EatingDisorders (EDs) are more complicated than any other disorder. They’re not only the most complicated to diagnose, but also the most difficult to resolve, even more difficult than drug addictions. The interplay between mind and body is especially intense in EDs.
Eating Disorders are far more common in females than in males, although I have had several male patients who have also suffered with this condition.
Tragically, serious illness and death are not uncommon consequence of ED, and the frustration for doctors is that we are often forced to stand by and helplessly watch people destroy themselves. Unfortunately, once a girl or woman steps into the confused and complicated world of ED, the odds of spiraling downward are high. Seeking treatment, however, certainly mitigates the risk.
The general characteristic of an ED are:
- An abnormal preoccupation with weight and nutritional issues, which leads to unhealthy behaviors.
Obsessive thinking about body image and food are compounded when the diet is restricted.
Obsessive thinking about body image and food are compounded with accompanying weight decrease (or, in some cases, increase).
Obsessive thinking about body image and food are compounded by a cycle of binging and purging that becomes impossible to break.
Warning Signs of Eating Disorders
There are many subtle forms of ED that a doctor or family member can easily overlook. In fact, the majority of ED patient behavior can be easily hidden because they may be only 10 or 20 pounds under their ideal body weight. Here are the warning signs I look for:
- Eating disorder patients will resist stepping on the scale during an office visit.
- ED patients will obsess over their weight, constantly counting calories and investigating the latest diets. Even if thin or too thin, they will ask the doctor if there are any new medications that will help them boost their metabolism and burn more fat.
- Suspicion is raised when patients substitute coffee or other high energy drinks for regular meals.
- Many eating disorder patients show symptoms of low self esteem. They may closet themselves more in their home and reject venturing out in public.
- Physically, they often present with migraine headaches, confusion or dizziness. They may suffer stomach cramps, heart irregularities, a body temperature that is below average, or broken blood vessels in their eyes due to frequent purging.
- They may miss periods or stop menstruating entirely. The longer a woman goes without a period, the more serious the damaging consequences are likely to be later on.
- ED patients will talk about their “fear of fat,” and focus on eliminating all fats from their diet because fats will “make them fat.” This, of course is not at all true as the body requires fats in a daily diet to heal and maintain immunities.
As I’ve noted, ED is a killer. The disease causes the deterioration of every organ in the body, weakens bones and deprives the skin all that it needs to stay supple and resist infection.
The most effective treatment for Eating Disorders is the team approach, which enlists the services of an experienced psychologist with this disorder, a nutritionist with the same qualifications, and a doctor who handles the medical aspects. Properly treating these patients will almost always require the application of medications, which I’ll discuss in “part two” of this series next week.
If you or someone you know could be suffering from ED, by all means it’s better to make that call and seek the opinion of an experienced doctor. I’ve worked with many females and males, and urge you to call my office at (949) 481-0118 or complete our New Patient appointment form.