Eating disorders are plaguing the minds and bodies of teenagers across the country. These disorders put their bodies and minds through a significant amount of stress and can lead to an unhealthy lifestyle.
According to Mayo Clinic, Anorexia is the immoderate fear of being overweight, usually paired with a distorted body image. Symptoms can involve attempts at maintaining a below-normal weight through methods such as over-exercising and starvation. Bulimia is a similar disorder; however, bulimics commonly binge-eat, and then purge to expel what was eaten.
Eating disorders can wound a person in a spectrum of ways. WCHS Nurse Jannifer Caldwell touched upon a few of the physical symptoms of an eating disorder.
“Many see themselves as overweight even though they are in fact underweight,” Caldwell said, and she also explained that due to the lack of proper nutrition, and over exercising, and even purging, many health problems can result. These problems include hair loss due to the lack of nutrients in the hair follicles, fatigue, fainting, dizziness, all derived from the lack of energy and nutrients in the body, menstrual irregularities in women and even heart palpitations. These and other health problems caused by eating disorders can develop into worse conditions overtime, which is why those who struggle with eating disorders need help.
According to WCHS Counselor Laura Ehringer, not only can eating disorders affect a person physically, but also mentally. She explains that most eating disorders derive from a skewed body image. Patients can view their bodies in a negative way, and act on those thoughts to try to change themselves to look more like their image of the perfect body, which can lead to eating disorders. There are healthy ways to lose weight, if losing weight is even necessary for the individual in question.
Social media and other public sources can influence one’s body image, and that can negatively affect their health. Ehringer explains social media’s effects on these disorders and how they can further damage a person’s body image.
“Body images are all over social media. Most of it is photo-shopped, but that doesn’t stop young people from comparing themselves to the photos and thinking they need to be perfect. Some will obsess and that can cause an eating disorder,” Ehringer said.
Not only are eating disorders harmful to mental wellness, but they can also result in very serious physical conditions, as they can lead to devastating long-term health problems, and permanently injure the body’s processes.
“Eating disorders can greatly impact physical health. Due to severe calorie restrictions, the body does not receive adequate energy through food. In fact, eating disorders can compromise every regulatory system in the body,” Caldwell said. “The effects on physical health can occur rapidly or may worsen over a period of time. Some medical complications resolve quickly as a person recovers from their eating disorder while other can have a lasting impact.”
Eating disorders are dangerous both physically and mentally, however, they can be alleviated with the proper treatment.
The first step to overcoming an eating disorder is realizing there is a problem and asking for help. Those with eating disorders should know that they are not alone and have many resources available to them to help them through their struggles. They can always speak confidentially with one of the counselors for guidance, or talk with their doctor or parents about their feelings and physical ailments, so they can collaborate to find the proper treatment. All they have to do is take that first step.