Eating Disorder Resources

National Eating Disorder Resources (photo credit:

National Eating Disorder Resources (photo credit:

Trusted information for parents and teens who are dealing with eating disorders.

General Eating Disorder Resources

  • National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) – The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) is the leading non-profit organization in the United States advocating on behalf of and supporting individuals and families affected by eating disorders. Reaching millions every year, we campaign for prevention, improved access to quality treatment, and increased research funding to better understand and treat eating disorders. We work with partners and volunteers to develop programs and tools to help everyone who seeks assistance.
  • National Association of Anorexia and Related Disorders  – “The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, Inc. is a non-profit (501 c 3) corporation that seeks to prevent and alleviate the problems of eating disorders, especially including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder.  ANAD advocates for the development of healthy attitudes, bodies, and behaviors.   ANAD promotes eating disorder awareness, prevention and recovery through supporting, educating, and connecting individuals, families and professionals.”
  • National Institutes of Mental Health, Eating Disorders – Publication of the National Institutes of Mental Health providing an overview of eating disorders and links to other government resources.
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Eating Disorders – “NAMI is the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. NAMI advocates for access to services, treatment, supports and research and is steadfast in its commitment to raise awareness and build a community for hope for all of those in need.  NAMI is the foundation for hundreds of NAMI State Organizations, NAMI Affiliates and volunteer leaders who work in local communities across the country to raise awareness and provide essential and free education, advocacy and support group programs.”
  • Binge Eating Disorder Association – “Founded in 2008, the Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA) is a national organization focused on providing leadership, recognition, prevention, and treatment of BED and associated weight stigma. Through outreach, education and advocacy, BEDA will facilitate increased awareness and proper diagnosis of BED, and promote excellence in care for those who live with, and those who treat, binge eating disorder and its associated conditions. BEDA is committed to promoting cultural acceptance of, and respect for, the natural diversity of sizes, as well as promoting a goal of improved health, which may or may not include weight change.”
  • Finding Balance  – Finding Balance is the world’s largest media-based resource for people seeking balance with food and body image.
  • International Association of Eating Disorders Professionals Foundation (IAEDP) –  recognized for its excellence in providing first-quality education and high-level training standards to an international multidisciplinary group of various healthcare treatment providers and helping professions, who treat the full spectrum of eating disorder problems.


Anorexia Nervosa

  • Anorexia Nervosa, NEDA – Overview, symptoms, warning signs, health consequences, and statistics.
  • Anorexia Nervosa, Mayo Clinic – Overview, signs, symptoms, treatment, and prognosis information
  • Anorexia Nervosa, ANAD – Overview, signs, and symptoms.
  • Anorexia Nervosa,  – Provides in-depth information on the illness, causes, signs, symptoms, and treatments.

Bulimia Nervosa

  • Bulimia Nervosa, NEDA  – Overview, symptoms, warning signs, health consequences, and statistics.
  • Bulimia Nervosa Fact Sheet, Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – Overview, profile, causes, prognosis, affect on pregnancy, and ways to help.
  • Bulimia Nervosa, Mayo Clinic  – Overview, signs, symptoms, treatment, and prognosis information
  • Bulimia Nervosa, Medline Plus from the National Institutes of Health – Overview, signs, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, prognosis, and complications.


Binge Eating Disorder (BED)

  • Binge Eating Disorder, NEDA – Overview, symptoms, warning signs, health consequences, and statistics.
  • Binge Eating Disorder, Mayo Clinic  – Overview, signs, symptoms, treatment, and prognosis information
  • Understanding BED, Binge Eating Disorder Association  – Characteristics, causes, symptoms, complications, treatment, and prognosis


Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS)

  • EDNOS, NEDA – Overview, symptoms of anorexia and bulimia, examples of EDNOS.
  • EDNOS, NAMI – Overviews, signs, causes, treatment, and prevention information.

What Every Parent Needs to Know about Eating Disorder Symptoms

Picnic plate full of assorted food.

As a parent, do you know the warning signs of eating disorders? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Millions of people in the U.S. are impacted by eating disorders every year.  This includes those suffering from the eating disorder as well as their family members and friends.   Unfortunately, many people who have these disorders do not get the help, support, and treatment they need to be healthy.   Recent research indicates that as many as half a million teenagers may be suffering from an eating disorder but according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD) on average only 1 in 10 people with these conditions get treatment.  This means we all need to do a better job of identifying those who are in trouble, preventing disorders from developing, and treating those who are struggling; the consequences of doing any less are simply too high.

