Death By Starvation: Complications of Eating Disorders

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Eating disorders plague society more and more every year.  According to a recent study by the National Institute for Mental Health, between five to ten million American girls and women, and one million men are suffering from eating disorders.

Eating disorders
    Most eating disorders root from an extreme fear of becoming fat or being thought of as fat.  These feelings are sometimes brought about by environmental factors, some are a result of past abuse, some due to genetics, and some due to addiction.  The most prevalent eating disorders reported are:
·    Anorexia Nervosa.  Patients with anorexia control their body weight by indulging in voluntary starvation, excessive exercise, and the use of medications as weight control measures.
·    Bulimia Nervosa.  Patients with bulimia over binge eat but feel excessively guilty after eating a lot.  Because of the guilt, they intentionally purge the food out by forcing themselves to defecate by using laxatives, or by tickling their throats to vomit.
·    Binge eating disorder.  People who indulge in binge eating frequently consume excessive amounts of food rapidly.  

Medical complications
    A lot of medical complications may arise if eating disorders go unnoticed and untreated.  Some complications may lead to serious, irreversible damage to both the body and mind, and it may even lead to death.  Eating disorders not only affect how a person looks on the outside, it also affects every cell, tissue, and organs in the body.  Here is a list of physical and mental complications of having an eating disorder:

    Physical complications:
·    Irregular heartbeat which may lead to cardiac arrest and eventually, if left untreated, death.
·    Kidney damage which may cause renal failure and eventually, death.
·    Liver damage (made worse by substance abuse.  This may also lead to death.
·    Loss of muscle mass. Broomstick arms and legs.
·    Permanent loss of bone mass which can make patients easily get fractures.
·    Damage to the digestive system including: destruction of teeth, rupture of esophagus, damage to lining of stomach; gastritis, gastric distress including bloat and distension, and ulcer.
·    Disruption of menstrual cycle which may result to infertility.
·    Delayed growth and permanently stunted growth due to undernutrition
·    Weakened immune system
·    Icy hands and feet
·    Swollen glands in neck; stones in salivary duct, “chipmunk cheeks.”
·    Excess hair on face, arms, and body. Long, downy lanugo hair.
·    Dry, blotchy skin that has an unhealthy gray or yellow cast
·    Anemia, malnutrition. Disruption of body’s fluid/mineral balance (electrolyte imbalance, loss of potassium; can be fatal)
·    Fainting spells, seizures, sleep disruption, bad dreams, mental fuzziness
·    Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), including shakiness, anxiety, restlessness, and a pervasive itchy sensation all over the body.
·    Anal and bladder incontinence, urinary tract infections, vaginal prolapse, and other problems related to weak and damaged pelvic floor muscles. Some problems may be related to chronic constipation, which is commonly found in people with anorexia nervosa. Structural damage and atrophy of pelvic floor muscles can be caused by low estrogen levels, excessive exercise, and inadequate nutrition. Surgery may be necessary to repair the damage.
·    Because of changes in the brain associated with under-nourishment, binge eating, and purging, the person does not, and perhaps cannot, weigh priorities, make judgments, and make choices that are logical and rational for normal people. Recovery, once the process has begun, requires time for the brain to readjust — chemically and physically — to normal and healthy patterns of eating. This is a combined physical/psychological problem.

    Mental complications:
·    Clinical depression.
·    Anxiety.
·    Addiction.
·    Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
·    Social withdrawal.

Now that you know the complications eating disorders bring to your body, think twice before binge eating or deciding to go into a starvation diet.  You might get hooked on your irregular eating habit that it may develop into an eating disorder.  Having an eating disorder is not an easy thing to live with.  Loving yourself for what you are is the best thing you can do to yourself.

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