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The Mental Health Series: Eating Disorders

American society operates on the image of the bombshell blonde.

From a young age, women are taught about the ‘ideal body type.’ We see it everyday in magazines, in movies, on TV, and even on our daily social media news feeds. We are infected with the idea of the perfect body and it can have detrimental psychological effects.

One of these effects includes eating disorders.

Eating disorders are mental illnesses that affect someone’s eating and exercise habits. There are three common types of eating disorders: anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating disorder.

Anorexia, or anorexia nervosa, is when someone controls eating and exercise habits to the point of becoming underweight. This includes dieting, fasting, excessive exercise, and vomiting.

Bulimia, or bulimia nervosa, is when someone controls eating and exercise habits, but remains in the normal weight range. Bulimia consists of binging usually followed by periods of dieting, fasting, excessive exercise, or vomiting.

A common misconception is that anorexia means starving, while bulimia means purging. The only real distinction between them is whether the individual is underweight or at a normal weight.

Binge-eating disorder is when someone overeats—or binges—but doesn’t purge afterwards. People with binge-eating disorder are often overweight.

Most people who have eating disorders use it to gain control. It is often coupled with other mental illnesses like depression and anxiety.

Contrary to popular belief, eating disorders don’t only occur in women. Approximately 10% of people with eating disorders are male, but the number is believed to be much higher, due to the possibility of unreported cases.

Treatment for eating disorders is a long and difficult road.

If one is suffering from anorexia nervosa and is underweight, they are usually hospitalized for being emaciated or malnourished. This means that they will have to slowly be reintroduced to healthy eating portion sizes again and attend counseling sessions to learn how to cope with their disorder.

This kind of malnourishment can also cause serious medical issues. It can cause permanent brain damage and issues with basic biological functions, such as low bone density, digestive issues, heart issues, multi-organ failure, and even infertility.

With purging after eating, one can risk damaging their esophagus, due to the constant introduction of stomach acid to the organ. Your esophagus is instrumental in your digestive system and a main component in being able to swallow.

In binge-eating disorder, being overweight can also lead to cardiovascular issues, like heart attacks or heart failure.

These are very serious medical conditions and are difficult to treat. It takes a long time for someone affected by an eating disorder to fully recover and regain a healthy lifestyle, but with counseling and constant support it is possible.

More information on eating disorders can be found at the National Institute of Mental Health website and National Eating Disorders Association website. 

Katie is a senior, and mass communications major on the advertising track with a minor in electronic media and film. Katie loves movies, especially Clue, but the full list is much longer! Her hobbies include writing, watching hilarious YouTube videos, listening to old '80s hits on repeat, and learning all about the hot new memes. 
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