Prevention and early detection are critical to minimizing the long term damage suffered by those who are dealing with these potentially life-threatening conditions.  The key to early detection is to know what to look for and what actions to take if you suspect that someone in your life is suffering from an eating disorder.  To help, here are the most common immediate symptoms of the most prevalent eating disorders.

Anorexia Nervosa

  • Unusual eating habits or patterns, may skip meals and/or avoid certain foods
  • Eating only small amounts
  • Weighing and measuring food
  • Obsessive calorie counting
  • Excessive exercise
  • Intense fear of gaining weight

Bulimia Nervosa

  • Bingeing or eating excessive amounts of food in a single sitting
  • Inability to control their bingeing
  • Self-induced vomiting
  • Abuse or misuse of laxatives or diuretics
  • Skipping meals
  • Excessive exercise
  • Intense fear of gaining weight

Binge Eating Disorder

  • Bingeing or eating excessive amounts of food in a single sitting
  • Inability to control their bingeing
  • Eating to discomfort and eating when not hungry

These behaviors and symptoms can indicate the presence of an eating disorder and if you are concerned that your teen may be struggling with any of these disorders, you should make an appointment to discuss your concerns with their doctor.

The longer term symptoms and consequences of these eating disorders, which are outlined below, are increasingly more serious which underlines why prevention and early detection is so critical.

Anorexia Nervosa

Bulimia Nervosa

  • Dehydration and electrolyte imbalance
  • Constipation, bloating, and diarrhea
  • Dental problems including loss of enamel, gum disease, and cavities
  • Throat and esophageal problems including tears and ruptures
  • Anemia
  • Dry skin
  • Vomiting blood
  • Irregular heart beat
  • Low blood pressure
  • Heart failure

Binge Eating Disorder

  • Obesity
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Heart disease
  • Specific kinds of cancer

Causes of Eating Disorders


Do you know all the variables that can cause an eating disorder in your teen?  (Photo credit: andrefaria)

When a teenager is diagnosed with an eating disorder one of the most common questions parents ask is what caused the disorder to develop.  This is an understandable response, but the unfortunate fact is that there isn’t a simple answer to this question.  Disordered eating is a complex problem and there are many factors that can contribute to its development.   According to the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), eating disorders evolve out of a combination of behavioral, biological, emotional, psychological, interpersonal, and social factors.   This means that each individual that is diagnosed has their own set of circumstances within those common factors that lead to the development of their disorder.

Many people assume that when a person struggles with disordered eating it is about the food, their weight, or even their appearance.  On the surface the outward symptoms of an eating disorder might support that assumption.  For example, someone who is suffering from anorexia nervosa may seem obsessed with their weight and their caloric intake.  They might track every calorie they ingest, worry about getting fat, and obsess about exercising.   All these seem to support the assumption that the person has an issue with their weight.  However, most experts agree that many people with eating disorders use food and their control over food as a coping mechanism.   The exertion of extreme control over their diet can help them feel in control when other things are out of control, overwhelming, or too emotionally charged to handle.

Although there is often no clean, simple cause to blame when an eating disorder is diagnosed, there are some common factors that are known to contribute to their development.

Biological Factors

  • Some people that suffer from eating disorders have a chemical imbalance in their brain associated with the neurological chemicals that control things like appetite and hunger.
  • There appears to be a significant genetic component to disordered eating.
  • More research needs to be done in this area to study how genetics and neuro-chemicals can contribute to disordered eating.

Emotional Factors

  • There is evidence that stressful times, major life changes, and traumatic events can lead to the development of an eating disorder.  If you consider that disordered eating is about establishing a feeling of control over one’s life, it makes sense that events that shake up a person’s world or alter it altogether could lead to the development of these conditions.

Psychological Factors

  • Issues with self-confidence, self worth, and self-esteem can contribute to disordered eating.
  • Feelings of hopelessness, inadequacy, anxiety, and loneliness can also lead to the development of a disorder.
  • Mental health conditions like depression and anxiety might also precede or go hand in hand with the development of an eating disorder.

