Did you know that 90% of women dislike the way they look? And it’s all because of the media and their emphasis on the “ideal” figure of a woman. Supermodels like Kate Moss and other Barbie-doll-figure-inspired women grace the cover of magazines all over the world promoting a “perfect” shape.
Girls of all ages think that this is what people want to see. They think that this is what they should look like and try to set impossible goals for themselves to look like cover girls. As a result, many women in North America suffer from psychological illnesses.
Among the most common are eating disorders such as Anorexia and Bulimia Nervosa. Anorexia and Bulimia generally arise in young women, but may also occur in older females and occasionally in men.
People suffering from any of these sicknesses usually suffer from low self-esteem. Victims may think things such as, “my life would be better if I lost weight,” or they may think that people would like them better if they were thinner. They may feel incapable and tell themselves, “I never do anything right,” or feel that “nothing I ever do is enough.”
When they look in the mirror, victims see fat staring at them, no matter how thin and bony they may look to others. When shown pictures of themselves, Anorexia and Bulimia patients realize how thin they are but still are dissatisfied with their shape when they go to look in the mirror. Sufferers may lie about how much, how little, or when and where they have eaten so as not to admit to themselves or to others that they have a problem.
They may also lie about vomiting and the use of laxatives. Depression or mood swings may also be symptoms of eating disorders. Lack of motivation, feeling isolated and alone, and having the feeling of no self-worth can lead to suicide.
Eating disorders are commonly caused by a chemical imbalance in the victim’s brain. Everyone has a chemical in their brain called serotonin.
This is what controls your appetite. In Bulimia patients, this chemical is deficient and so they keep eating and eating. At that point, they feel guilty and have the urge to dispose of the consumed food either by vomiting or having a bowel movement promptly after eating.
Subsequently, their Vasopressin level increases and eventually take over, making the disposal of food the norm. The opposite occurs in Anorexia patients. The Norepinephrine chemical in their brain is deficient. Norepinephrine is an appetite stimulant. In their case, they have no desire to swallow anything for fear of becoming obese. Compulsive Overeating is another eating disorder although not as common as Anorexia or Bulimia Nervosa. Patients eat uncontrollably and gain a considerable amount of weight.
And unlike Anorexia and Bulimia patients, Compulsive Overeaters are mostly male. Compulsive Overeaters eat mainly to cope with stress and anything that may be disturbing them. They, like Bulimics, understand that they have a problem. Most overeaters are people who were not taught how to deal with stressful situations.
As Compulsive Overeating is not yet taken as seriously as other eating disorders, patients are directed to diet centers and health spas, but in the end, Compulsive Overeating can have the same consequences as Anorexia and Bulimia Nervosa.
The most serious consequence is death. Nevertheless, it can be conquered with therapy and counseling. If they knew what eating disorders do to their bodies, patients would seek help much sooner.
In Anorexia patients, fatigue, lack of energy, and Amenorrhea are very common physical problems, as are hair loss, infertility, osteoporosis (caused by lack of calcium), and depression. The same goes for those who suffer from Bulimia. Also, Bulimia patients may have rotted teeth (caused by excessive vomiting), cathartic colon (caused by laxative abuse), and inflammation of the pancreas.
There are many more physical consequences that victims may encounter upon suffering from these afflictions. People who suffer from Anorexia and Bulimia are “silently killing themselves.” These sufferers are mostly women, but a growing percentage of men are beginning to catch on to this terrible disorder.
They try to convince themselves that there is nothing wrong, but deep down they know that what they are doing is hurting their bodies. Some people eventually realize that they need help and ask for it. These people usually end up in hospital beds if not until they die, for months and even years.
Unfortunately, many people don’t report their illnesses and don’t get help. Eventually, they die. To give you a better view of how uninformed BC’s ministry of health is regarding this subject, here are three things that it does not know: 1. The number of eating disorder patients there is in the province 2. How much money they spend on eating disorder patients. 3. The number of patients hospitalized in one year. Patients should be treated in hospitals where they can be monitored but, unfortunately, not many patients have medical insurance and without it, a hospital bed is expensive.
It costs the BC government $775 a day for only one bed. If the patient hasn’t any insurance, financial problems for the family could emerge. Even if they were able to afford to be treated in a hospital, there are long waiting lists.
At St. Paul’s hospital in Vancouver, eating disorder patients must wait 3 years to be assessed. Unfortunately, this is too late. In 1992, four young women died within a 4 month period on Vancouver Island alone. This may have been because the waiting lists were too long and they didn’t receive adequate help in time.
Fortunately, provincial funding for eating disorder patients has increased, but not nearly enough. Consequently, groups have set up support homes such as Safehouse in Vancouver. Safehouse is a temporary home for patients to turn to.
There, patients receive a bed and therapy, are convinced to eat, and most importantly are given love all at half the cost of a day in the hospital. At Safehouse, most of the volunteers have experience dealing with eating disorder patients and know how to help them recover. Therefore, many Anorexia and Bulimia sufferers turn to Safehouse for help. Sadly, many doctors, when turned to for help, are not very understanding.
Some tell their patients that they will have to live with the conditions and that there is nothing they can do. Some tell their patients that they will die and some doctors even have the nerve to tell their patients that they should feel responsible because it is their fault. On the other hand, some doctors give all the help they can but still just give up hope in the end.
All of this is unacceptable and it only happens because not enough people are adequately informed about the consequences that the patient and their family members have to suffer. Dealing with a sick family member can be awfully stressful. In that case, the family needs support.
They have to find out all there is to know about eating disorders and related psychological illnesses. If possible, family members should gather information on what they can do to help. But most importantly, they can never give up hope. Their sick family member needs all the help and motivation possible to get well again.
Someday, scientists hope to develop a pill or medication for Anorexia and Bulimia victims. This would control the Vasopressin levels of the patient’s brain but until then, psychological help is all they can be given.
A few facts about eating disorders… -Up to 3% of young Canadian women suffer from Anorexia Nervosa -More than 5% suffer from Bulimia Nervosa -Up to 17% of eating disorder patients die -30% of eating disorder patients get better on their own -Another 30% get well with the help of doctors -The other 40%, the medical system doesn’t know what to do with -8% of women suffer from eating disorders in their lifetime but do not report it -90% of Bulimia patients were sexually abused -30% of eating disorder cases are chronic -The youngest recorded case of an eating disorder was 18 months -The oldest recorded case of an eating disorder was 62 years -More people die from eating disorders than from any other psychological illness -The first diagnosed case of Anorexia Nervosa was almost 300 years ago BibliographyBooks: 1. Neuman, P, and Halvorson, P. 1983.
Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia: A Handbook for Counselors and Therapists. New York, NY. © Van Nostrand Reinhold Company Inc. 2. French, B. 1994. Coping with Bulimia. Hammersmith, London. © Thorsons. 3. Hirschmann, J, and Munter, C. 1995. When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies. New York, NY. © Ballantine Books. 4. ______. 1996. “Anorexia Nervosa,” “Bulimia Nervosa.” The 1996 Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia. © Grolier Electronic Publishing Inc. Internet Connections: 1. ______. 1996, 1997, 1998. “Anorexia Nervosa,” “Bulimia Nervosa,” “Compulsive Overeating.” Something Fishy © Something Fishy Website. 2. Thompson.