Eating Disorders

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Eating Disorders

Eating Disorders


Eating disorders are the outward expression of deep psychological and emotional turmoil. Sufferers turn to food and eating as a means of expressing their difficulties. While on the surface the issue appears to be about food, at a deeper level eating disorders express a fundamental unhappiness which may originate from a number of different sources.

An eating disorder can therefore be seen as:

• an avoidance mechanism - in that the sufferer, by concentrating all her energies round food and eating, can avoid facing other more painful issues in her life

• a way of coping with a life which otherwise appears to be fraught with insoluble problems

• a way of exerting control over her own body, and life in general, in a situation where the sufferer feels other people are controlling her

• a reaction to unresolved stress which may go back many years.

Thus eating disorders are fundamentally not disorders of eating; they indicate and express a disturbed perception of self. The precise causes are probably different for each individual (Patrick, 2002).

The term Eating Disorders covers a wide spectrum of disturbed eating behaviour, the exact relationship between these categories being unclear. This article is about two specific eating disorders: anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Many of the underlying issues are also relevant to other eating disorders. Taken together, people with eating disorders share many features including:

(1) A fear of becoming fat and a drive to become thin (2) An obsession with food, weight, calories, etc.

(3) A reliance on eating and/or refusal to eat in order to cope with emotional discomfort, stressful life events, and developmental challenges (4) The fact that female sufferers outnumber males by at least 9 to 1 (5) An increased incidence of depression, obesity, substance abuse, and eating disorders in the families of sufferers (6) A world view that values external appearances over personal integrity (Streigel-Moore, 2008).

Therefore anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are both emotional disorders which focus on food and its consumption.

Anorexics practise self-starvation; they say they are looking and feeling better as a result. Bulimics binge, and then purge themselves as a means of weight control - they see this as a means of enjoying food without suffering any ill effect (weight gain) from it. Like the heroin addict, who at first seizes the drug as a means of pleasure or escape from troubles, and is then seized by the drug as it takes control in turn, the individual with an eating disorder thinks she has a solution to her problems - her solution then becomes a problem, often without her ability to recognise it or change it (Hudson, 2005).

Individuals with an eating disorder blame most of their problems on their appearance. If they weighed just a few pounds less, everything would be perfect. They have confused who they are with what they look like. Even more serious, they often lose sight of what they actually look like and can no longer see themselves as others see them.

Anorexia Nervosa

This literally means "loss of appetite for nervous ...
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