Interpersonal Factors

  • Problems interacting with other people and trouble with personal relationships can be a contributing factor along with struggling to express emotions and difficulties dealing with feelings.
  • A history of being bullied, especially if the bullying behavior centered on weight.
  • A history of some form of abuse including physical, sexual, or emotional abuse.

Social Factors

  • Cultural messages that value beauty over other attributes and that associate beauty with a specific body type.
  • Stress related to prejudice, discrimination, bullying, or other forms of harassment and abuse.

Eating disorders are very serious, often life-threatening. A person struggling with an eating disorder needs professional help; they can’t win this battle on their own. If you know someone you suspect may be struggling with an eating disorder, or if you have any questions about how to know for certain, please give us a call. We would love to help. Their life could depend on it.

What Causes Eating Disorders?

This is one of the questions parents ask us all the time.  Whether their child has already been diagnosed with an eating disorder or they are interested in information on preventing an eating disorder, most parents want to know where it starts, what makes one person develop an eating disorder but not another, and most importantly, what they can do to help.  The truth is there is no singular, quantifiable cause or reason why some teens struggle with eating disorders and others do not.  There are however, some factors that may increase the likelihood of a specific person being diagnosed with an eating disorder.  These risk factors range from societal pressures to self image and do not always lead to an eating disorder but they do increase the risk and can be used as warning signs that parents can learn to look for.

Social Warning Signs

The image of perfection most often promoted in the media, magazines, movies, and online has a powerful effect on how we see ourselves, how we see each other, and whether or not we are “acceptable” in our eyes or the eyes of others.  For adolescents, the pressure to be accepted, to fit in, is already extreme.  When the person they see in the mirror doesn’t match what they have been told is desirable or acceptable, the pressure to change how they look can become all encompassing.  For some, this will lead to the development of an eating disorder.

Biological Warning Signs

Unfortunately, one of the most common things parents should be looking for may be hiding in plain sight.  According to the Alliance for Eating Disorders, 50-80% of a person’s risk for developing an eating disorder may be genetic.  These disorders tend to run in families.  While biological factors can affect males and females, research shows that girls whose mother or sister have now or have ever had Anorexia Nervosa are twelve times more likely to develop this eating disorder and four times as likely to develop Bulimia as their peers without this risk factor.

Psychological Warning Signs

Many people with eating disorders also struggle with other mental health problems.  This means that people who have been diagnosed disorders that are commonly also seen in those with eating disorders have a higher risk of also developing an eating disorder.  Commonly co-morbid mental health disorders include depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

Interpersonal Warning Signs

Other factors that increase the risk of developing an eating disorder center on certain types of life experiences.  People who have been physically, sexually, or emotionally abused have a higher risk for eating disorders.  Being bullied, especially if the bully or bullies targeted the person’s weight, size, or other physical characteristics also increases the risk that an eating disorder will develop.   Traumatic events like the death of a family member or a difficult divorce can also increase the risk of developing an eating disorder as part of coping or escaping from the event.

One of the most important things parents can do is provide a mitigating influence when it comes to the messages teens get about how they should look.  Remind boys and girls that the men and women who look like fashion models make up less than 2% of all the women in America.  Make sure the messages being sent inside the home to boys and girls are healthy and encourage acceptance, embrace diversity, and ensure each child feels loved for everything they are, not just how they look.


Phoenix Teen Counseling: Mental Health 101: Teen Troubles

The teenage years can be troublesome and traumatic.  Faced with a myriad of pressures from every direction, teenagers often feel that they need twist and morph themselves into someone else in order to fit into other people’s molds.  This is made more difficult because they are only beginning to discover who they are and what they want.   They feel pressured to look a certain way, get good grades, fit in with friends, make the team, get the part, and be popular and sometimes that pressure can be too much.  Teens also have to deal with other issues like family financial problems, divorce, and illness.  Although the majority of teenagers make it through these tumultuous times to become well-adjusted adults, some teens struggle enough that they need professional help.

For parents, understanding when a teenager’s behavior is normal teen angst and when it is not is one of the biggest challenges.  In order to get teens the help they need to successfully navigate whatever challenges they are facing, parents need to know what to look for, what to expect, and when to seek help.  Here is a list of the most common mental health issues teens experience to help parents know when it’s time to seek outside help.

