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Eating and "Disorder" February 7, 2006

Posted by Winter in body politics.
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Anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are the two main eating disorders prevalent in our society. Others, like compulsive overeating, are much rarer. People with anorexia restrict their food intake so much that they experience tremendous weight loss and eventual emaciation. It is typical that a person with anorexia will never believe herself or himself to be thin enough. There is desperate determination to never approach what is considered by others to be a normal size and weight. About four out of ten people with anorexia will eventually make a full recovery. Only about three in ten continue to have major life long illness. Untreated, fifteen per cent of suffers die, making anorexia the deadliest of the psychological disorders.

In bulimia there is not the iron will to completely exclude food that occurs in anorexia. Food intake is erratic and may include food binging. Intense feelings of self-loathing, guilt and shame often follow compulsive over eating sessions. Actions are taken to rid themselves of what has been consumed; vomiting, laxatives, drug use and excessive exercise are some of the forms this behaviour may take. With bulimia an individual is rarely emaciated but still shares the extreme fear of weight gain that occurs in anorexia.

It is not easy to predict who will develop an eating disorder. It is about ten times more common in females than males, reflecting society’s increased focus on the female form but incidence in men is rising. Eating disorders are more common in teenagers and young adults, in those of above average IQ, in people with a family history of eating disorders and in those with controlling family units or traumatic childhoods. They are also a great deal more common in societies where it is considered desirable to be thin. In nearly all cases dieting and a low self body image precede fully established eating disorders

What to do if you are part of a culture that produces eating disorders? I have some suggestions. We can strive to understand what drives these behaviours. We can reclaim the media. We can stop the ever-critical eye that we pass over others and ourselves. We can de-stigmatise mental illnesses, discuss them, explore them and not be in fear them.

By Siberian Fall

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