Eating Disorders in Adolescent Girls
Eating disorders are a group of mental disorders that interfere with normal food consumption. They may lead to serious health problems and, in the case of both bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa, even death. The major recognized eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and binge eating disorder. An eating disorder is a serious psychological condition. The sufferer is obsessed with food, diet and often body image to the point where their quality of life suffers, and their health is at extreme risk from their long-term poor or inadequate diet. Most victims of an eating disorder do not recognize that they have a problem and they will refuse treatment and attempt to hide their abnormal behavior from others. Treatment of eating disorders can take decades, so early identification may be the difference between life and death for the patient. The two major types of eating disorder which will be the most familiar to many are anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Binge eating disorder is similar to bulimia. Large amounts of food are consumed at a sitting but retained in the stomach rather than being regurgitated. Some experts consider a complaint called orthorexia to be a valid eating disorder - the sufferer is overly obsessed with the consumption of what they see as the 'right' foods for them (vegan, raw foods, paleolithic etc), to the point where their nutrition and quality of life suffers (Gordon, et al, 1983). Some people have food phobias about what they can and can't eat, which may also be a form of eating disorder. Another disorder which is somewhat qualitatively different from the foregoing is pica, or the habitual ingestion of inedible's, such as dirt, wood, hair, etc. Theses problems are faced by teens due to the un-realistic body images presented by the media and for most, fashion models that are rail thin and shown to be the epitome of beauty (Zerbe KJ, 1996). The younger girls look at these almost anemic models and think themselves to be fat and ugly and try to look like them by starving or some more drastic measures like that. Anorexia Nervosa
Anorexia nervosa: the relentless pursuit of thinness
Person refuses to maintain normal body weight for age and height.
Weighs 85% or less than what is expected for age and height.
In women, menstrual periods stop. In men levels of sex hormones fall.
Young girls do not begin to menstruate at the appropriate age
Person denies the dangers of low weight.
Is terrified of becoming fat.
Is terrified of gaining weight even though s/he is markedly underweight.
Reports feeling fat even when very thin.
In addition, anorexia nervosa often includes depression, irritability, withdrawal, and peculiar behaviors such as compulsive rituals, strange eating habits, and division of foods into "good/safe" and "bad/dangerous" categories. Person may have low tolerance for change and new situations; may fear growing up and assuming adult responsibilities and an adult lifestyle. May be overly engaged with or dependent on parents or family. Dieting may represent avoidance of, or ineffective attempts to cope with, the demands of a new life stage such as adolescence ( Stark). Bulimia Nervosa
Person binge eats.
Feels out of control while eating.
Vomits, misuses laxatives, exercises, or fasts to get rid of the calories.
Diets when not bingeing. Becomes hungry and binges again.
Believes self-worth requires being thin.
May shoplift, be promiscuous, and abuse alcohol, drugs, and credit cards.
Weight may be normal or near normal unless anorexia is also present.
Like anorexia, bulimia can kill. Even though bulimics put up a brave front, they are often depressed, lonely, ashamed, and empty inside. Friends may describe them as competent and fun to be with, but underneath, where they hide their guilty secrets, they are hurting. Feeling unworthy, they have great difficulty talking about their feelings, which...
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