Mood Disorders

Bipolar Disorder – A teen with bipolar disorder has periods of mania and periods of depression.  When they are in a manic period, they may be extremely happy, hyperactive, and/or irritated.  They get by on very little sleep, get involved in multiple projects and activities, and may participate in risky behavior.  When they are in a depressive period, they display the signs of depression.

Depression – When teens are clinically depressed, they experience feelings of sadness and irritability along with several other symptoms that can include changes in appetite or sleep, rapid weight loss or gain, fatigue, loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities, problems concentrating, feeling hopeless, and suicidal thoughts.

Anxiety Disorders

General Anxiety Disorder – Feelings of anxiety are common in teens, but in some cases these feelings can rise to the level of a disorder.  Teens may worry excessively about situations, events, or activities to the extent that it interferes with their normal life.  Symptoms include feeling restless, having trouble sleeping, being irritable, and being unwilling or unable to participate in everyday activities.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – Teenagers dealing with OCD have distressing thoughts or impulses that occur over and over and repetitive behavior patterns like hand washing, counting, and hoarding that interrupt their ability to live their life normally.

Eating Disorders

Anorexia Nervosa – Teens with anorexia nervosa do not eat enough to maintain a healthy body weight.  Signs and symptoms include being significantly underweight, dry skin, low blood pressure, depression, moodiness, and unwillingness to eat around others.

Bulimia – Teens with bulimia participate in a cycle of bingeing and purging, eating a large amount of high calorie food and then inducing vomiting.  Bulimics may also use laxatives, exercise, diuretics, and diet pills to prevent weight gain.  Signs of bulimia include obsessing over weight, exercising hours at a time, eating in secret, spending time in the bathroom directly after eating, and low self esteem.

Trauma and Abuse

Teens who have been physically, emotionally, or sexually abused or who have lived through a traumatic event may need assistance to overcome the lasting damage these circumstances can cause.  Teens may experience Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, substance abuse, suicidal tendencies, and self harm.

Suicidal Tendencies

According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, suicide is the third leading cause of death amongst teenagers.  Warning signs include depression, frequent thoughts of and conversation about death, substance abuse, previous attempts, and traumatic events.

Eating Disorder Awareness Week

This week is Eating Disorder Awareness Week and the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) is encouraging everyone to join the fight against eating disorders by just doing one thing to help spread awareness because everyone knows someone who is affected by an eating disorder.  Spreading awareness about these disorders is one way we can help the people in our lives that are affected by them.  It doesn’t matter if you are a parent, a teacher, a teenager, a business owner, a politician, or the bagger at the grocery store. There is something you can do this week to spread awareness and support the people around you that have anorexia nervosa, bulimia, binge eating disorder, or any other eating disorders.

The Stats

According to NEDA, an estimated 11 million people across the country are struggling with either anorexia nervosa or bulimia every day.  The battle they are waging is for survival and too many of them are losing the fight.  The mortality rate for girls between the ages of 15 and 24 who have anorexia nervosa is 12 times higher than the mortality rate for these girls from all other causes of death.  The number of Americans who have binge eating disorder (BED) is believed to be in the millions, but similar to the other eating disorders, experts believe that cases are underreported.

Despite the fact that each of the three primary eating disorders can cause serious, life-long health problems and premature death, only 1 in 10 receive treatment according to the National Association for Anorexia and Associated Disorders (ANAD).  Funding for eating disorder research continues to lag behind funding for other disorders, especially when you consider the ratio of dollars spent on research per affected individual.  NEDA indicates that in 2008, the National Institutes of Health provided $7M in research funding for eating disorders which affect 10 million Americans.  That same year, more than $400M was provided for Alzheimer’s research and almost $250M for research into schizophrenia which affect 4.5 million and 2.2 million people respectively.  This means that tax payers funded $113 of research per individual with schizophrenia, $92 per individual with Alzheimer’s, and $0.70 per individual with an eating disorder.

Just One Thing

This week is all about spreading awareness and NEDA is encouraging everyone to do just one thing to help with the fight because even doing just one thing makes a difference.  They offer the following suggestions for things you can do to join the fight.

