Although eating disorders are relatively uncommon, they are most common amongst teenagers. The two most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa; these conditions are much more common in girls than boys but the number of boys affected by eating disorders is increasingly steadily year on year.
What are anorexia and bulimia?
Anorexia and bulimia are conditions that affect the way people eat and behave; they are characterised by an unhealthy relationship with food which affects a person’s mental health. People with anorexia usually eat very little and are obsessed with losing weight and becoming thin; in many cases, people with anorexia feel that they look fat even when they are dangerously thin. People with bulimia go through a continuous cycle of binge eating and vomiting. Anorexia often causes more extreme weight loss and is commonly more dangerous than bulimia.
What are the symptoms of an eating disorder?
Often people with an eating disorder become very secretive and withdrawn so it can be difficult to spot; however there are some common signs to look out for; these include:
- Avoiding meals, especially at family mealtimes
- Hiding food
- Eating less
- Weight loss
- Emotional changes
- Becoming withdrawn and quiet
- Taking laxatives or slimming tablets
- Changes in bowel movements
What are the effects of eating disorders?
Eating disorders can potentially be very harmful and may even result in death if left untreated. Common effects of eating disorders include:
- Unhealthy weight loss
- Periods stop
- Increased growth of body hair
- Increased feeling of the cold
- Abnormal bowel movements
More severe eating disorders may also result in serious complications including organ failure, infertility and infections.
Treatment for eating disorders
The treatment you will be given will depend on the nature and severity of your illness; in severe cases, patients may have to be hospitalised, usually in a special unit to control body weight and monitor the patient’s heart rate and blood pressure. In milder cases, doctors often recommend a combination of therapy and counselling and nutritional advice; this helps patients to address the root cause of their negative relationship with food and learn about nutrition.