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Why Are Eating Disorders Dangerous

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/11how To Treat These Eating Disorders

HOW TO TREAT THESE EATING DISORDERS: For all the three eating disorders, the first thing to do is to change the behaviour of the person suffering from it. This is mostly done through methods like cognitive behavioural therapy paired with regular physician and nutritionists’ care. When this doesnt work, the patients are monitored 24 hours and reintroduced to normal eating.

Beware Of Proeating Disorder Sites

Some websites promote anorexia and bulimia as acceptable and even desirable lifestyles. Teens ages 13 to 19 are the most common visitors to these sites; half of them are looking for ways to lose weight.

Many of these sites include images of thin women designed to inspire visitors . They also include weight loss advice, strategies to avoid detection by family members and links to similar sites.

While visiting pro-eating disorder sites, 96 percent of users reported learning new weight loss or purging techniques, as did 46 percent of pro-recovery site visitors.

When surfing the web, be careful with these sites and keep in mind that the information may be false.

The Different Causes Of Eating Disorders

editorial processSteven Gans, MD

Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Medical Review BoardSteven Gans, MD

Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Review Board

When a person gets sick, it’s natural to want to understand why. With eating disorders, which are associated with many myths and negative stereotypes, the question of causation can be especially confusing.

The culture at large commonly blames eating disorders on oversimplified explanations, such as the medias promotion of unrealistically slender models or on bad parenting. Even some health professionals buy into these explanations.

But research shows that longtime scapegoatsdo not cause eating disorders, at least not in any simple, straightforward manner.

While growing up in a dysfunctional home could increase the risk for a number of psychological problems, including eating disorders, it does not condemn a child to an eating disorder or any other psychological disorder.

Why Eating Disorders In Endurance Athletes Are Especially Dangerous

It is time for those of us involved in endurance sports to bring attention to the problem of eating disorders in endurance athletes. I hope you will help address this problem by sharing this post with every runner, triathlete, and cyclist you know. Thank you.

The topic of eating disorders in endurance athletes is too often neglected. The numbers are staggering. Studies show that up to 25% of female and 10% of male endurance athletes have either a subclinical or clinical eating disorder. In a population dominated by highly motivated, highly disciplined, perfectionist personalities, we are all at risk of developing an eating disorder. Yet, it continues on without much attention, and in fact often unintentionally persuaded through publications talking about lighter being faster, ideal race weight, and on and on.

Even more staggering than the frequency are the long term implications of eating disorders in endurance athletes, especially when they occur during adolescence.

Eating disorders in endurance athletes tend to be different. Although plenty fall in line with the classic definitions of specific eating disorders, many do not. For example, excessive exercise is simply part of training, not a sign of an eating disorder. Endurance athletes must eat to train, and rarely is prolonged anorexia a problem. Athletes eat. Most often, an eating disorder in an endurance athlete is simply inadequate fueling during training. But, where is that line?

Bone Mass

Hormone Disorders

Patterns And Predictors Of Death

The Dangers of Untreated Eating Disorders

Patients with anorexia nervosa seem to tend to die at an earlier age than those with bulimia nervosa or binge eating disorder, primarily in early adulthood.

Predictors of shorter time to death include a higher number of lifetime eating disorder hospitalizations, premature discharge from the hospital, alcohol abuse, older age of eating disorder onset, poorer social adjustment, and lower body mass index at the time of hospitalization.

Impact On The Gastrointestinal System

Your gastrointestinal system operates on a cycle of digesting and expelling. With an eating disorder, this cycle is disrupted, which can cause:

  • Bacterial infections
  • Nausea
  • Food not being digested

Those with eating disorders can also become constipated either due to intestinal muscles not having the necessary energy to pass food or because there isnt enough food in the intestines to digest.

Eating Disorders And Substance Abuse

Eating disorders also have a tendency to occur alongside other disorders as well, especially when it comes to substance use disorders. For example, almost 10% of BED and bulimia sufferers have been shown to have a co-occurring substance abuse disorder, most oftentimes alcohol.

Part of this correlation may have to do with the appetite suppression that sometimes comes with alcohol abuse.

