possible to help him or her. But even so, 10 to 20 percent of anorexics die from complications of anorexia and only 50 percent recover completely.
Other signs of anorexia include fatigue, mood swings and depression, loss or irregular menstruation. When loss of weight is very noticeable that body mass index (BMI) is 16 and lower, an anorexic becomes having physical symptoms, such as skin problems, headaches, muscle weakness, constipation, anemia, and stomach pain and hair loss. They may also develop osteoporosis on a long-term basis.
Bulimia nervosa is defined by repeated bouts of overeating and a craving to control one’s weight by vomiting, use of laxatives, diuretics and starving. Unlike anorexia, bulimia sufferers have basically normal or slightly lower weight and they are a bit older than anorexics. During the episodes of overeating large amounts of food are consumed, usually high fat products and sweeties. Guilt follows the episodes of overeating, which may lead sufferers to vomiting, increased exercise and avoiding “dangerous” fattening food.
Bulimia sufferers usually hide their habits from family members and friends. So, families may be unaware for years and years about it.
Most of anorexia and bulimia sufferers may be referred to a short sentence from a fairy tale, “Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the fattest one of all”. This is usually how people with eating disorders think about themselves looking in the mirror. When they recover, they are able to look in the mirror and say, “Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the fairest one of all” and see themselves as beautiful and slim.