If You've Suffered or Are Suffering With Anorexia Or Bulimia, Here's What You Need To Know

If You've Suffered or Are Suffering With Anorexia Or Bulimia, Here's What You Need To Know

Anorexia isn't just "not eating," and bulimia isn't just "throwing up."
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As someone who has struggled with both anorexia and bulimia off and on for four years, almost hospitalized three times, and only recovered from both eating disorders for eight months before recently relapsing on first anorexia and now bulimia the past few months, I've noticed that many people have misconstrued ideas about both anorexia and bulimia.

In order to help people learn things they may not have otherwise known about both eating disorders, I've compiled a list of facts for both--centering on United States statistics specifically--with links to their sources below.

Eating disorders are real, serious, and need to be talked about more, especially to those who do not suffer with one, so he or she may understand the illnesses better.

Anorexia:

Anorexia is characterized by several factors other than simply--and mistakenly--just "not eating." It is characterized by an abnormally low body weight, thoughts consumed by food (such as calories and other nutrition content), distorted body image, and an intense fear of gaining weight.

Many times anorectics (a person effected by anorexia) will severely restrict their food intake, chew and spit up food, overexercise, vomit, diet, abuse laxatives, etc. in order to continue losing weight.

About half of anorectics suffer from anxiety disorders, such OCD. Almost half also suffer a mood disorder, such as depression or bipolar (though this is more common in those who binge/purge).

Between 1-5% of adolescent/young females develop anorexia, with the average age of onset being 17.

Only 1 in 10 anorectics receive treatment, and 20% of those who do not receive treatment will die from the disorder.

Anorexia is the third most common chronic illness in adolescents.

Males represent a quarter of anorexic individuals and are at a higher risk of dying, and are diagnosed later in life than females because of the social stigma that males do not develop eating disorders.

In anorexic patients admitted into treatment, 60% recover completely without ever repeating eating disorder tendencies, 20% partially recover, meaning they can live more or less an ordinary life but still are heavily influenced by eating disorder behaviors and thoughts, and the last 20% remain underweight and continue to struggle practically the rest of their lifetime.

Health complications from anorexia, especially over an extended period of time, include: anemia, absence of menstruation in females, kidney problems, gastrointestinal issues (ex. nausea, bloating, trouble digesting, constipation), heart problems (ex. heart palpitations and other abnormal heart rhythms and even heart failure), hair loss and thinning of hair (or a coat of thin hairs all over the body as means of insulation, called lanugo), severe electrolyte imbalance, osteoporosis and bone loss, and in males, decreased testosterone.

Many anorectics socially withdrawl, have a decrease in sex drive, are intolerant to cold temperatures and get cold easily, develop very dry or yellowish skin, experience frequent fatigue, may experience insomnia, and often may be dizzy; all of these are symptoms of the disorder.

Bulimia:

Bulimia is characterized by frequent binges of food in a very short period of time followed by either vomiting, overexercising, fasting, or abusing laxatives in order to rid of extra calories (occurring at least once a month over a three month or more period), a sensation of feeling out of control during binge-eating, and low self-esteem.

1.5% of American women will suffer from bulimia in their lifetime, the most common onset being females in college, and most individuals with bulimia--whether female or male--are normal weight or even overweight.

Many bulimic individuals have a mood disorder, such as depression, bipolar, or anxiety, which often causes them trouble in regulating their emotions, and 30-70% have a type of addictive disorder; self harm is common in just over 34% of bulimic individuals.

Many times bulimia follows after the onset of anorexia due to the body's innate need for food and nutrients after having been severely malnourished for an extended period of time; 30-70% of bulimic individuals will or have experienced anorexia.

After an extended period of time of bulimia, individuals may experience several health problems such as: loss of teeth enamel, swelling of the parotid gland (around the throat, back mouth, and jaw areas), electrolyte imbalance, decaying of the esophagus and teeth, gastric rupture, peptic ulcers, esophagus rupture, irregular bowel movements, pancreatitis, etc.

About 1 in 10 bulimic individuals get treatment, and whether they receive treatment or not, between 30-50% of bulimic individuals relapse; cognitive behavioral therapy is the most common treatment for bulimia.

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If you or someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder, do NOT be afraid to reach out for/to help.

Cover Image Credit: Ashlyn Ren Bishop

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To The Person Who Feels Suicidal But Doesn't Want To Die

Suicidal thoughts are not black and white.
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Everyone assumes that if you have suicidal thoughts that means you want to die.

From an outside perspective, suicidal thoughts are rarely looked into deeper than the surface level. Either you have suicidal thoughts and you want to die, or you don't have suicidal thoughts and you want to live. What most people don't understand is that people live in between those two statements, I for one am one of them.

I've had suicidal thoughts since I was a kid.

My first recollection of it was when I came home after school one day and got in trouble, and while I was just sitting in the dining room I kept thinking, “I wonder what it would be like to take a knife from the kitchen and just shove it into my stomach." I didn't want to die, or even hurt myself for that matter. But those thoughts haven't stopped since.

I've thought about going into the bathroom and taking every single pill I could find and just drifting to sleep and never waking back up, I've thought about hurting myself to take the pain away, just a few days ago on my way to work I thought about driving my car straight into a tree. But I didn't. Why? Because even though that urge was so strong, I didn't want to die. I still don't, I don't want my life to end.