Other substances like have the side effect of reducing appetite as well, putting them in danger of being abused by sufferers of anorexia and possibly bulimia.

Additionally, eating disorders may actually develop during the recovery process. Sometimes sufferers of addiction will, in a sense, trade one compulsion for another.

While there still remains much more to study this issue in particular, its important to realize that exercise and good nutrition are absolutely critical to the recovery process.

Once youve educated yourself about these disorders and some of their symptoms, youll be better able to spot the signs for yourself.

Why Do Young Adults Develop Eating Disorders

Eating disorders, including anorexia and bulimia, are complicated, serious and potentially devastating. Theyre caused by a complex combination of factors, including genetic, biochemical, psychological, cultural and environmental. While researchers havent been able to pinpoint the specifics behind these causes, they can identify various factors that make individuals susceptible to eating disorders.

There are many misconceptions in our society about what causes eating disorders. Eating disorders are rarely about food or wanting to be thin. Instead, sufferers use food and unhealthy behaviors like dieting, starving, bingeing and purging to cope with unpleasant and overwhelming emotions and stressful situations. At least in the short term, these behaviors relieve anxiety and stress. Long term, however, they actually increase anxiety and stress and create other serious complications.

Eating disorders are illnesses, not character flaws or choices. Individuals dont choose to have an eating disorder. You also cant tell whether a person has an eating disorder just by looking at their appearance. People with eating disorders can be underweight, normal weight or overweight. Its impossible to diagnose anyone just by looking at them.

While no one thing causes eating disorders, here are some of the factors that may contribute to the problem:




Low self-esteem

What Causes Eating Disorders In Teens

There is no one cause of an eating disorder. Experts link eating disorders to a combination of factors, such as family relationships, psychological problems, and genetics. The teen may have low self-esteem and be preoccupied with having a thin body.

Sometimes, being part of a sport such as ballet, gymnastics, or running, where being lean is encouraged, is associated with eating disorders in teens. In one study, researchers linked anorexia with an obsession with perfectionism — concern over mistakes, high personal standards, and parental expectations and criticism.

The Long Term Effects Of Anorexia

The long term effects of Anorexia kills people. In fact, this disease enjoys the highest fatality rate of any psychiatric disorder. In the case of a celebrity death, the media provides coverage. Perhaps the first recognized case was that of Karen Carpenter in the early 8Os. An anorexic who relied on ipecac for vomiting, she died of heart failure.

Years later, she was followed by Christina Renee Henrich, a world-class gymnast who died in 1994. Ana Carolina Reston Macan, a famous Brazilian model, died in 2006, and Isabelle Caro, a French actress, and model succumbed to the disease in 2010. Interestingly and ironically, this second model had displayed her shockingly skinny body in an advertising campaign designed to raise awareness of anorexia.  One has to wonder if she had sought expert treatment for anorexia would she have lived and thrived?

So, when a celebrity dies, it makes headlines. But what about the thousands of women and girls and men who will die this year from the same disease? Their stories, though equally important, will probably go unreported.

Certainly, the majority of those who have anorexia will not die. But make no mistake, the long-term consequences of this disease can be severe.

Questions To Ask Your Doctor

Asking questions and providing information to your doctor or health care provider can improve your care. Talking with your doctor builds trust and leads to better results, quality, safety, and satisfaction. Visit the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality website for tips at .

More information about finding a health care provider or treatment for mental disorders is available on our Finding Help for Mental Illness webpage, available at .

Gene And Environment Interplay

Neither genes nor environment cause eating disorders on their own. Eating disorders are likely the result of a complicated interplay of these factors. Even when a precipitating factor can be identified, there is almost always a combination of other contributing factors. The precipitating factor is most likely the trigger that tripped a cascade of events.

Genetic susceptibility may influence their response to certain stressors. For example:

  • A person who is genetically susceptible to an eating disorder may be more sensitive to weight-related teasing and have a heightened reaction to it .
  • A person who is genetically vulnerable may continue dieting much longer than peers who diet and then stop.
  • A person who has the temperament that commonly underlies anorexia nervosa may seek out the types of social environments that contribute to the onset of dieting.

