How Dangerous Are Eating Disorders?

Last Updated: Sep 20th 2019

Reviewed by Brittany Polansky

Eating disorders are the most life threatening type of mental health disorder. They kill more people due to side effects and suicide, than other mental illnesses. A study from the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders reports the devastating truth that between five and ten percent of those who struggle with anorexia nervosa after as few as ten years. Even if someone suffering from an eating disorder lives for more than ten years, they still are at risk of death because anywhere from eighteen to twenty percent of people suffering from an eating disorder succumb to the disease meet their death after twenty years. Some other people who suffer from the disease can and do die from suicide rather than side effects of their disorder.

 

Unfortunately the recovery rate for those who suffer from eating disorders is much more encouraging. Only thirty to forty percent of people suffering from any kind of eating disorder ever really reach remission from the disease. Maybe that is because only ten percent of those are dealing with eating disorders ever have access to or ever receive proper treatment from the disease so they can heal and recover. Whether this is a matter of the cost of treatment available to them, an issue of availability of treatment that provides the person at all, or maybe it’s the stigma that comes along with the disorder but either way the numbers are heartbreaking. No matter how you look at the statistics surrounding eating disorders, it is obvious that the United States, and indeed the sunshine state itself, has some real work to do around the how we treat women. Though there is an enormous amount of work to do,  just readjusting how we talk about and perceive the female body could help alter these statistics for the better.

 

According to American Psychiatric Association “Eating disorders are illnesses in which the people experience severe disturbances in their eating behaviors and related thoughts and emotions. People with eating disorders typically become preoccupied with food and their body weight.”

Furthermore, people with diagnosed or diagnosable eating disorders often turn to drugs as another means of controlling their weight. And while some of those weight goals may be achievable with that drug use, it takes a seriously dangerous amount of drugs to stop eating or to purge from what many people like to believe is controlled overdosing. Because of this, those who have an eating disorder are very susceptible to also becoming addicted to certain substances, including opioids, heroin, methamphetamines and more. It is easy to see how someone can get themselves into a cycle of drug abuse that is constantly perturbed by the user’s mental illness, which, in turn, quickly leads from abuse to a full addiction.

 

Common Eating Disorders

Anorexia Nervosa – Anorexia nervosa almost always causes someone to view themselves as obese, regardless of what their body weight is, or how they look like in the mirror. The person suffering from the disease likely experiences some serious body dysmorphia and has become obsessed with their weight. They may find themselves so obsessed with their body weight that they weigh themselves on a scale many times a day. Anorexia nervosa has the highest fatality rate of any other eating disorder, it is one of the deadliest of mental health disorders.

 

Signs & Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa:

 

  • Highly restricted diet
  • Extreme emaciation
  • Obsession with becoming thinner
  • Body dysmorphia or a distortion of the way one’s body looks
  • Low self esteem
  • A sense of self loathing
  • Anemia
  • Brittle nails and hair
  • Dry and yellowing skin
  • Osteoporosis
  • Constipation from dehydration
  • Diminished brain function
  • Extreme lethargy
  • Exhaustion
  • Infertility
  • Malnutrition
  • Irregular body temperature
  • Organ failure
  • Irregular menstrual periods

 

Bulimia Nervosa – Unlike anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa is more about purging the food and calories from the person’s system after they binge eat large quantities of food. People with bulimia nervosa generally purge after each meal. They frequently have incidents of eating substantial amounts of food in short periods of time. These sorts of binge eating episodes cause the person to feel out of control. This disorder, like the other eating disorders, is not a choice that the afflicted person can just decide to stop buying into.

Sometimes people treat those suffering from an eating disorder like they are choosing the illness, but most people suffering from this type of disorder desperately wish they could choose a different way of living.  This stigma is tragic, it causes feelings of self hatred and self loathing particularly after an episode of binging and purging takes place. The terrible stigma that society surrounds people who are struggling with the disorder with only compounds the deep pain of these diseases.

 

In order to purge after a binging session, people may take one of a few different kinds actions, including but not necessarily limited to self induced vomiting, the use of a laxative or diuretics, prolonged periods of fasting, of extreme amounts of exercise, or a combination of any of these activities. Unlike the emaciation of anorexia nervosa bulimia nervosa victims of bulimia nervosa can maintain a more normal appearing body weight.

 

Signs & Symptoms of Bulimia Nervosa:

  • Unrelenting raw throat
  • Swollen glands like the salivary glands in the neck and throat
  • Damaged teeth causing diminished enamel and tooth decay
  • Heightened sensitivity in the person’s teeth due to self induced vomiting
  • Cavities
  • Severe dehydration
  • Constipation
  • Acid reflux
  • Gastrointestinal complications
  • Electrolyte imbalance
  • Stroke
  • Cardiac and Heart complications
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Heartburn
  • Guilt
  • Mood swings
  • Bad breath
  • Abnormal menstrual periods

 

Binge Eating Disorder – Binge eating disorder is an eating disorder that has taken a long time to be called what it is, a mental health disorder -a chronic and devastating illness. To this day the disorder comes with a serious stigma of public ridicule and the person is often the butt of endless jokes. Binge eating disorder is characterized by a loss of control around a person’s eating habits, an obsession of one’s weight, and a constant craving for food. Binge eating disorder is unlike bulimia nervosa in that the person does not purge afterward. As a result the person suffers from different side effects including being overweight or obese. Some people also suffer from different medical side effects such as diabetes, cardiac, liver, or joint trouble. Not to mention an intense shame and self hatred.

 

Signs & Symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder:

  • Episodes of binging large amounts of food in a short period of time
  • Eating past a feeling of fullness and into a feeling of discomfort
  • Rapid eating habits
  • Eating in secret
  • Hiding food
  • Feelings of self loathing shame & guilt
  • Frequent often unsuccessful dieting
  • Obsession with weight loss without making progress toward a healthy weight
  • Diabetes
  • Heartburn
  • Exhaustion
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Irregular menstrual period

 

Treatment For Eating Disorders at South Florida Rehab Centers

1st Step Behavioral Health’s South Florida drug detox and South Florida drug rehab facilities are equipped to treat those with substance abuse disorders as well as a dual diagnosis of an eating disorders. Our medical professionals and qualified therapists are here to help each individual learn the skills they need to make it to remission and thrive in a new way of living. Contact us today with your questions and get started toward a healthier, sober way of living.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Brittany Polansky

Brittany PolanskyBrittany has been working in behavioral health since 2012 and is a Primary Clinician at our facility. She is an LCSW and holds a master’s degree in social work. She has great experience with chemical dependency and co-occurring mental health diagnoses as well as various therapeutic techniques. Brittany is passionate about treating all clients with dignity and respect, and providing a safe environment where clients can begin their healing journey in recovery.