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Anorexia and Bulimia
Posted: April 4, 2011
Last Updated: April 4, 2011

Eating is essential to life. As human beings we eat daily to keep our bodies healthy and functioning effectively. But in today’s world, where we are bombarded by fast food commercials and guilted for indulging by innumerable weight loss programs, it is hard to strike a balance between healthy eating habits and giving into temptation. Sometimes we are led astray from healthy eating habits and daily exercise routines, thus finding ourselves participating weird diets like the Grapefruit Diet of the 1970’s or, worse, combating eating disorders as we attempt to be Vogue thin.


Eating disorders are among the most common mental health problems in the United States. Anorexia, or self-starvation, affects as many as one in 100 girls and young women, according to the American Psychiatric Association. The rate for bulimia, or purging after meals, is similarly high. Both disorders can strike at either gender and at any age, though they frequently develop in adolescents and young adulthood. People of all races, religions, and economic backgrounds suffer from eating disorders. Women, especially teenage girls, are most likely to be afflicted by anorexia or bulimia, but a surprising number of young men are joining the trend due to the expanding obsession for the perfect body, though men tend to turn to excessive time at the gym or steroid use to combat gaining fat, instead of the much sought after muscle.


The good news is that there is help available for people suffering from eating disorders. Like all illnesses, the sooner treatment is provided, the faster people can recover and the fewer complications that will be experienced. Eating disorders are addictive, progressive, and potentially fatal, and the effects they can have on a person’s body are not always immediately visible, but can appear years later with excessive tooth decay, loss of bone density and


Here are some signs for two of the most common eating disorders: anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.


Anorexia nervosa is characterized as a disorder in which people refuse to maintain a normal body weight. They can have exaggerated fears about gaining weight and often misinterpret their body shape.


Signs of anorexia:

·         Weight loss due to fasting or use of diuretics, laxatives, amphetamines, exercise or vomiting.

·         Difficulty eating in public.

·         Secretive behavior.

·         Intense fear of becoming overweight.

·         Obsession about weight loss

·         Depression

·         Ritualistic behavior about food, such as cutting food into baby-sized pieces.

·         Frequently claim they are “fat.”


Some physical characteristics of someone suffering from anorexia include frequent headaches, dark circles under the eyes, grayish skin, and brittle hair or hair loss.


Bulimia nervosa is a condition that has an excessive appetite with episodes referred to as binging and purging. Binging is consuming a high volume of food in a short time. Purging often results from a binge where a person feels they must get rid of the food they ate and self-induce vomiting, laxative or diuretic abuse, or compulsive exercising.


Bulimia is more common than anorexia, but harder to detect as people suffering from it often maintain an ideal body weight and the disease can go unnoticed.


Some signs of bulimia:

·         Ideal body weight is rigidly maintained.

·         Intense fear of becoming overweight.

·         Lack of control around food.

·         Eating until feeling uncomfortably full.

·         Secretive about eating.

·         Frequent trips to the bathroom immediately after eating a meal.


The signs of bulimia are very close to those of anorexia, but people suffering from bulimia have eroded tooth enamel and dental problems as the stomach acid from frequent vomiting erodes the teeth. A quick trip to the dentist can help spot bulimia. Also, many bulimics suffer from thyroid problems and persistent sore throat.


Catching the early warning signs of eating disorders and seeking treatment is the most effective, but many people suffering from eating disorders are high functioning, meaning they can function in society without people noticing their disorder. Also, in our body conscious culture, people obsessed with their weight are the norm making it more difficult to spot people with eating disorders instead of someone just on the Atkins program or the South Beach Diet.


Remember, each person in unique and their battle with an eating disorder requires an individualized plan to meet their specific needs. If you suspect someone of having an eating disorder or are experiencing one call Border Area Mental Health Services. To reach Border Area Mental Health Services in Grant and Hidalgo Counties, call 388-4412; in Catron County, call 533-6649; in Luna County, call 546-2174.  For CRISIS, call 538-3488 or outside Silver City, call 1-800-426-0997.

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© 2008 by Border Area Mental Health Services and Putting the Web to Work. Front-page photo copyright by Bob Pelham, Pinos Altos Cabins, and used by permission. All rights reserved. For the privacy and comfort of our clients and staff, the photographs used in this site are representative and do not show specific individuals associated with BAMHS.