What Is The Definition Of A Behavioral Addiction


Before we jump into just how widespread eating disorders have become, lets first take a closer look at what a behavioral addiction really is.

In its most clinical terms, a behavioral addiction is a type of compulsion that drives individuals to commit rewarding behaviors despite the detrimental consequences such behaviors may carry.

If it sounds similar to being addicted to a physical drug, thats because it is.

Just as abusing cocaine or heroin produces a burst of pleasure-causing chemicals that flood the brain and its receptors, so too do certain behaviors trigger this same kind of chemical joy.

And as we perform these behaviors repeatedly, we continue to receive these bursts of natural reward.

Who Is At Risk For An Eating Disorder

The stereotype often presented in the media is of a thin, middle-class, straight white woman who develops an eating disorder, often anorexia. Riddle wants people to understand that, in fact, anyone can get an eating disorder and stereotypes about eating disorders may contribute to people not getting the help they need. 

Eating disorders cross all ethnicities, all body types, all genders, but people who are already marginalized often get overlooked. For example, data shows medical providers arent thinking about an eating disorder in someone who has a normal BMI, Riddle says.

Transgender people and others in the LGBTQ+ community, BIPOC people, and people in larger bodies are all equally or more at risk for eating disorders than straight, thin white women, yet they often dont seek care or, if they do, arent taken seriously. 

Some of the most ill patients Ive cared for are folks who are living in larger bodies, not the super underweight patients who tend to get flagged for care much earlier. Theres a problem with patients not being believed when they say how little they eat when they live in a larger body, Riddle says.

What Is Bulimia Nervosa

People with bulimia nervosa have recurrent episodes of eating unusually large amounts of food and feeling a lack of control over these episodes. This binge-eating is followed by behaviors that compensate for the overeating, such as forced vomiting, excessive use of laxatives or diuretics, fasting, excessive exercise, or a combination of these behaviors. Unlike those with anorexia nervosa, people with bulimia nervosa may maintain a normal weight or be overweight.

Symptoms include:

  • Chronically inflamed and sore throat
  • Swollen salivary glands in the neck and jaw area
  • Worn tooth enamel and increasingly sensitive and decaying teeth
  • Acid reflux disorder and other gastrointestinal problems
  • Intestinal distress and irritation from laxative abuse
  • Severe dehydration from purging
  • Electrolyte imbalance , which can lead to stroke or heart attack

Loss Of Essential Nutrients

Sodium, Potassium, and Chloride may become dangerously low in the body, resulting in a variety of serious medical conditions. Low sodium in the body may cause headaches, confusion, and nausea. In extreme cases it can lead to seizures and coma. Low potassium can lead to muscle cramps and weakness. It may even cause muscles to become paralyzed. Dehydration, vomiting, and diarrhea are all signs of low amounts of Chloride.

Society Doesnt Exactly Want You To Recover Either

We live in a culture that applauds dieting and exercise, unapologetically loathes fat bodies, and only seems to view food in a very binary way: good or bad, healthy or junk food, low or high, light or dense.

When I first saw a doctor for my eating disorder, the nurse that weighed me looked at my chart and, impressed by the weight that Id lost, remarked, Wow! she said. Youve lost XX pounds! Howd you do it

I was so shocked by this nurses remark. I didnt know a nicer way of saying, I starved myself.

In our culture, disordered eating at least on the surface is lauded as an accomplishment. Its an act of impressive restraint and misconstrued as being health-conscious. Thats part of what makes eating disorders so enticing.

That means if your eating disorder is looking for excuses to skip a meal, youre guaranteed to find one in any magazine you read, billboard you come across, or on your favorite celebritys Instagram account.

If youre terrified of food, and you live in a culture that gives you a thousand reasons every day why you should be, lets be honest: Recovery is not going to be as simple as just eating something.

How Are Eating Disorders Diagnosed

Health care providers and mental health professionals diagnose eating disorders based on history, symptoms, thought patterns, eating behaviors, and an exam.

The doctor will check weight and height and compare these to previous measurements on growth charts. The doctor may order tests to see if there is another reason for the eating problems and to check for problems caused by the eating disorder.

