Eating disorders, or severe disturbances in eating behavior, are classified into various categories, depending on the behavior. All of these involve a disturbed body image and relationship with food. The causes of eating disorders also vary and have been attributed to family dynamics, media and societal images, genetics, and industrialized societies. Although primarily found in females, the occurrence of reported eating disorders in males is rising.
These disorders are among the most physically dangerous of all psychological disorders due to potential starvation of anorexia and to the damage to many functions and organs of the body due to the binge/purge cycle of bulimia. The key features of anorexia nervosa include severe and or rigid food restrictions, obsession with food and body weight, distorted body image. For bulimia, the key features include binging and hoarding behaviors and frequently, purging behaviors. Excessive exercise may also be a factor, especially in anorexia.
One of the biggest issues about eating disorders is that those suffering often try to hide their behavior and their body from friends and family. But because the disorders are so physically dangerous, intervention is of immediate importance. Those who have eating disorders are often resistant to concern of others or treatment, as the eating behaviors have become coping mechanisms for dealing with the world. Treatment involves helping with forming new and healthier coping skills to replace the maladaptive ones.
If you or someone you know has or is in danger of developing an eating disorder, there is help. Contact the Allegheny College Counseling Center at 814-332-4368 for an appointment or contact an off campus mental health provider.
For more information, visit one of these web sites:
or read one of these books:
- Life Without Ed: How One Woman Delcared Independence From Her Eating Disorder and How You Can Too by Jenni Schaefer
- Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch
- Surviving an Eating Disorder: Strategies for Families and Friends by Michelle Siegel, Judith Brisman and Margot Weinshel