  1. Speak Up!  You can volunteer to be a speaker in your community during awareness week.  NEDA provides pre-written presentations for volunteer speakers to use.
  2. Post It!  Spread awareness by posting to your social media sites and using your social network to encourage others to get involved.
  3. Speak Out!  Become a media watchdog and join with others who write letters to media outlets about their coverage of eating disorders.
  4. Give It! NEDA provides Healthy Body Image resources like Teaching Kids to Eat and Love Their Bodies Too!! that you can pay to have donated to a middle school in your area.
  5. Print It!  Go the NEDA Awareness Week website and register to participate.  Once registered, you will have access to a bunch of great resources including toolkits for a variety of people.  Download and print kits to give the educators at your local school, coaches of local teams, and parents you know to help spread the word.

Join the fight this week against eating disorders by doing just one thing to make a difference.  Your contribution, whether grand or small, will make a difference in the lives of people you know because everyone knows someone who is affected by an eating disorder.

Healthy Body Image Tips for Pregnant Women and New Mothers


These tips are adapted from Does This Pregnancy Make Me Look Fat? The Essential Guide to Loving Your Body Before and After Baby (HCI Books)

by Claire Mysko and Magali Amadei

Take weight out of the equation. This might seem like a radical suggestion considering that pregnancy weight gain and post-baby weight loss are such hot topics of conversation among mothers-to-be and new moms. To add fuel to the fire, weigh-ins are often the center of every visit to the doctor. But truthfully, there really isn’t any reason you need to keep track of your weight. If you know that it could become an unhealthy fixation, tell your OB or midwife that you prefer not to discuss the number unless it becomes a medical issue. When it is necessary to be weighed, you can step on the scale backwards and remind the physician’s assistant that you don’t want to be told your weight. You’ll discover that there are plenty of other interesting—and more substantive–things about becoming a mother that you can talk about than the number on the scale.

Choose a health care provider who is sensitive to food, weight and body image issues. Most women have struggled with poor body image and many have personal experience with disordered eating. That means we need to find prenatal and postpartum healthcare providers who are knowledgeable and compassionate when it comes to these issues. We’ve heard from women who ended up in the examination room—and sometimes even the delivery room—feeling belittled and unsupported by their own doctors. The best way to avoid this scenario is to push through whatever shame you might be feeling and be upfront with your OB or midwife about your history and your pregnancy-related body image fears. If you’re met with criticism or any other reaction that makes you feel uncomfortable, remember that you are well within your rights to walk out that door and find another doctor who will treat you with more respect. Of those we surveyed, 73% of pregnant women with body image issues and histories of eating disorders and disordered eating said they had not discussed this history with their OBs or midwives. It’s time to break that dangerous silence.

Be aware of the triggers of pregnancy. The incessant counting, comparing, and measuring that happens during those nine months and beyond can tap into some of the very vulnerabilities that are linked to eating disorders and food and weight obsessions. Perfectionism, loss of control, feelings of isolation, and memories of childhood often bubble right to the surface. But if you’re getting the support you need, you’ll have a better chance of weathering those storms without resorting to self-destructive habits. Resist the urge to shut down or close off. Remember that there is nothing shameful about asking for help. It’s the most courageous thing you can do for yourself and your baby. Look at your recovery as an ongoing process that will help you reach your full potential as an individual and as a mother.

Break the cycle of body hatred. Allow yourself to celebrate the fact that your body is working some serious magic right now. Before you get stymied by stretch marks or focused on flabby skin, take time to reflect on how you will teach your child—in your words and in your actions—that you appreciate your body. We have the power to help future generations grow up placing a higher value on good health than on weight and physical appearance. But before we can pass along those positive attitudes, we must first embrace them for ourselves.

Everybody Knows Somebody. Get involved in NEDAwareness Week 2012, February 26- March 3! Visit the NEDAwareness Week homepage under Programs & Events to register today and learn more about how you can do just one thing to help raise awareness about eating disorders and become part of the solution.

National Eating Disorders Helpline: 800 931-2237 

25th Annual National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, Feb 26th- March 3, 2012

Certified Eating Disorder Specialists Available for Interview in Conjunction with 25th Annual National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, Feb 26th– March 3, 2012

According to statistics, more young women in the US die from anorexia nervosia than from any other cause.  That’s why it’s so critical that we raise awareness of eating disorders in the United States.  

February 26th– March 3, 2012, marks the 25th annual National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (NEDAwareness Week) in an effort to bring public attention to the critical need to raise awareness and funding to battle eating disorders in the U.S.    