The Importance Of Taking Eating Disorders Seriously

Often, people with eating disorders wont know they have a problem or an eating disorder. It is common for patients with eating disorders to believe that their problem is not serious.

If you are a loved one of a person with an eating disorder, please encourage your loved one to get help. If you are suffering from an eating disorder and are not in treatment, please reach out to a treatment professional. With treatment, most people with eating disorders do recover.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

The Three Types Of Eating Disorders

While many behavioral addictions have yet to be incorporated into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders , experts generally agree eating disorders can be broken down into three distinct but occasionally overlapping categories:

  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Bulimia nervosa
  • Binge Eating disorder

Each of the disorders listed above is real medical illnesses that can result in a host of adverse physical, emotional, social, and psychological effects. It should also be mentioned that all of these disorders are treatable.

But just as with a substance abuse disorder, it often takes the help and guidance of a qualified professional to overcome an eating disorder. Thats why its important to know the ins and outs of each so you can be better equipped to identify such a disorder in yourself or in someone you care about.

Hypoglycemia: A Dangerous Side Effect Of Eating Disorders

Diabulimia Is The

Hypoglycemia is a medical term that refers to low blood sugar levels. Usually, this condition is considered a complication of type 1 diabetes. It isn’t commonly associated with eating disorders, but some health care providers believe it isn’t that uncommon at all.

In fact, some believe hypoglycemia might be the fatal blow for people suffering from some eating disorders, like anorexia nervosa.

Why Hypoglycemia Is So Dangerous

Whenever you eat anything, your body breaks down that food and converts it into fuel. Your liver breaks down some of that food into glucose, which your bloodstream absorbs. That glucose fuels your cells. The liver also synthesizes glycogen, which is a type of stored glucose that your body can use when it runs out of a fresh supply.

When your body is deprived of food, your liver can’t produce glucose or glycogen. Blood glucose levels don’t have to fall too far to be fatal. Vital organs are not able to function when your blood glucose supply is depleted.

In particular, the brain is at risk. In a healthy body that gets proper nutrition, the brain uses about 20 percent of the body’s glucose supply to keep it operational. The brain can’t run on protein or fats; it requires glucose. Since the brain is like the central processing unit that keeps all your other organs functioning, a lack of energy can result in fatal complications.

Hypoglycemia May Be Cause of Sudden Death

Symptoms of Hypoglycemia

What Causes Eating Disorders

There’s no single cause for eating disorders. Genes, environment, and stressful events all play a role. Some things can increase a person’s chance of having an eating disorder, such as:

  • poor body image
  • too much focus on weight or looks
  • dieting at a young age
  • playing sports that focus on weight
  • having a family member with an eating disorder
  • mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, or OCD

Treatment For Eating Disorders At South Florida Rehab Centers

1st Step Behavioral Healths South Florida drug detox and South Florida drug rehab facilities are equipped to treat those with substance abuse disorders as well as a dual diagnosis of an eating disorders. Our medical professionals and qualified therapists are here to help each individual learn the skills they need to make it to remission and thrive in a new way of living. Contact us today with your questions and get started toward a healthier, sober way of living.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Brittany Polansky, MSW, LCSW

Brittany has been working in behavioral health since 2012 and is the Assistant Clinical Director at our facility. She is an LCSW and holds a masters degree in social work. She has great experience with chemical dependency and co-occurring mental health diagnoses as well as various therapeutic techniques. Brittany is passionate about treating all clients with dignity and respect, and providing a safe environment where clients can begin their healing journey in recovery.

What Is The Outlook For People With Anorexia

Anorexia, like other eating disorders, gets worse the longer it is left untreated. The sooner the disorder is diagnosed and treated, the better the outcome. Anorexia can be treated, allowing the person to return to a healthy weight; although, many people with anorexia deny they have a problem and refuse treatment.

Although treatment is possible, the risk of relapse is high. Recovery from anorexia usually requires long-term treatment as well as a strong commitment by the individual. Support of family members and other loved ones can help ensure that the person receives the needed treatment.

