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Overcoming Eating Disorders

Eating disorders, characterized by unhealthy eating habits of varying degrees, have significantly increased in the United States over the last 40 years. Recent statistics indicate that up to 10 million women and one million men are in a life threatening situation as a result of an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia. Millions more suffer from a binge eating disorder.

Any kind of eating disorder constitutes a serious medical condition that needs to be addressed. Always consult your medical doctor if you suspect that you have unhealthy eating patterns or feel unhappy or concerned about your weight. Your doctor may suggest that you see a psychologist or counselor for additional help.

The most serious risk associated with an eating disorder is death. Anorexia and the malnutrition or starvation that follow is often life threatening and requires immediate medical attention. The symptoms of anorexia include a refusal to maintain a healthy body weight; an intense fear of gaining weight; and a distorted body image. Bulimia, which involves binge eating typically followed by purging, places millions of Americans at risk for gum disease, a range of gastrointestinal problems, heart disease, and death.

The most common eating disorder, according to the McLean Hospital at Harvard University, is binge eating or compulsive overeating. Binge eating contributes to the obesity epidemic in America, which is associated with a plethora of medical issues: diabetes, heart disease and congestive heart failure, stroke, gout, gallbladder disease, erectile dysfunction and depression, to name a few.

Denial constitutes the greatest obstacle to the treatment and resolution of eating disorders. Many who suffer from eating disorders minimize the severity of their condition and downplay the associated symptoms and risks. Failure to treat an eating disorder in a timely manner may contribute to serious chronic illness or an early death.

The good news about eating disorders is that available treatments are largely effective. Studies show that with professional help 80% of cases come to some successful resolution, with 60% of those cases reporting complete resolution of the issue. Treatment includes practical techniques for changing the individual’s thoughts and behavior regarding food, body image, and self-esteem. In addition, the individual learns constructive ways to cope with stressful relationships or situations.

If you have an eating disorder, choose a doctor, psychologist or counselor with specific training to treat this serious condition. Fortunately, help is available along with greater physical health and emotional freedom.

Sources:
WebMD
Harvard University

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