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Do you have an intense fear of gaining weight? Do you feel bad about your body and go to extremes to control your weight? Many of us have had concerns about our body or weight at one time or another. But for some of us, a real problem develops.
Eating disorders impact millions of people of all ages in this country. Although men and boys can develop the illness, eating disorders primarily affect girls and women. And while the illness most often appears during adolescent years, it is becoming more frequent in younger children and adults.
An eating disorder is a serious, life-threatening medical illness in which food, weight and appearance become obsessions. These obsessions start to disrupt daily life and physical health, yet many people with eating disorders may not recognize the severity of the situation.
Here are common eating disorders:
Sometimes it’s easy to recognize someone with an eating disorder if they have a dramatically frail appearance. But eating disorders can also reveal themselves in more subtle ways. While people with this illness display a range of symptoms, early warning signs may include: skipping meals, changes in eating habits, poor body image, excessive exercise, and leaving meals to use the bathroom for long periods.
Over time, other symptoms of an eating disorder may include:
Eating disorders are real, treatable illnesses, but recovery is not as simple as eating normally. As signs and symptoms persist, the behaviors become more rooted and more difficult to treat. Also, eating disorders often coexist with other illnesses, such as depression and anxiety disorders. To be effective, treatment needs to address these underlying issues as well.
How do you know if you’re at risk for an eating disorder? Start by asking yourself the following questions. Do you:
If you answered yes to some of these, or if you’re concerned that you or someone you know may have an eating disorder, don’t ignore it. The sooner an eating disorder is treated, the easier the recovery. You aren’t alone, and help for eating disorders is available in many different forms.
The first step to feeling better is identifying the problem. Take our free, confidential behavioral health assessment.
Fatima Ali, MD is a psychiatrist at Linden Oaks Behavioral Health.
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