What Is The Treatment For Anorexia

Emergency care for anorexia may be needed in some extreme cases where , malnutrition, kidney failure, or an irregular heartbeat may pose imminent risk to life.

Emergency or not, treatment of anorexia is challenging because most people with the disorder deny they have a problem — or are so terrified of becoming that they may oppose efforts to help them gain a normal weight. Like all eating disorders, anorexia requires a comprehensive treatment plan that is adjusted to meet the needs of each patient.

Goals of treatment include restoring the person to a healthy weight, treating emotional issues such as low self-esteem, correcting distorted thinking patterns, and developing long-term behavioral changes. Treatment most often involves a combination of the following treatment methods:

Eating Disorders Do Not Discriminate And Are Observed In People Of All Ages Including Children Tweens And Teens

Eating disorders can affect people of all ages, including children.

According to occupational therapist Marlene van den Berg, diet culture, body image, and ideas of self-worth are invariably linked and related to a childs vulnerability to eating disorders.

Eating disorders are among the most common mental health conditions developed by young people. In a world where fad diets and extreme beauty and body standards are the norms, children suffering from eating disorders can go unnoticed by even the most attentive parent.

Eating Disorders And The Musculoskeletal System

The musculoskeletal system is basically the foundation of any physical activity or sports.

Your bones provide structure and support while your muscles give you proper posture, movement, strengthening, and other activities.

Studies have actually shown that athletes who are suffering from eating disorders are more likely to suffer from a sports-related injury. Over time, improper nutrition can lead to decreased bone health,bone density, and potentially even lead to osteopenia, osteoporosis, and increase the risk of fractures for these athletes.

There arent specific signs or symptoms of eating disorders because everyone is affected differently. But, there are common behaviors of eating disorders you can watch for, including:

  • A greater than usual focus on food, which could include focusing on ingredients, calorie counts, food groups, or more
  • Disappearing after meals for a period of time
  • Dramatic mood changes

How Is Nimh Addressing Eating Disorders

The National Institute of Mental Health is conducting and supporting research that could help find new and improved ways to diagnose and treat eating disorders. For example, the NIMH Eating Disorders Research Program supports research on the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment at medical institutions across the country. It also supports studies that can help explain the risk factors that cause eating disorders to start or reoccur. The programs studies on treatment help move basic science findings from the lab bench to a patients bedside.

High Blood Pressure And Cholesterol

Diabulimia: The World

Regularly consuming an excessive amount of fat and calories contributes to higher blood pressure and cholesterol levels. High blood pressure and cholesterol can contribute to a whole host of serious medical conditions. A few include stroke, aneurysms, heart failure, diabetes, and even dementia. Treating eating disorders in a residential environment may help an individual reduce the chance of developing these types of serious conditions.

/11most Dangerous Eating Disorders

MOST DANGEROUS EATING DISORDERS: Eating disorders are more common than you think. Approximately 20 million people, half women and half men will develop some or the other eating disorder at some point in their lives, according to the National Eating Disorders Association.

Eating disorder can be considered as a mental disorder in which the person suffering from it shows a persistent pattern of unhealthy eating, says a professor from the Perelman School of Medicine Centre for Weight and Eating Disorders at the University of Pennsylvania. People suffering from an eating disorder fixate on food, shape and weight and experience intense distress about eating.

Women are two times more prone to eating disorders because the western society considers thin women as beautiful and successful. This cultural pressure is obviously more on women than men.

Read on to know the three most common and dangerous types of eating of disorders and how to treat them.

How Do I Find A Clinical Trial

Researchers at the NIMH conduct clinical trials on numerous areas of study, including cognition, genetics, epidemiology, and psychiatry. These clinical trials take place at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland and may require regular visits. After an initial phone interview, you will come to an appointment at the clinic and meet with a clinician. Visit the NIMH Clinical Trials Participants or Join a Study pages for more information on participating in clinical trials.

To find a clinical trial near you, you can visit . This website is a searchable registry and results database of federally and privately supported clinical trials conducted in the United States and around the world. gives you information about a trial’s purpose, who may participate, locations, and phone numbers for more details. This information should be used in conjunction with advice from health professionals.

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