Mahaska Health Partnership Encourages Eating Disorder Awareness
MAHASKA COUNTY – Nearly 24 million people in America suffer from an eating disorder. These disorders include anorexia, bulimia and binge eating. Mahaska Health Partnership warns of the dangers of eating disorders during National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, Feb. 23 – March 1.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), an eating disorder is present when a person experiences severe disturbances in eating behavior. This can mean eating more, or eating less, depending on the disease. These individuals tend to be very adept at hiding their eating habits, making a diagnosis difficult.
“An eating disorder may start with a person eating smaller portions or excessively exercising,” MHP Adult Nurse Practitioner Megan Childers said. “These changes in eating habits are typically seen in teens or young adulthood, but can develop anytime in a person’s life. It is important to learn the warning signs and get your loved ones help if you suspect they are struggling.”
The NIMH indicated that anorexia is characterized by an obsession with being thin, along with unwillingness to maintain a normal, healthy weight. Those suffering with the condition often have a distorted image of their body, seeing themselves as overweight, even when they are starved and malnourished.
“People struggling with anorexia are at increased risk for developing a variety of health complications, including osteoporosis, severe constipation, infertility and even heart or brain damage,” Childers stressed. “Some warning signs include brittle hair and nails, dry and yellowish skinor excessive tiredness in anyone who you suspect may have anorexia.”
Unlike anorexia, people with bulimia consume unusually large amounts of food and feel a lack of control related to eating. Their binge eating is usually followed by purging (vomiting or excessive use of laxatives), fasting or excessive exercise.
“Although people suffering from bulimia are usually in a normal weight range, they have an incredible fear of gaining weight and are very unhappy with their body size,” Childers said. “Complications from bulimia might include a chronic sore throat, swollen glands, decaying teeth from exposure to stomach acids, kidney problems and severe dehydration.”
Childers stressed that treatment options are available for people suffering from an eating disorder. “Watch for warning signs and encourage the person to get help as quickly as possible.”
The NIMH outlined behavioral, physical and psychological warning signs of an eating disorder. Behavioral signs include constant dieting, compulsive exercising, changes in food preferences, avoidance of meals, social withdrawal and denial of hunger. Physical signs are sudden weight loss, signs of frequent vomiting, fainting or dizziness and fatigue. Psychological warning signs include a negative body image, heightened sensitivity to comments or criticism, depression or anxiety and moodiness.
“Unfortunately, society puts great pressure on young people to look a certain way,” Childers shared. “I specialize in adolescent and adult health so I see the effects first hand. If you suspect a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder, a visit with your primary care provider can help send you in the right direction. Whether it be treatment options or referrals to additional services, we are here to help.”
If you fear a loved one may be suffering from an eating disorder, speak with their primary care provider or schedule an appointment with Adult Nurse Practitioner Megan Childers by calling 641.672.3360. Childers is available Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 8 am to 5 pm and Tuesday from 11 am to 7 pm.
Mahaska Health Partnership, located in Oskaloosa, is a non-profit health system accredited by the Joint Commission. It is guided by its mission to provide exceptional customer service and health improvement, linking the science of medicine with the humanity of compassionate care. For more information about how Mahaska Health Partnership is making healthcare personal, visit www.mahaskahealth.org.