Who:             Certified Eating Disorder Specialists from Doorways, LLC, the only organization in Phoenix that specializes in the outpatient treatment of teens and young adults with mental health issues.

What:           National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, February 26- March 3rd, 2012

Story Ideas:

  •  How do you know if someone has an eating disorder?
  • What do you do if you suspect someone has an eating disorder
  • How can you get help for someone has an eating disorders

Talking Points & U.S. Statistics on Eating Disorders:  (Source: National Eating Disorders Association)

  •   For females between 15- and 24-years-old-old who suffer from anorexia nervosa, the mortality rate associated with the illness is 12 times higher than the death rate of all other causes of death
  •  We live in a culture saturated with unrealistic body-image messages and almost all of us know somebody struggling with an eating disorder.
  •  Eating disorders are serious illnesses, not lifestyle choices
  •  As many as 10 million females and 1 million males in the U.S. battle anorexia or bulimia. And as many as 13 million more struggle with binge eating disorder. Millions practice disordered eating due to an obsession with dieting
  • Four out of 10 Americans either suffered or have known someone who has suffered from an eating disorder
  • 40% of newly identified cases of anorexia are in girls 15-19 years old
  • There was a significant increase in incidence of anorexia from 1935 to 1989, especially among young women 15-24
  • There has been a rise in incidence of anorexia in young women 15-19 in each decade since 1930
  • Over one-half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting and taking laxatives
  • Girls who diet frequently are 12 times as likely to binge as girls who don’t diet
  • 42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner
  • 81% of 10 –year-olds are afraid of being fat
  • The average American woman is 5’4” tall and weighs 140 pounds. The average American model is 5’11” tall and weighs 117 pounds
  • Most fashion models are thinner than 98% of American women
  • 46% of 9-11 year-olds are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets and 82% of their families are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets.

About Doorways LLC.

Doorways LLC. is a faith-based counseling organization in Phoenix, Arizona, that provides comprehensive outpatient treatment focused exclusively on adolescents, young adults and their families. Therapists at Doorways specialize in treatment for eating disorders, mood disorders, substance abuse, depression, ADD/ADHD, self-harm, suicide and more.  For more information, visit, or call 602-997-2880.



Eating Disorder Awareness: Bulimia

The pressure to be thin in order to fit in is more extreme for today’s teenagers than it was for their parents and grandparents, often resulting in the development of eating disorder and the need for teen counseling.  The obsession with weight that so often contributes to the development of eating disorders like bulimia is starting younger and younger.  The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD) found that almost half of girls in 1st-3rd grade wish they were thinner and by age 10, 80% of those girls will be afraid of getting fat.  By the time they reach college, more than 90% of them will have been on a diet at some point in their lives and 25% of them will be using the binge and purge cycle associated with bulimia as a way to manage their weight.

Statistics show that more than 80% of eating disorders start before age 20.   As many as 4% of women will struggle with bulimic behaviors at some point in their lifetime and since people with bulimia can be any weight, this eating disorder can be harder to spot than others like anorexia.  It is common, however, for people who are anorexic to also use bulimic behavior to control their weight.

What Bulimia Looks Like

People with bulimia can be any weight- from the kind of underweight associated with anorexia to obese.  Like other eating disorders, those with bulimia are often afraid of being overweight, obsessed with weight management, and always trying to lose weight so that they will be happier with their body.  However, the behaviors people with this disorder use to address those fears don’t generally result in weight loss by themselves.  Bulimic behaviors follow a cycle that starts with the binge.  During a binge, people will eat excessive amounts of high-calorie food in a short period of time and feel like they have no real control over their eating.  After bingeing, the person feels ashamed, disgusted, afraid, or guilty for consuming so many calories and purging feels like a way to rewind the clock and undo the damage.  Purging, which can occur through vomiting, abuse of laxatives, excessive exercise, or starvation, often relieves the anxiety and helps alleviate the negative emotions caused by bingeing.

The shame associated with bulimia often results in secretive behavior and people with the disorder may go to great lengths to hide their abnormal eating habits and purging behavior.   There are however, some signs that can point to a problem with bulimia, if you know what to look for.  People with this disorder are often preoccupied with food, may exercise compulsively for hours each day, frequently go to the bathroom directly after eating, and may take an excessive number of diet pills, diuretics, or laxatives.  There are physical signs as well, but they can be more difficult to spot.  They may have broken blood vessels in their eyes and swollen salivary glands at the corners of their mouths caused by vomiting, small calluses or cuts across their knuckles from inducing vomiting, and problems with their teeth like excessive decay, gingivitis, or loss of tooth enamel.

