According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, eating disorders affect more than 30 million people in the United States. These are serious health conditions that can result in muscle weakness, reduced cognitive function, infections, cardiac issues, organ failure and even death. Fortunately, with early recognition and treatment, it’s possible to overcome an eating disorder.
When people think of eating disorders, they most often think of anorexia or bulimia. But there are actually several types, including:
- Anorexia Nervosa – This eating disorder is characterized by weight loss as well as difficulty maintaining an appropriate body weight for a person’s height, age and stature. Many individuals also suffer with distorted body image.
- Bulimia Nervosa – Individuals with this disorder are stuck in a cycle of binge eating followed by compensatory behaviors, such as purging or compulsive exercise.
- Binge Eating Disorder – This is the most common eating disorder in the United States. It’s characterized by recurrent episodes of eating large quantities of food coupled with a feeling of a loss of control during the binge. Individuals often experience shame, distress or guilt following a binge episode.
- Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified – Individuals with this diagnosis don’t meet the strict criteria for anorexia or bulimia but still show signs of a significant eating disorder.
A common misconception is that a person has to be extremely skinny to have an eating disorder. But the reality is that a person can be at a normal weight – or even overweight – and still have an eating disorder. Although noticeable weight loss or fluctuations in weight are signs a person may be struggling with an eating disorder, there are other things to watch for including:
- A preoccupation with weight, food and dieting
- Skipping meals or not eating consistent meals
- Avoiding meals or eating in front of others
- Mood swings
- Lethargy and low energy
- Menstrual irregularities
- Difficulty concentrating
- Dizziness or feeling lightheaded, especially upon standing
The sooner a person receives treatment for an eating disorder, the better their chances of avoiding complications and making a full recovery. The first step is seeing a primary care provider. A physician will likely request lab tests and an EKG (electrocardiogram) to determine the level of care that’s needed.
Linden Oaks Behavioral Health is known throughout the Chicago area for its comprehensive eating disorder services. We provide inpatient, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient and outpatient therapy options. Our experienced care team helps patients address complex psychological issues while treating their physical and dietary needs to help them gain control over their eating disorders.