I don't think I've ever told anyone about these feelings. I don't want others to worry because the first thing anyone thinks when you tell them you have thoughts about hurting or killing yourself is that you're absolutely going to do it and they begin to panic. Yes, I have suicidal thoughts, but I don't want to die.

It's a confusing feeling, it's a scary feeling.

When the depression takes over you feel like you aren't in control. It's like you're drowning.

Every bad memory, every single thing that hurt you, every bad thing you've ever done comes back and grabs you by the ankle and drags you back under the water just as you're about the reach the surface. It's suffocating and not being able to do anything about it.

The hardest part is you never know when these thoughts are going to come. Some days you're just so happy and can't believe how good your life is, and the very next day you could be alone in a dark room unable to see because of the tears welling up in your eyes and thinking you'd be better off dead.

You feel alone, you feel like a burden to everyone around you, you feel like the world would be better off without you. I wish it was something I could just turn off but I can't, no matter how hard I try.

These feelings come in waves.

It feels like you're swimming and the sun is shining and you're having a great time until a wave comes and sucks you under into the darkness of the water. No matter how hard you try to reach the surface again a new wave comes and hits you back under again, and again, and again.

And then it just stops.

But you never know when the next wave is going to come. You never know when you're going to be sucked back under.

I always wondered if I was the only one like this.

It didn't make any sense to me, how did I think about suicide so often but not want to die? But I was thinking about it in black and white, I thought I wasn't allowed to have those feelings since I wasn't going to act on them. But then I read articles much like this one and I realized I'm not the only one. Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, and my feelings are valid.

To everyone who feels this way, you aren't alone.

I thought I was for the longest time, I thought I was the only one who felt this way and I didn't understand how I could feel this way. But please, I implore you to talk to someone, anyone, about the way you're feeling, whether it be a family member, significant other, a friend, a therapist.

My biggest mistake all these years was never telling anyone how I feel in fear that they would either brush me off because “who could be suicidal but not want to die?" or panic and try to commit me to a hospital or something. Writing this article has been the greatest feeling of relief I've felt in a long time, talking about it helps. I know it's scary to tell people how you're feeling, but you're not alone and you don't have to go through this alone.

Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, your feelings are valid, and there are people here for you. You are not alone.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline — 1-800-273-8255


Cover Image Credit: BengaliClicker

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Eating Disorders Are Not Exclusive To One Body Type

Body image and eating disorders can affect people that are skinny.

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With the start of summer vacation, the issue of eating disorders often flares up. Because more people begin worrying about their size due to fitting into bathing suits or going to public pools during the summer, there is an overall increase in eating disorders. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, there are at least 30 million people in the U.S. of all genders and ages that suffer from an eating disorder, and every 62 minutes, someone dies from the direct result of an eating disorder.

In addition, body image has been known to have a connection with eating disorders. According to Eating Disorder Hope, body image has been shown to be a protective factor, and having a good body image can reduce the vulnerability for someone to develop an eating disorder. There are some people who think that the only people who worry about their body image or who develop eating disorders tend to be people who are overweight. But as they've forgotten, cases with anorexia and other eating disorders are often focused on people who are skinny.

You're probably thinking, how does someone who is skinny have issues with their body image? Especially since the overall media portrayal of the perfect body size is someone who is skinny? However, what most people don't realize is that people who are skinny are constantly worrying about gaining weight or not being fit. Being skinny is often associated with someone who is fit and healthy. Therefore, you constantly have to worry about maintaining these traits.

In addition, just because you may be skinny does not mean that you are fit or healthy. People who have a fast metabolism, like me, for example, are not always fit. With my fast metabolism, I'm always around the same size no matter what I eat. However, when you have a fast metabolism, it doesn't mean you'll have abs or have toned muscles. And when you have a fast metabolism, it's harder to build up muscle since your body metabolizes quickly.

You also find yourself comparing how fit you are with other women who are skinny, such as models and judging how you look based on others. For example, if you go to the beach wearing a bikini that you felt confident about and then you see someone else who is wearing the same one but appears to have a flatter stomach or more toned muscles then you, you suddenly lose whatever confidence you had built about your body image. Because of this, there are many women who are skinny and can develop eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia.

On top of that, in society, there's an overall fear of being overweight. Even when you're already skinny, this fear can still affect you by making you worry about one day losing the status of being skinny. And if you are thin because you lost weight, the fear of gaining the weight back isn't simply going to go away.

And believe it or not, society's perception of the perfect body image is changing. According to The Self Improvement Blog, in recent years curvy hourglass figures are becoming a more popular body image to have rather than being slender. So instead women who are slender will likely encounter issues with their body image due to trying to match the body image that the media portrays as perfect.

The worst part is that there are a lot of people who believe that problems with body image only center around people who are overweight. Some people tell skinny women to "get over it." This, in turn, causes women to feel that they have no one to confide to about their problems with their body image because the media tells them that they don't have a problem. The women may decide to ignore their problem instead of seeking help, which then causes it to worsen and may go from a lack of confidence in their self-image to an eating disorder.

Most people who are dieting to become skinny think that once they reach a certain size, they no longer will worry about their body image. But as discussed earlier, every woman, regardless of what size they are, faces issues with feeling confident about their body image. And the sooner we come to terms with this as a society, the better we will be able to understand the issues with body image and eating disorders.

Editor's note: The views expressed in this article are not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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