The Real Dangers of Being Bulimic

Like other eating disorders, bulimia can be dangerous and even life-threatening.  People with bulimia may experience problems with constipation, dehydration, hemorrhoids, and even pancreatitis.  Excessive vomiting can lead to serious damage to the esophagus including tearing and rupture in addition to permanent damage to teeth and gums.  Overuse of laxatives or diuretics can result in electrolyte imbalance, and dehydration.

How You Can Help

People who have eating disorders need the support of those around them.  If someone you know has an eating disorder, the best way to help is to educate yourself about the disorder and provide the support they need throughout their recovery.

Eating Disorder Awareness: Anorexia Nervosa

It’s no secret that eating disorders are a real and pressing problem for today’s teenagers.  According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), there are more than 24 million Americans with eating disorders and only 1 out of every 10 of those people will receive any treatment.  ANAD indicates that more than 80% of eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa, begin in adolescence.   Anorexia is the third most common chronic illness amongst adolescents and it carries a mortality rate twelve times that of any other cause of death for females between 15 and 35.

When you consider the life-long consequences and life threatening danger faced by people with anorexia nervosa, it is clear to see that early detection is critical.  Whether you are a parent, a teacher, a coach, a best friend, or a boyfriend, it is more important than ever for everyone to know how to recognize the signs and symptoms of anorexia.  Understanding what to look for and knowing what to do could help save the life of someone you love.

What Anorexia Nervosa Looks Like

Everyone has seen pictures of people with the tell-tale emaciation that can be caused by anorexia nervosa.  But there are many other signs that someone in your life has this eating disorder that are less overt.

  • Food consumption and weight management become an obsession.  This is not your teenage daughter complaining that she looks fat today.  This is an all encompassing obsession with how much food they eat and how many calories and fat grams each bite of food they take contains that can take over their life.
  • Food consumption decreases to starvation levels.  People with anorexia nervosa may stop eating around other people, start making plans that result in them missing regular mealtimes, and use extreme portion control to limit their caloric intake.
  • Irregular growth and loss of hair.  While it may seem strange to have both excess growth and abnormal loss, both can be seen in someone with anorexia nervosa.  Lack of nutrition can cause hair to become brittle and fall out while lack of body fat can signal the body to grow more hair in an attempt to regulate body hair.  This abnormal growth appears as a fine layer of hair on the face and body.
  • Overuse and abuse of laxatives, diuretics, and diet pills.
  • Consistently low body weight paired with a refusal to maintain a normal weight.  This is an important distinction as some people who do not have an eating disorder may be perpetually below their ideal body weight.  But someone who has a body weight more than 15% below their ideal weight who also refuses to gain enough to maintain a normal weight may be anorexic.

The Real Dangers of Being Anorexic

Anorexia nervosa takes an immediate toll on the body that results in abnormal weight loss and nutritional deficiencies.  But it also causes other problems that can take longer to be seen and may have life-long impacts.  It creates a type of mental fog that makes it difficult to concentrate and regulate mood fluctuations.  It causes irregularities in the cardiovascular system including slow, uneven pulse rates, low blood pressure, shortness of breath, and dizziness.  It also impacts the musculoskeletal system and can lead to stunted growth rates, an increase in bone fractures, and osteoporosis.  It can result in abnormalities in thyroid function that cause fatigue, hair loss, and low body temperature.  It can lead to dependence on laxatives or other pharmaceuticals that result in life-threatening conditions like electrolyte imbalances and dehydration.  Overall lack of specific nutrients like potassium can also be immediately life threatening.

How You Can Help

The best way to help someone with an eating disorder is to be there for them and provide the support they need to regain their health throughout the various stages of recovery.  That starts with speaking up when you have concerns and following through until you are no longer concerned or the person in your life gets the help they need.  We at Doorways have trained counselors to treat teens and adolescents struggling with eating disorders such as Anorexia.

It is a common misconception that it takes years to die from anorexia nervosa.  If you are concerned about someone in your life, don’t wait; they may have less time than you think.