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Eating Disorders

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Eating Disorders

An eating disorder is a way of using food to work out emotional problems. These illnesses develop because of emotional and/or psychological problems. Eating disorders are the way some people deal with stress. In today's society, teenagers are pressured into thinking that bring thin is the same thing as being happy. Chemical balances in the brain that may also result in depression, obsessive compulsive disorders, and bi-polar disorders may also cause some eating disorders. Other causes may be emotional events, illnesses, marital or family problems, manic depression, or ending a relationship. Over eight million Americans suffer from eating disorders. Over 80% of girls under age thirteen admit to dieting, one of the main factors linked to eating disorders. Although eating disorders are mainly found in middle- to upper class, highly educated, Caucasian, female adolescents, no culture or age group is immune to them (EDA HP, n.p.). The three major eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and compulsive over-eating or binge-eating.

The most dangerous eating disorder is anorexia nervosa. "Anorexia nervosa translates to "nervous loss of hunger". It is a mental illness involving the irrational fear of gaining weight. Usually, the victim is a perfectionist, although he or she may suffer from a low self-esteem. In general, a member of the opposite sex triggers anorexia. The first disease resembling present-day anorexia is one called "Anorexia Mirabilis," or "Miraculous lack of appetite." It is described as

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a disease of insanity, possibly like cancer, tuberculosis, or diabetes. It was believed to arise from a diseased mental state. Sir William Gull, a physician to England's royal family, said that these anorexics were suffering from "a perversion of the will" (Silverson). In 1888, a French psychiatrist, Charles Lasegue viewed anorexia from a social standpoint. He believed it was a way of rebelling. The Children of this time were expected to and forced to clean their plates. They were also accustomed to well-regulated meal times. Another cause of the disease in the Victorian era may have been women's expectations, such as to remain home after childhood. Their only job was to get married and enhance the family's social status. No emotional outbursts, such as temper tantrums were permitted. The family life was suffocating, but a young woman was able to protest in a semi-acceptable manner by not eating. If she became ill, she became the center of attention and concern, often her goal. Victorian women kept with the ideals of the time by refusing food and restricting any intake. A hearty appetite was said to represent sexuality and a lack of self-control, which was strictly prohibited for women. The era was emphasized by spirituality, which also had an impact on the restriction of meat. Ironically, most of the women were large, as common meals were high in starches. Medical evidence of the existence of anorexia has been documented as far back as 1873. It was decided that this refusal of food was to attract attention. An American neurologist, Silas Weir Mitchell saw anorexia as a form of neurasthenia, a nervous disorder characterized by nervous exhaustion and lack of motivation. Mitchell thought the disease was caused by any stressful life situation in combination with social pressure. Treatment was a so-called "parentectomy," which was removal from the home, and force-feeding, if necessary. Mitchell preferred the pampering method, consisting of a diet low in fats, total seclusion, bed-rest, and massage therapy. Sigmund Freud, a psychiatrist from Vienna, believed that anorexia was a physical manifestation of an emotional conflict. He believed that anorexia might be linked to the subconscious desire to prevent normal sexual development. In the 1930s, doctors theorized that the only way to permanently recover from anorexia was to

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explore the cause of the disease in the individual, in addition to weight gain. In 1973, Dr. Hilde Bruch brought the disease to light for the first time with her book, Eating Disorders: Obesity, Anorexia Nervosa, and the Person Within. She believed that anorexics had "sever body-image disturbances that made them unable to identify with and express their emotions" (Bruch). In 1982, scientists at the Edinburgh hospital in England hypothesized that anorexia had a physical basis. These scientists conducted an experiment with 22 volunteers, ten of which were recognized as anorexics. The anorexics claimed to feel full several hours after eating, supporting the idea that anorexia may have been a digestive disorder. They disregarded this theory as they noticed that waste excretion was equal to the normal samples'. Anorexia was finally recognized as an eating disorder in the late 1870s.

Anorexics use food to focus on controlling their life by starving to death. Ultimately, the illness takes control and the chemical changes in the body affect the brain and distort thinking, making it impossible for the person to make rational decisions, especially about eating. Sa the illness progresses, the victim will suffer from a form of exhaustion from food deprivation. If left untreated, anorexia can result in death as the body literally feeds off the person's organs, muscles, and tissue. Anorexia can cause moodiness and fatigue. Anorexics are hungry all the time, and their mainstream of thinking revolves around food, sometimes to the point of obsession (Silverson, 9). Physical symptoms of the illness make it very easy to recognize, such as a constant feeling of coldness, fine hair growth as a result of decrease in body temperature, lack of proteins, vitamins, minerals, and dehydration cause the skin to turn brownish and crack, hair falls out, and lack of potassium causes kidney and heart failure (Epstein, 55). Often, anorexics claim to feel better after they begin to restrict their diet. More than 90% of cases of anorexia are women. Factors that contribute to the illness are personality, family relationship, and distorted body image. For a young man, anorexia is often a result of dieting to over-come obesity or to attract a member of the opposite sex. As the victim begins to lose weight from the restricted diet,

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she enjoys the extra admiration and attention she receives. As the comments stop, as a result of her becoming too thin, she assumes that she is too fat, that her diet is failing, and she restricts her food intake even more. Although anorexia is the most dangerous eating disorder, it is certainly not the only eating disorder that can harm mental and physical health.

In addition to anorexia,



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